Sunday, 27 January 2013

Review: Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable (PS Vita)

The original Earth Defense Force 2017 was easily one of my favorite titles for this generation of games – the Xbox copy that I own gets a re-visiting after any especially hard day at work.

The original premise is practically out of B-movie heaven – the Earth is under attack from an alien force comprises of giant ants, spiders and assorted robots then use these hyper-destructive weapons to blow the crap out of EVERYTHING!

In case you needed any sort of inspiration to let loose the dogs of war, all structures are apparently very explodey and collapse under the most minimal of collateral damage. "Sure I could pick all you giant ants climbing on you Mr. Building… or I could blow up the building and then blow all the aliens up after reloading… hmm, that's a real quandary…"

Distilling the in-game action down to the pure essentials, Earth Defense Force 2017 doesn't waste an extensive amount of energy with high-end graphics, character designs, voice acting, plot, or any of the traditional gaming elements that we all get so caught up in; you get a simple 3rd person shooter where the battles start out deceptively easy and then slowly ramp up to the point where you are being swarmed in all directions from persistent enemy attacks.

The game goes to great lengths to demonstrate your continual power creep – new weapons and armor that you collect from successful missions keep you pressing forward to see how insanely powerful that you can build your character up to. With over 150 collectible weapons, there are a ton of different toys to try out against those alien hordes.

The original campaign was centered on the ground-pounding Storm group of the EDF – hope you enjoy tan and red jumpsuits… you'll be seeing a lot of the back of one. The original had 53 missions of progressively tougher combat – this portable version increases to 60. Most missions are pretty quick – you can finish a mission in a few minutes, with some of the boss battles taking longer. There are 5 difficulty levels for each mission, and the difficulty level definitely shoots up to make those higher missions downright hair-pulling at times.

The battles in the original campaign are ground-based for the most part – while there are a few usable vehicles available, the large majority of the time will be spent on foot. With the new portable version, completing the campaign unlocks a new playable character: a PaleWing (think flying Japanese schoolgirl with all the best energy weapons). Needless to say, the dynamics of the game change significantly – in the original campaign, a lot of the time I would farm more weapons and armor out of the more difficult missions so that I would be able to finally overcome a tough future mission. The 2nd playthrough with the PaleWing plays very different as you'll spend more time zooming around the level and devastating the enemy groups with powerful energy weapons. However, these new powers come at a cost… you have to be much more aware of the energy cost for doing things – weapons as well as your jetpack deplete your energy source as they are being used, so you have to be careful to balance your attack strategies before you end up surrounded and defenseless.

The game appears and plays identically to the original version on the Xbox that came out back in 2007, the Vita is able to keep up with the original with no slowdown or fidelity loss. Not that it is the most graphically intensive game ever, but nonetheless it's a good feat.

All in all, I had a great time playing through the campaigns again – with the collectible nature of the game and character power-ups for armor and weapons it's a great game for a little break from reality. I found the $40 price point to be a little expensive myself, especially when I bought my original game for $20… but if you have some money to drop, it might be worth it to give it a spin.

- Tazman

The Good:
- One of the best "pick-up and play" games of this generation of consoles

The Bad:
- Still looks as downright simple as it did almost 6 years ago when it first came out

Score: 7.5 / 10