Monday, 4 June 2007

Earth Defence Force 2017 / review by Stephen Theaker

Earth Defense Force 2017Imagine if Godzilla didn’t turn up for one of his movies, and humans had to fight the alien menace in his stead! Or if the creatures from Starship Troopers landed on Earth! This is mindless fun at its purest, as you run around blasting alien invaders with your bazookas and missiles.

It’s easy to see why the game has found a home on the Xbox 360, following the huge sales of other pick-up-and-play games via the Xbox Live Arcade.

The only hint of strategy lies in your choice of weapons before each mission, and that’s a lot of fun – do you go in with two sets of bazookas, or a bazooka and shotgun, or a long-range homing missile and a sniper rifle? There’s a lot of choice. I haven’t spent much time using the vehicles dotted around the landscapes – like Crackdown, this is too much fun on foot to make the vehicles attractive.

One notable thing about this game is its huge draw distance, meaning that it’s common to see giant ants and spiders hopping over a distant landmark – which you can then blast to smithereens with a missile, sending their curled-up carcasses flying into the air.

This is a budget release, so it’s great value for money, but it’s also an ideal game for renting. You’ll see most of what it has to offer in a single week, but what there is of it is a lot of fun. After the insects come the giant spaceships, giant robots, attack walkers, and even more insects, all of them just waiting for you to choose the right method of destruction. You haven’t lived until you’ve fired a bazooka up into the guts of a kilometre-wide spaceship, bringing it down upon your head.

If Earth Defence Force 2017 has one downside, it’s that the achievements have clearly been bolted on at the last minute – the points are divided up in huge chunks for finishing all 50 of the game’s levels on each skill level.

I have to spare a word or two for the brilliantly-judged and hilarious voice work. Accompanying you on your bug-hunting adventures are your colleagues in the Earth Defence Force, a short-lived but loquacious bunch who always have a bon mot prepared, delivered in absolutely deadpan voices that utterly match the serious silliness of the game.

My favourite moment of the entire game – possibly of any game ever – came during a mission deep inside the alien insects’ burrows, when one of my companions called out, in deadly seriousness, in a tone as dry as Patrick Warburton after a week in the desert, something along the lines of: "We’re on a thrilling underground adventure."

Originally published in Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #17.

Earth Defence Force 2017, Sandlot (dev.). Xbox 360, Japan.