Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable – Review
The next generation of consoles is somewhat overdue now, especially as the halfway step has already been made thanks to the Wii-U (this generation’s Dreamcast, but not as cuddly). So before long the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 will be gaming history and with most of this generation’s commercial successes likely to carry over to the the next batch of consoles, it will be games like Earth Defense Force 2017 that I’ll remember as highlights of the Xbox. EDF, as it is more affectionately known, is for my money (£24.99 on launch) the best budget game of the last few years. The premise – shoot huge groups of increasingly gigantic aliens – is a simple one and that’s why its appeal should be pretty much timeless. It’s a no-brainer kind of game but one that’s niche enough to be ignored by the sort of gamers who really do have no brains.
Those of us who survived the entirety of the war, otherwise known as maxing the achievements out, will never forget the game. It may have had a simple, repetitive design but it had moments. You know, actual moments where you just go ‘fucking hell that’s cool.’ It was a bitch to beat and was also a ton of fun. Fans fondly recall the highlights of EDF2017 in a way that even a piss-poor sequel could not spoil. So when D3 decided to bring back EDF2017 for an appearance on the underrated PlayStation Vita, it suddenly gave people like me a good reason for owning one and a chance to eradicate the foul aftertaste of EDF: Insect Armageddon once and for all.
Firing up EDF2017 for the first time on the Vita made me as apprehensive as an American couple hiring a British nanny. The untouched presentation and menus, however, gave an early impression that this port had been handled with the due reverence it deserved, and once you get past the opening cutscenes, again, untouched from the original, and into the gameplay, hopes are high that this is the authentic portable EDF experience you’ve been waiting for. So is it?
When you get over the significantly reduced draw distance (clever level design and a completely devil-may-care attitude to slowdown gave the original an apparently limitless draw-distance) and get used to the new control scheme, the game feels as manic and enjoyable as it ever did. For those of you who have never dabbled, EDF is what happens when you put old school Doom style AI into the massive bodies of killer alien insects. They’ll charge at you or spit whatever foul fluids they’ve got until you are dead. Imagine a city full of enormous ants climbing over buildings to get to you. That’s exactly what this game delivers and you’ve got the weaponry to take them, and entire city blocks, out completely.
This is old-school gameplay that isn’t concerned with plot, collectables, stealth sections and whatever else you’ve become used to in these recent, flabby gaming years, and is broken down into fifty two short-but-frantic levels, ensuring that the original EDF template translates perfectly as a handheld experience. Especially a handheld like the Vita which has the battery life of a mayfly.
Everything that the fans remember is there: the destructible cityscapes, the ridiculously large hordes of enemies, the standout boss enemies (that I won’t spoil for new players, but rest assured fans, everyone is present and correct), the music, the often hilarious radio chatter, your player’s ridiculous hips, the vaguely useless vehicles and the multitudes of guns (including some new ones). Indeed, draw-distance aside, this is a near-perfect port. Some issues with anti-aliasing and clippy textures also highlight the fact that this, one of the best games on the Xbox 360, is running on a fucking handheld, but that is easy to ignore when you’re being charged at by a few dozen bouncing spiders that are larger than vans.
Add to that actual bonafide online co-op and you can’t go wrong, even if I do miss being able to plug in a second controller and have player two stand there activating remote sentry guns, or drafting in the missus to help me with some of the really difficult levels towards the end of the game.
In a world with any justice Earth Defense Force 2017 on the Xbox would have been revered across the board by all gamers, but on the Vita it’s found an even more suitable home. Hopefully the price, currently a download only £35, will eventually settle down to something more suitable so that more people can enjoy EDF’s charms, but if you’re feeling flush and fancy mixing it with the Ravagers once more, EDF 2017 is outstanding.Pros
- Nothing but pure action
- An unparalleled level of destruction
- A near-perfect port of the original
- Perfectly suited to handheld play
- Genuinely addictive
- Online co-op!
- Priced by gouging pricks
- No physical release in Europe
- Cities are a little bit ropey graphically
- Bastard spiders
- Vehicles are still pretty useless
EDF 2017's timeless gameplay has found a perfect home on the Vita and is a superb port that includes everything from the original game. Entertaining, exciting and perfect for 'pick up and play' gaming, the only thing holding EDF back is the frankly ludicrous price. Once that drops to something a little less dickish, this will be the must-own game for the PS Vita.
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