Archive for the Xbox 360 Category

Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon Review (PS3/X360)

Posted in PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360 on July 25, 2011 by satoshimatrix

The Bugs Are Back

After years wondering if I’d ever get to see another game in the series, the long awaited Earth Defense Force 4 has finally arrived. With a developer change from Sandlot to Vicious Cycle, Insect Armageddon reimagines the look of the series, but make no mistake, this is still the classic EDF experience at its core.  How did Vicious Cycle fair in their efforts to carry forth the series Sandlot is best known for? Read on.

Building upon the niche foothold it’s predecessor managed to curve in the US, most reviews will undoubtedly focus and compare Insect Armageddon to the Xbox 360’s Earth Defense Force 2017.  However, this title should best be compared with the second game in the series, Global Defense Force  [released only in Europe and Japan], as it shares most in common with that entry.

Story

Sometime in the future, an alien invasion force made up of robots, insects, and well… robotic insects invades Earth. The Earth Defense Force alliance band together to stop them for either the first or fourth time, depending on your perspective. Join the EDF ranks and make your way for the city of New Detroit to rid it of the alien menace.

While the EDF games have never been big on story, Insect Armageddon seems to make no mention of anything that happened in EDF 2017. Parallel dimension or terrible memory? You decide. A minor gripe perhaps, but it could have been so easy for Vicious Cycle to place this game perhaps ten or twenty years after EDF 2017. It would explain the whole New Detroit thing (old Detroid presumably destroyed in 2017?) and also why there are now multiple classes of EDF troops.

Graphics

At least on par with EDF 2017 visually, Insect Armageddon manages to surpass its 360 predecessor in many aspects. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions seem identical without any major glitches in either. Urban environments look much better than in 2017, though sadly this is the only kind of environment present in the whole game. No more underground ant caves, valleys, beaches, ruined cityscapes, and there’s but a single stage that takes place at night. A real shame, but the focus on New Detroit exclusively does allow Vicious Cycle to make the city look far more impressive than was possible in the many environments of 2017.

Although the monster designs are completely different – again – they all look top notch. The Hectors in particular look great, though I honestly miss their 2017 shiny metal designs. Effects look spectacular. It’s clear a lot of care was put into making explosions look as good as possible.

Audio

The audio this time around is honestly a letdown compared to the voice work in the previous three games, especially Global Defense Force and 2017. The older EDF titles didn’t take anything seriously, and this was reflected in the choice of music. Insect Armageddon though seems to put as much emphasis on drama as possible. The game is too new to find any audio sources, but what I can do is pull out the amazing Ops music from Global Defense Force. It’s awesome and puts you in the mood to kill giant ants, spiders, UFOs and robots. Enjoy.

The voice acting is comprised of Steven Blum as Lightening, Cam Clarke as Intel guy, and Parminder Nagra as Ops chick. Even if their names don’t sound familiar, their voices should. If you watch any dubbed anime, tv shows or play almost any modern game, you’ll have heard their voices. All three of them are everybody ever in everything.

Having such quality voice actors in a Earth Defense Force game is a double edged sword: all of the talented voice actors deliver their lines perfectly and effectively, but a B-movie caliber game requires B-movie caliber actors; it’s a damn shame some of the voice actors from 2017 or hell, the PS1 original Resident Evil couldn’t be found to lend their voices.

Gameplay

In case you’re new to the Earth Defense Force games, Insect Armageddon is a third person twin stick shooter where you play as a heavily armed human soldier blasting away at ants, spiders, robots and UFOs. There are hundreds of weapons available, all with the benefit of unlimited ammo. The catch is that you can only carry two weapons into battle at a time. It’s usually a good idea to vary your weapons, but it’s also possible to carry two of the same weapons in battle if you need to quickly change without waiting to reload.

As always, defeated enemies drop random health packs which are used to restore lost HP. Expanding on that idea, you can now collect extra HP packs when you are in full health and convert them to extra armor.

