It's rare that a game gets panned and, upon reading about it, I realize it's the perfect game for me. Earth Defense Force (EDF) 2017 is a bit of a clunker, with unrealistic physics, repetitive enemies, and a terrible vehicle mechanic. Folks accustomed to the first-person smoothness of Halo or the gritty action of Gears of War would most certainly turn up their nose at EDF.
But I loved every single level of it.
You've probably guessed what the plot is: flying saucers invade and deposit hordes of giant ants, spiders, robots, and Godzillas--sorry, "Dino-mechs"--onto the Earth's surface in an attempt to take over the word, Independence Day-style. You are Storm 1, EDF's premiere ground soldier. You and a bunch of your hapless fellow soldiers are tasked with repelling alien invaders several times your size with nothing but handheld weapons. Remember Starship Troopers? It's like that.
With apologies to Winston Churchill: You fight on the seas and oceans, you fight in the air, you defend your planet, whatever the cost may be. You fight on the beaches, you fight on the landing grounds, you fight in the fields and in the streets, you fight in the hills...and you never, ever surrender. From Aliens-style bug hunts in cramped tunnels to bitter Children of Men-style warfare in ruined cities, EDF drops you into every environment imaginable, puts a gun in your hands, points you at a giant monster and asks you to take it on mano-a-giant monstero.
The enemies are glorious to behold. The giant robots are 1950s style automatons reminiscent of the Iron Giant, clunking their way through city streets with gigantic beam weapons, one eye, and weird rope-like limbs. The giant dinosaurs breathe atomic fire and smash through buildings and troops.
And then there are the bugs. Lots and lots and lots of bugs. The giant ants squirt acid or bite, swarming in an erratic pattern just like their tiny brethren. The giant spiders, a combination of tarantula and wolf spider, jump AND spit webs. As if this weren't bad enough, sometimes EDF throws all of these types of enemies at you at once.
The other major part of the game are the weapons. There are intelligent miniguns that track monsters just like in the extended cut of Aliens, bullets that ricochet off of the walls, flame throwers, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, acid sprayers, time release mines, rocket launchers, guided missiles, and of course shotguns. Each has a reload time, although you rarely run out of ammo, and a range and damage, so there's plenty of variety. The more enemies you kill, the more weapons and armor you pick up. There are also vehicles, including tanks, helicopters, hoverbikes, and mechs, but the controls are clunky.
EDF revels in its size. Everything is destructible, from bikes and cars on the street to skyscrapers. And they can all be taken out with one well-placed (or poorly placed) missile. Bugs run up the buildings and attack from above--but if you shoot one of the buildings down, the bugs just float to the ground without a scratch. In fact, there's really no penalty for falling (including blowing up the building you're standing on). I destroyed quite a few buildings and struggled to run out of the falling shadow, only to watch the rubble fall right through Storm 1.
On the other hand, the UFOs that fly overhead are also a destructible part of the scenery. As a result, there's a massive sense of scale as you fire rockets at the giant spaceships floating above you; it's exhilarating to watch one of the UFOs crash to the ground after several well-placed shots. And since the things are so darned big, they often fall on TOP of you.
The AI is dumb as rocks, of course. While there are occasional bosses, this game is mostly about blowing up the entire scenery. Sure, Storm 1 leads the EDF troops once their captain dies. And the dialogue really is hilarious: it's been structured so that they talk in vague terms about the enemy to increase the applicability of spoken phrases. Here's a typical snippet of dialogue:
"Where's the enemy?"
"The enemy is out of range!"
"Are you scared?"
This silliness adds up to the perfect B-movie dialogue. Even better, the troops are almost of no help whatsoever and actually a threat--though buildings fall through them, your troops can be hit by friendly fire. I killed off the entire platoon several times when an idiot EDF soldier ran in front of my rocket launcher.
About the only unforgivable flaw is that the game's difficulty levels are widely variable. I beat some levels with ease on hard while others were impossible. Unfortunately, EDF does not count beating a level on hard difficulty as beating it on normal difficulty. Since EDF awards points on Xbox live only upon completing every level on one difficulty, switching back and forth between normal and hard levels meant I ended up with no credit for beating the game at all.
You have to be a certain kind of person to appreciate EDF. If you've ever enjoyed THEM!, Tarantula, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Godzilla, Starship Troopers, Aliens, Independence Day, War of the Worlds, or if you just happen to like blowing things up but suck at games like Gears of War and Halo...then grab your rocket launcher, soldier, because the EDF needs you!