Earth Defence Force 2017 is an oddity on the Xbox 360. On a system full of high-budget blockbuster titles, a quirky Japanese action title about giant bugs and robots seems a little out of place. It has all the makings of a budget title, with everything from bland menus, hastily coded post-mission screens and terrible in-game audio. Indeed, it's available in the UK for less than £20 but don't let that put you off.
EDF 2017 doesn't even bother trying to match big budget offerings, so don't expect anything in the way of deep storytelling. There are a load of giant bugs on Earth, a number of huge flying saucers and plenty of massive laser-wielding robots. It's your job to kill them all. What follows is over 50 missions, each simply requiring you to wipe out the alien threat, with a weapon selection screen being about as deep as the experience gets.
Played from a third-person perspective, EDF 2017 is entirely generic in its core gameplay. You run, jump and shoot, and occasionally get to use a tank, bike, mech or helicopter. There's nothing that even approaches being unique or genre breaking, so why is the game such a joy to play? It's simple really. No other next-gen game has captured the sense of scale involved in an alien invasion as well as EDF 2017.
To begin with you'll only have giant ants to contend with, but then these ants will be joined by more of their buddies, and then more again. Eventually the screen is so full with giant ants that you can't stop shooting for even a second. Then, alien aircraft will appear, filling the skies as they are released from giant spheres. But that's not all. Maybe you'd prefer to fight against giant spiders that spew out vast quantities of silk, perhaps joined by some stonking great robots that tower high above you.
'It becomes compulsive gaming, with the controller almost welded to your hands when you finally make it through one of the many challenging missions.'
And all this is going on at once, with the bugs running across buildings and the robots marching eternally onward towards your location. It becomes compulsive gaming, with the controller almost welded to your hands when you finally make it through one of the many challenging missions. EDF 2017 is the most chaotic game I've ever had the pleasure of playing and at times is extremely infuriating (lack of checkpoints), but you'll keep coming back for more punishment.
The weapons play a big part in this enjoyment, with more advanced weapons being found as you play through and as you tackle missions on harder difficulty levels. Your character also improves as you play, with your maximum health increasing as you collect armour pick-ups. This character can then be used to go back and tackle previous missions at higher difficulties, giving you a chance to collect better weapons which in turn give you a better chance of success in the later missions.
It's a very satisfying progress system and is only really let down by some of the poorest use of Achievement points in a 360 title to date. They are given out entirely for completing the game on each of the difficulty levels, and with so much scope for genius destruction-based rewards, it's a real shame.
Speaking of destruction, every building in the game can be destroyed - something which was quite a surprise at first, after a stray missile missed its target and downed a building a few hundred metres in the distance. This combined with the complete bombardment of enemies makes for a game that constantly brings a smile to the face of players. Seeing a giant robot slowly emerge through a wall of flames is a sight to behold and while the frame rate stutters an awful lot, it's forgivable.
Multiplayer is limited to two-player co-op on a single console, which is a tad disappointing considering what full-on multiplayer could have offered, but the split-screen play is still good fun.
Earth Defence Force 2017 is a great game. By no means should all games follow the same formula, but as a title that is about blasting giant enemies and nothing more, it fills a nice gap in the next-gen market. It lacks polish and doesn't have the best production values, but if the idea of shooting more enemies in one game than you've shot in your entire gaming history combined sounds good, look no further.
VideoGamer.com Score7 Score out of 10
- Immense fun
- Super sense of scale
- A little unpolished
- Frame rate chugs a lot