EDF! EDF! EDF! That’s right ladies and gents, the fantastically cheesy Earth Defense Force is back in action on the PlayStation Vita with Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable. Now, when I say cheesy I don’t mean it in a bad way. EDF has a reputation for being exactly that, cheesy. In many ways it has become a staple of the series that can be considered a form of fan service to many. EDF 2017 Portable is a complete remake of the original Earth Defense Force 2017 that was released back in 2007 on the Xbox 360. It’s a game that is ridiculously over the top, it doesn’t take itself serious and it is a series that knows it! Almost like the way you know the back of your own hand, well at least you should know the back of your hand. Despite EDF being something that doesn’t take itself serious, it’s a formula for the series that works, and it works pretty damn well!
EDF 2017 Portable almost feels like it’s a purposely bad 80’s Sci-Fi movie mixed in with some crazy Godzilla meets Dynasty Warriors inspired elements. Cheesy one liners, ridiculous over the top looking enemies (50 foot ants anyone?) and crazy destructible environments. This may sound extremely ridiculous to almost anyone who reads this, but I ensure you that this is, in fact, a good thing. It’s a game that, to me, feels like the embodiment of the way we grew up as kids watching movies like Mars Attacks, Invaders From Mars, and up into the 90’s with movies like Independence Day. EDF is so bad in so many ways that it actually makes the game good.
A lot of fans of this series have come to expect the lack of story that EDF presents. It’s pretty straight forward actually. Alien invasion, earth is under attack, send out the EDF army to fight giant bugs and crazy robots. You know, the usual things that happen when our planet gets invaded. With EDF 2017 Portable, you will get a game that is mindlessly self aware about its cheesy antics in a way that will bring you countless hours of fun and tons of grinding. You play as Storm 1, the EDF Soldier that single handedly takes on massive waves of enemies and becomes a legend. With 60 story based missions in total, I clocked in a total of 15 hours and 45 minutes on the Normal difficulty. With that said, I am no where near being done with this game seeing as there are well over 150 weapons to collect in the game.
You collect weapons by playing mission to mission killing giant ants, spiders, robots, spaceships, and other odd creatures that drop their form of loot-like pick ups. Since you can only carry two weapons at a time on you, picking and choosing the right weapons for certain missions can sometimes be essential. Although, I found it pretty easy to run through the game with a machine gun and a rocket launcher through about 80% of the game. Enemies drop health packs, weapons, and armor which increases your overall HP in the game (with you starting at 100 HP) to tackle the harder difficulties. The game has 5 modes of difficulty ranging from; Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest, and Inferno. EDF is a game that screams replay value in terms of raising your HP and getting the best weapons out there. Taking on a harder difficulty means better weapons are dropped, which gives you a greater advantage on the battlefield over your enemies. This brings everything full circle in a simple breakdown; get drops for better weapons, increase your health to take on the higher difficulties, raise difficulty to the next level, rinse and repeat.
Environments get extremely repetitive within a matter of the first hour or two. Once you see the first few battlefields, you’ve essentially seen them all. They get recycled over and over, but that’s to be expected when you are fighting well over 50+ enemies that are all on screen in a Dynasty Warriors-esque battle. Which brings me to my next point: frame rate. With all of this chaos going on, you would expect some slow down right? Wrong… The frame rate is surprisingly solid when things get hectic and you’ve got enemies flying, crawling, and moving all over the screen in all manners of haste. This is extremely impressive for many reasons, but one of them simply being the fact that this is on a handheld system, a handheld! Expect to take on hordes and hordes of enemies at a time with the confidence that the game won’t lag you to a choppy, slowed down frame rate death.
Upon beating the game, you unlock the powerful female Pale Wing character which can zip around the sky with her jet pack allowing you to rain terror on the invading aliens from above. This is another reason EDF has replay valuee. The original 60 missions that are available to Storm 1 become replayable with this new character. Bringing with it the same features of killing enemies to get drops of armor to increase your HP and new weapons to fight with. This is a game I could easily see anyone sinking well over 100 hours of playtime into and loving every minute of it. Nothing feels more gratifying than taking a Stingray rocket launcher and bringing down a building that’s crawling with ants in one shot. It’s a fantastic formula that fits the game in the pick-up-and-play format. You can pick up the game, do a few missions, put your Vita into sleep mode, then pick it up later and continue where you left off in a seamless transition. The game doesn’t force you to be locked into 1 hour segments like many other games do, which is a really nice feeling. Since this game does carry the title of “Portable“, it does exactly that in spades, be portable.