Facing the hoards of Ravagers this time, EDF soldiers now come in four delicious flavors: standard Trooper,

For the first time since Global Defense Force, players can choose to play as a soldier with a jetpack, though unfortunietely the character model is now male, removing the awesome awesome PaleWing soldier class. This “Jet” class in its place has many of the same attributes as the old PaleWing; they are much faster, can fly for short periods via their jetpacks, use unique energy weapons and carry less armor than any other class. The only thing missing are the PaleWing short skirts, but given that the Jet units are now dudes, that’s probably a good thing.

Vicious Cycle can explain the other classes better than I can, so here’s their own words:

Trooper Armor: Trooper armor is the standard loadout for EDF soldiers. It has access to more weapons than any other class, and upgradable abilities that allow it to be a versatile, all-around unit. The Trooper Armor is also the only armor available in Survival Mode.

Tactical Armor: Tactical armor fulfills a wide ranging support role, and is the only class that can deploy turrets, mines, and radar dishes. Stronger equipment is unlocked as the story progresses.

Battle Armor: Battle armor transforms players into a veritable walking tank. Slow moving and hard-hitting, it comes equipped a portable energy shield and can equip some of the most powerful weapons in the game. Battle armor also can release its entire pool of energy in a massive electric blast, damaging everything unfortunate enough to be close by.

Replacing the tied and true +1 HP armor and random weapon pick up system from the Sandlot games, Insect Armageddon now employs an experience system in place where you gain EXP and currency for every insect you kill. Gain enough EXP and you’re character will level up, allowing them to use more powerful weapons once purchased from the shop using the currency gained from killing the bugs. Powerful enemies still drop random weapons, but by and large you’ll be buying from from the shop instead of picking them up on the battlefield as in older EDF titles.

You can switch character classes before each mission, though you’ll find yourself sticking mostly with a single class throughout the entire game until you beat it. It’s also worth mentioning deployable vehicles such as the Tank, the Mech and turrets return, and they’re all actually useful for the first time in the history of the series.

As always with the series, Insect Armageddon shines brightest when played in co-op. Split-screen is every bit as effective as in previous EDF games; both players are presented with a vertical screen  that allows them to see anything on the y axis, but limits their x axis view. Despite this, the game is great played in this manner – there’s no slowdown to be seen and the addition of the second, human player can really help when battles get heated.

A first for the series, Insect Armageddon also offers online co-op for up to four players. Typically not an online gamer, I had low expectations going in but was shockingly surprised how well the online is implemented, at least over Playstation Network. With the absence of a headset, I never once had to sit listening to  13 year old telling everyone how much better Halo is or listen to some racial slurs. There was also no slowdown, lag, or any other technical problem you might worry about when playing an online game. Matches feel exactly like the offline game, just with your AI teammates replaced with human players who can be dumber or much smarter the AI, depending on who you get to play with. Quickmatches are most excellent as they allow you to get into fry within seconds. You can even do splitscreen and online co-op at once for up to six players. It can get pretty crazy.

The soldiers are great, and the new vehicles are awesome, but these facts alone can’t make up for the fact that EDF: Insect Armageddon is insultingly short, especially compared to EDF: 2017. I have easily clocked in well over 200 hours in 2017’s 75+ missions whereas Insect Armageddon is a mere 15 missions, 2-3 hour romp per play. There are the multiple character classes and higher difficulties, but I can’t help but wish the game was much longer than it is.

On the other hand, the game will support DLC so it might be that Vicious Cycle/D3 intend to micro transact us the rest of the game. Bastards.

Control

An evolution of the older EDF games, Insect Armageddon has nearly identical controls to the previous games, though as it is slightly more complex game than the previous versions, the face buttons are used in tandem with the shoulder buttons. It doesn’t allow you totally customize the controls which I find greatly disappointing.

Here’s the basic controls:

Left Stick: Movement, scroll through menus
D-pad: Unused
Right Stick: Adjust Aim
L1: Hold and push Left Stick to run
R1: Barrel Roll/Dodge
L2: Secondary fire
R2: Fire
□: Change clip
Δ: Activate transponder, revive teammate
O: Change weapon
X: Jump
Start: Pause
Back: Unused
L3/R3: Activate/deactivate scope lens for sniper rifles and rocket launchers

Frustration

While the difficulty options have been reduced from five to only three, Inferno is still as hard as hell. To reduce the frustration of the previous games, Vicious Cycle added in a new revival system.

