An overlooked gem on the Xbox 360
Earth Defense Force 2017 is a peculiar game. It’s a budget title that shouldn’t be good, but is. It’s a buggy, repetitive mess, yet it’s one of the games I find myself returning to again and again over much more polished titles. It’s not online either, but it’s by far one of the best multiplayer experiences on the Xbox 360.
If that’s not confusing enough, it’s also the third game in a whole series of Earth Defense Force games and the only one to be released in North America. While I recommend importing the previous two games, is 2017 worth a look? Read on to find out.
The story is identical to that of Monster Attack. Have some delicious copy-pasta from my Monster Attack review.
In the year 2017, Earth is invaded by an alien force made up of almost every ’50s monster movie clechés you can think of. Giant ants, giant spiders, robots, UFOs and yes, even Godzilla. To combat these invaders, the nations of the world band together to form a united army called the Earth Defense Force. As the lone EDF Soldier “Storm One”, presumably the sole survivor of a platoon, you are tasked with defending Japanese soil from the alien threat.
It’s cheesy 50′s horror movie fare. If you like classics like THEM! then you’ll fall in love with this game.
The jump fro the PS2 to the HD Xbox 360 is noticeable, but not really for the visuals themselves. By and large the game looks the same, but enhanced. Textures are greatly improved, making buildings look much better than ever before. Windows now reflect light, they fall in a somewhat more believable manner, staircases can be climbed for sniper positions. It’s all rather cool. Nearly all the enemies have been redesigned and look less goofy than before, but I honestly prefer the PS2 designs to these new ones, not to mention that Global Defense Force has a much larger variety of enemies than are found here.
The biggest improvement is the framerate, which only drops during especially huge, screen filling explosions. It’s no where near as bad as what can be found in the later stages of Global Defense Force, but it’s still there. This is a budget game, after all.
Just like the PS2 games, character models in 2017 look very polished considering this is a budget title. By and large, the game’s graphics are decent to excellent.
Gone is the amazing menu menus from Monster Attack and Global Denfese Force, but the music in-game is largely lifted rigth out of Monster Attack. There are a few new arrangements this time around too, but nothing that stick outs quite as well as that PS2 menu music!
Unlike the PAL English versions of the PS2 games, Earth Defense Force 2017 actually has voice acting in English. The voice acting itself isn’t bad, but many lines are terrible, repeat often, and are fun to listen to since they are often absurd. The best voices are the female operations officer and your CO, both of whom have the most lines and are voiced by seemingly good actors.
Your buddies though? “Wait until they get closer! Don’t wanna waste your bullets!” – A line from a game with infinite ammo
Just like it’s predecessors, 2017 is a strictly third person action game that is a blast to play because it’s simple, functional, and fun. As before, you can carry two different weapons at a time ranging from automatic assault rifles to shotguns to missiles to special weapons like automatic gun turrets and Boundguns that shoot bullets that bound off walls.
You collect weapons by defeating enemies and then collecting WEAPON icons they randomly drop. There is no way of knowing what weapon you just collected until the mission is over, and no way of knowing if the weapon you just picked up is one you don’t already have. Duplicate weapons mean nothing, so there’s no point in collecting weapons already have. The game rewards new, better weapons for beating stages on higher difficulties, and even better rewards await players who can beat the last few missions on the hardest difficulty settings.
This system has a risk/reward factor as even if you collect some weapons, if you are killed in combat, none of your upgrades will carry over to your inventory! With six difficulty settings, only the most hardcore of gamers will ever 100% Earth Defense Force 2017. I’ve been playing for at least three years and I still have yet to finish the last stages on Inferno difficulty.
Similarly, you gain HP by picking up armor units from fallen enemies that give your character a single HP gain per armor unit you collect. This adds up over time until you collect a maximum of 9,999 HP. If you want to take on Inferno, you’ll need all the HP you can get.
Best of all, the game can be played co-op splitscreen with a friend, greatly increasing your chances in some of the tougher missions as both characters have access to every weapon unlocked and share the same maximum health that the player has accumulated in single player. This is the best way to enjoy 2017.
The controls for Earth Defense Force 2017 are pretty much exactly like they were on the PS2 games, and that’s a great thing.
Left Stick: Movement
Right Stick: Aim gun/Look
LT: Jump/Barrel Roll
LB: Switch Weapon
RB: Secondary fire
A: Confirm menu choices, no usage in-game
B: Cancel menu choices, no usage in game
X: no usage
Y: no usage
Back: no usage
The game has six difficulty levels, and the latter Inferno difficulty can be extremely frustrating as the game becomes harder by decreasing the amount of damage your weapons do, increasing enemy strength, and in some cases, increasing the numbers of enemies. Another large source of frustration is the giant spiders that spew webs.
Due to the budget nature of the game, Spider webs can travel a small distance through solid walls. Spider webs stick to you and sap your health, and there is nothing you can do to escape the damage.
Earth Defense Force 2017 has been called the Serious Sam of third person shooters, and that’s pretty much accurate. If you like minimal plot and maximum shooting, Earth Defense Force 2017 is for you.
Availability and price
Earth Defense Force 2017 is region locked on the Xbox 360, but was released worldwide under the same title for the first time in the series. Expect to pay between $12-15 for a used copy. It shouldn’t be hard to find in used game shops.
Although most in the west have no idea, Earth Defense Force 2017 is actually the third game in the series, after Monster Attack and Global Defense Force, both only released outside of Japan in European countries. Those two games were originally part of D3 Publisher’s Simple 2000 Series in Japan, a hugely successful 2000 yen budget line of PS2 games. Shown to the left are the Japanese covers of the PS2 prequels.
In 2007, Sandlot made an odd choice for a Japanese developer and announced their next project would be remaking Monster Attack for the Xbox 360. Perhaps because it was now on an American made console, the third game was localized and became a cult hit in North America. In the meantime, due to extremely low sales of the Xbox 360 in Japan, the game didn’t do nearly as well as either Simple 2000 Earth Defense Force PS2 titles, and any hope for a remake of the arguably superior Global Defense Force died with it. Maybe Someday Sandlot.
In late 2010, a long awaited sequel for the Earth Defense Force series was announced by the title Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon. Details were slow at first, but it soon came out that the game is not being developed by Sandlot, but instead Vicious Cycle software, an American deveoper now owned by D3 and best known for their previous Robotech games last gen and Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard on the PS3 and 360.
The change in developers is slightly alarming for me, but I will not pass judgment on Insect Armageddon until I’ve played it myself.
One final note I feel I should mention: there is also a Jaleco Super Nintendo game called Super Earth Defense Force. Although it shares the name, that shooter has nothing to do with this series. It’s fun though!
-Simple controls, simple gameplay and simple fun
-Probably the best Co-op multiplayer game on the 360
-Lasting replay value
-No Pale Wing Soldiers 😦
-Spider web can travel through solid walls. It’s bullshit.
-Framerate still occasionally dips
-Occasionally, the game will take command of the camera to focus on an important major enemy while still allowing the player control over their character. This is momentary, but annoying if you need to attack surrounding enemies.
Earth Defense Force 2017 is not a flashy game, it doesn’t millions of dollars behind its budget and it’s not online. Instead, what you get here is a fun retreat back to the way gaming used to be; fun and challenging, great with a friend and one you can pick up and play over and over. If this sounds appealing, look no further than Earth Defense Force: 2017. If you haven’t played any of the games in the series, this one is probably the best place to start before you import the PS2 titles. Recommended.
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Release Date: 2007
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Also from the developer: Global Defense Force, Monster Attack
Buy or skip: Buy