Here’s where I start to take a few issues with the game. The controls feel pretty solid…for the most part. Shooting, moving, jumping and dodging are all pretty standard practice in the EDF series and they all work well and they get the job done. Where the problems come in is when you jump through rubble during your battles, sometimes you get hitched on odd corners and your character also gets stuck between the bodies of enemies at times. Where things start to get really, really bad is when you try (and i mean really try) to drive a vehicle in the game. There are tanks which drive pretty fast and get you around a lot faster than walking, but you have absolutely no aiming reticle when using the right stick to aim and shoot enemies. Driving is extremely clunky since it is all stick based driving with the left stick. Next we have big mechs you can pilot called Vegaltas, but these mechs are impossible, and I do mean impossible to drive. Again, there is also no aiming reticle either, so you find yourself fighting with the camera again just to even get your mech to spin 90 degrees and hit a target. These problems should not be happening in games these days, especially in remakes like this, with the technology the developers now have at their disposal. It really makes you want to throw your Vita out a window in rage, I know I wanted to every time I tried to pilot a mech. Lastly, you have these small Star Wars speeder bike type vehicles that are extremely fast. The downside is they are destroyed easily in a few hits, making them, in my opinion, the most useless vehicle of the three. Another thing you may find annoying are the mishaps of the environment under you completely disappearing at strange times from your screen and seeing into the white coded void underground.
Okay, okay, okay, I’ll be quick to admit that EDF doesn’t have the most “amazing” graphics of all time or even realistic graphics of any sort. It does look like an upscaled PS2 game with an HD overlay on top, and on the Vita’s brightly lit 5 inch OLED screen, the game does in fact look good for what it is. It does add true to the old saying that graphics aren’t always everything to a game, and proves that you can still have fun with a game like EDF regardless of its graphics. With a game like EDF, that is really all that matters, the fun factor it gives you is irreplaceable. I can honestly say with as positive as possible that if this version of EDF would have been on the PS One, I’m sure I would have had just as much fun with it in 1995 if it had existed back then.
Being that the graphics in this game are somewhat sub-par, buildings and enemies seems to feel like stiff paper or cardboard. Buildings come down with the ease from one shot of any explosive weapon. When enemies are killed, they lay there stiff for a few seconds before just completely disappearing off of your screen, or if you shoot the bodies they go flying like a paper plane across the sky or ground. Shooting down spaceships is also a hilarity all in its own. You would think there would be an earth shattering ka-boom after taking one out right? Right? Nope, they just plummet straight down to the ground and fall right through the very floor you’re standing on. At least when the massive war against the aliens is over there won’t be any clean up afterwards!
Sound in a game is always important, but in EDF it seems to be all but non existent when you are firing a weapon. 90% of the time you can’t hear or tell if you are actually even firing your weapon aside from seeing your ammo count rapidly count down when using a machine gun. The music for the game ranges from creepy tones to try give you the heebie-jeebies, powerful victorious music when the fight is taking a turn in your favor and even your standard theme music through out the majority of the game. I found myself turning on a podcast or Music Unlimited in my living room and turning down the Vita’s sound to about 1/4 of the way since the music gets overly repetitive as well.
A major irritation I had with EDF 2017 Portable was the co-op mode. I played only one, literally one, co-op match with some random people online after that, they kicked me out of the lobby. I understand the need for a ‘kick’ option if you’re playing with someone who is being rude or not helping out your team, but giving someone absolute control of kicking people out without a voting system is utterly redundant and very frustrating. This mode is extremely aggravating when you want to play co-op with people, then you join a room and BAM! Instant kick out. It’s a mode that is unfair to people who want to play this game online when there are other people out there who won’t even think twice about kicking you out the second you join. I created a lobby myself to try to play with anyone for this review but to no avail. My lobby sat open, sad, lonely and empty for about 1 hour. Not a single soul joined me, which also tells me that possibly not many people own this game or are just not playing it online at all.
Regardless of the faults that EDF 2017 Portable has, it’s a vast improvement over the original from 2007 on the Xbox 360. I had an absolute blast with it and I highly recommend it to anyone who just wants to hunker down and sink in a lot of time to this type of game. This is the type of game that pops up every so often to remind me of exactly why I play tons of video games; to have fun. I hope more people pick up this series so that when we do get the true HD version of the EDF series, EDF 2025 later this year in 2013, it doesn’t, or won’t, have the same issues as previous EDF games. If you, or anyone you know happen to pick up this game, I hope you have as much fun as I did while I was doing this review. I also want to send out a very special thank you shout out to D3Pulisher for sending the review copy of EDF 2017 Portable my way, so Thanks Very Much Guys. We appreciate it very much! It’s also worth noting that this game is digital only and sits at a nice 636 MB download. So make a permanent space on your memory cards for this title, because you’re going to keep coming back for more and more and- well…you get the point. Until then, it’s time for everyone to get excited with the hype train for EDF 2025 coming later on this year!
Score: A solid 7.5/10
Release Date: January 8, 2013 (US) January 16, 2013 (EU)
Price: $39.99 (US) £34.99 (EU)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1 – 4
Online: Yes Co-Op: 2 – 4 Competitive: 2 – 4
Platforms: PS Vita
Version Reviewed: PlayStation Vita
Digital: Yes (Available Digitally Only)