You can still die mid-battle, but your teammates can revive you. The only way you can fail a mission entirely is if you and all your teammates die simultaneously, which on the two higher difficulties is very well possible.

History

EDF IA is the only title in the series not developed by Sandlot. Sandlot is a small development house in Japan that geared up with D3 Publisher to release a series of budget titles towards the end of the Playstation 1’s life. The Simple 1500 series then moved onto the Playstation 2 where it flourished as the Simple 2000 series, which meant that each game in the series would cost 2000 yen, or around $20 US. Among this series was The Earth Defense Force and later, The Earth Defense Force 2. Both EDF titles and many others from the Simple 2000 series would be picked up by European budget title publishers and released there, but not in North America.

It wasn’t until 2007 when the Xbox 360 remake of the first game that the series made its way to US shores. Because of its obscure history, the game quickly became a cult classic and is somewhat difficult to find today.

Origianl Advertising

Here’s one of the many trailers for Insect Armageddon. This one shows off most of the major beats on why you should be excited to play the game.

Overall

Good

  • Vicious Cycle seems to have understood Sandlot’s vision and has duplicated most of what made their EDF games so great while fixing many technical issues.
  • New enemy designs look great
  • Tons of variety between the four character classes
  • Online co-op is lag free and a ton of fun
  • Split-screen co-op returns as good as it’s always been

Bad

  • An extremely short campaign that’s matched only by Monster Attack’s. What’s the deal? Does Vicious Cycle plan to micro-transaction me into getting a longer campaign?
  • Somewhat lengthy load times
  • The music isn’t anywhere near as good as the previous games
  • The voice acting is a double edged sword: its well produced by compliant voice actors, but EDF is suppose to be a B horror movie

Conclusion

Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon was one of my most anticipated games of the year. Now that’s its here, it managed to live up to most of my expectations and in some cases exceed them. Not only does it proudly carry the name of the series, but it also manages to correct many of the flaws of the older versions, and hey, it’s playable online.

Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon feels very much like Global Defense Force – and that’s a very good thing. I just wish the game was longer, but who knows, maybe they’ll offer more missions as DLC sometime in the future.

I recommend picking this one up if you’re a fan of the series, but if you’re new, play 2017 first.

Data
Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Release Date: July 11, 2011
Developer: Vicious Cycle
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Also from the developer: Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, last gen’s Robotech games
Also try: Earth Defense Force 2017, Global Defense Force
Game Length: ~2-3 hours per campaign
ESRB: T
Buy/Skip: Fans should buy it, newcomers should try EDF 2017 first

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Dark Void Review (PS3/X360)

Posted in Hidden gems, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360 on June 14, 2011 by satoshimatrix

I’m a Rocketman, baby

Again and again, I discover great gems that didn’t get a whole lot of hype upon release and for whatever reason seemed to just quickly fade into obscurity regardless of quality. Dark Void is such a game. The debut title of new developer Airtight Games, Dark Void promised to be a unique third person action game with a jetpack, alien robots and a sci-fi plot. Unfortunately,  the game seems to have been completely and utterly ignored by gamers at large. So now over a year after its initial release, is Dark Void worth a look or were the gaming public right to ignore it? Read on.

Story

Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, a cargo delivery pilot named Will Grey prepares to leave on a transatlantic flight from the Bahamas to Britain when he discovers an old flame named Ava will be joining him on the flight as a passenger. All seems fine until Will’s cargo plane flies over the Bermuda Triangle.

Soon a storm breaks out, a strange UFO is seen and the interments go haywire and the plane is ripped apart, killing Will’s co-pilot and leaving Will and Ava to crash land on a seemingly deserted, tropical island.

Will and Ada discover the native inhabitants of this island are slave to a race of biological robots called the Watchers, who look a lot cooler than they really are. Will decides to play hero and kill/destroy the Watchers and save the people. The villagers are displeased as they had seen the Watchers as gods to serve, not weird alien robot oppressors. Oh well.

