Earth Defense Force 2017

"We have to kill these people-eating monsters!"

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Brainless games have their place on store shelves, digital or otherwise. You can't always have the epic storylines, the incredible characters, or the game-changing mechanics. Sometimes, you just need to put something into the world for people to have fun with.

That's surely the reasoning behind the release of Earth Defense Force 2017, the near-future story where the planet is descended upon by giant insects and the shiniest of robots, working together to annihilate everything in sight - which happens to be what you'll be doing, armed with every kind of weapon you can think of to deal with this monumental problem.

You're not afraid of spiders, are you?

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Fun Times

EDF 2017 is not an instalment of a weird European sport, but a third-person shooter that drops you into a giant, destructible city full of giant ants, to begin with. An alien signal was detected in 2013, and the EDF formed a few years later, just in case there were hostiles on the way. In 2017, after naming an invasion force 'the Ravagers', the citizens of Earth wondered if they were friendly or not.

With a name like that, you'd guess not. Dropping giant ants onto major population centres confirmed it. These aliens were indeed a threat.

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I had heard of the EDF series before but have given it no attention. The concept of the game was too silly to give it a second thought. You shoot hundreds and hundreds of giant bugs. Ok. And that's worth doing why?

Well, firing up the Xbox 360 original, I started to see why. 

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Each level - and there are a great many - has you dropped into a city amid a crisis. It might be swarms of ants, it might be dropships, it might be giant robots. Whatever it is, it'll be a problem, and it's down to you and your AI buddies to deal with it.

Armed with two and only two weapons of your choosing, you'll roam the giant map, following the red blips until they all disappear and the 'Mission Cleared' banner appears. That's about the gist of each and every level - clear the radar.

Ammunition is infinite, whether it's a machine gun or a homing missile launcher, the only differences are their effective ranges and reload times and so on. For most of the game, you will be running around holding down the trigger on your preferred weapon, because why not?

If you get caught in a tricky situation and take damage, you'll have to kill a load of bugs and hope they drop medpacks instead of armour, but if you're doing well, it'll be the weapon pickups that you run towards.

Source // Moby Games
Source // Moby Games

Between levels, after your previous haul has been listed, you can switch out your weapons for something that might be more appropriate to the task ahead of you. Mission previews may give some hints as to what you'll need, otherwise, it's trial and error.

These screenshots aren't my own, but they show just how many choices you have available to you. Shotguns and sniper rifles, grenades and rockets, missiles and more. I favoured an upgraded homing missile that sent out two shots before a reload, then just ran around and kept shooting. Moving targets are harder to hit, and all that...

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The homing missiles worked well for this level, where hundreds of alien aircraft swooped in for the kill. What didn't work too well was the framerate. To be fair to it, it was surprising at how well it did work, especially with the screen shake option turned on to further enhance the explosions going on all around you.

When it didn't keep up, though, it was noticeably chugging, as it to be expected with hundreds of aliens moving, homing missiles acquiring targets, EDF soldiers running around, buildings blowing up...

Even with the possibility of poor frame rates, EDF 2017 keeps bombarding you with enemy targets. It assumes you'll be having so much fun that dropped frames won't be an issue. It can get so hectic you might even argue they're a feature.

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Further Fun Times

EDF 2017 is just ridiculous. Entire towerblocks crumble with a single rocket hit, and there's no penalty for destroying the city yourself, and no ammo to worry about keeping tabs on. It took a long while for me to even notice my health take a hit - not because I had thousands of points of health like these screenshots do, but because I wasn't getting myself into sticky situations.

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But boy, can you get stuck in if you want to. Maybe with your weapon selection, you have to. EDF 2017 lets you play it your way. It's one big playground full of big bugs to crush in whatever manner you find most effective for you.

Flamethrowers, perhaps? What about tanks?

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Some levels feature tanks or helicopters or futuristic mech suit kinda things for you to hop into. Sadly, I only discovered the button to climb in after the threat had been dealt with. Serves me right for not reading the manual. But with levels that seem to last five minutes or so, it won't be long before I get another chance to hop into a tank.

Final Word

Do I want to, though? That's the question. I played Earth Defense Force 2017 for an hour or so, which was far longer than I thought I'd play it for, and I think it's down to two things.

Firstly, it's easy to get into. There are plenty of difficulty levels to tailor your experience, but once you load a level up and watch a cutscene setting up events (they and the story aren't worth writing about), you're good to go. With so few buttons and mechanics to worry about, go to town. Point and shoot, keep shooting, move somewhere and do it all over again.

Secondly, for as simple as that sounds, it's quite fun. EDF 2017 isn't a looker, but it is still amazing to have the freedom of the entire city to run around in, or absolutely demolish your way through. Buildings put up no resistance and most of your targets either explode in a shower of green ooze or a screen-filling fireball. It's lovely.

But how long will it be lovely for? EDF 2017 tries to keep your attention by mixing up the locales and the enemies and practically forcing you to try new weapons to deal with the particular threat of that level, but at the end of the day, you're not doing a whole lot different to what you were doing in the first ten minutes of the game.

I don't know how long I was playing for in the end, at least an hour, as I say. While I would have carried on playing without real issue, I did think I saw what EDF 2017 had to offer by then. Even if I hadn't flown a helicopter or fired a sniper rifle, I got the point. Aim at a giant bug and shoot it with whatever you've got. Do that a hundred times before moving onto the next level.

If you are aware of Earth Defense Force 2017 but haven't played it because you were aware of how silly it is, ignore your own opinion and give it a shot. I, too, thought it was a silly game that wasn't worth your time, and while I'll still argue that it's not worth all your time, it is actually, surprisingly, worth at least a little bit. Maybe even a little bit more, who knows?

Fun Facts

Supposedly the best selling Games on Demand title in Japan in 2009. Clearly, I know nothing of the significance of this arcadey shooter.

Earth Defense Force 2017, developed by Sandlot, first released in 2006.
Version played: Xbox 360, 2007.