Exiled from the village, Will and Ava come across fucking Nikola Tesla, who gives Will his newly invented hover jetpack and tells him and Ada to defeat the remaining Watchers. The rest of Dark Void involves Will finding a way into the Void, the realm of which the Watchers come from and stop them before they can invade Earth and cause far more devastation than even the current war in Europe.

The plot in Dark Void is interesting and enjoyable, but it ultimately doesn’t amount to anyway and just sort of fizzles towards the end, which is a real shame. While I’m not going to spoil the ending, in many ways the later half of Dark Void’s plot seems like it was rushed and not nearly as fleshed out as it should have been. Sort of the modern day equilent to all the NES games out there that say something like “Thanks for playing! The End!” and that’s it.

Graphics

Dark Void is a good looking game all around. Almost all the games dozens of character models look great even up close and animate fluidly and realistically. Most locations, especially the crash landing site and setting for the first quarter of the game look simply stunning and the general design of the Watchers are awesome, being sort of reverse Borg in that they are more technological than biological.

Other effects such as weapon fire, explosions and the general design of the Watcher ships makes Dark Void a real winner in the visual department. Minor gripes about lip sync issues and the rare framerate drop are systematic of a game rushed towards the end of development, which is really the only negative things I can about the visuals.

Audio

While the visuals are fantastic, the audio is also surprisingly good. Composed by a guy named Bear (seriously) McCreary, [composer of Babylon Five] Dark Void’s music is orchestral, and very film-like in its approach. It isn’t on the level of some of the best out there like Heavy Rain, but Dark Void’s music does manage to pull on the heart strings ever now and then.

The voice acting is also fairly well done. Will’s voice is typical American hero voice #5,00000, but Ava has a destinctive British accent, which even though marks her as typical British heroine voice #5,00000 as well…I can’t help but like it. British female voices are sexy and they always will be. Just refer make to my review of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.

Here for your listening pleasure is the main theme for Dark Void, summed up in its closing credits.

Gameplay

Dark Void is a linear romp through exotic tropical locales, ancient ruins, alien ships and the desolate void itself. There’s gunplay, simple platforming, a cover system and headshots, but what really seperates Dark Void from other third person shooters is the jetpack Will eventually gets and can fly around with, turning the game from a third person shooter into a third person arcade flight sim, all the while maintaining decent controls.

On many levels where your jetpack is fully operational, you can even fly close to Watcher gunships, rip open the hatch, kill the pilot and preform grand theft UFO. Flying around in Watcher gunships is really cool as they are fast and carry a lot of firepower relative to their size. This seemingly nothing idea is yet another example of a nice touch that helps elevate Dark Void from being just another third person shooter.

While the jetpack is what sets Dark Void apart, the game is still primarily a third person shooter. Dark Void offers six varied guns ranging from the typical assault rifle and watcher sniper rifle to an anti-gravity rip-and-tear gun similar to Half Life 2’s Gravity Gun. Each of these guns can be upgraded with skill points gained from killing Watchers and hidden throughout levels. Guns can only be upgraded between levels, but upgrading is reason even to search each level for any hidden goodies.

Although Dark Void employs a standard third person shooter cover system first popularized with games such as Gears of War, Dark Void again manages to set itself apart from the pack by also incorporating vertical gunplay wherein Will will find himself shooting both directly up and directly down. This concept, missing in nearly every other third person shooter I can think of, is undeniably one of the coolest aspects of the whole game, jetpack or not.

That said, even though the gunplay is enjoyable and you’ll be doing a whole lot of it throughout the game, there is a bit of a flaw in the core mechanics of Will’s almighty melee attack.

Preformed by pressing O [or B on 360], the melee attack enters a special mini cinematic where you’ll see Will brutally punch the closest enemy with results Captain Falcon would be proud of.

See, even though Will is just a normal human man, he somehow manages to have superhuman strength and can often punch Watchers so hard their heads explode. While this is undeniably awesome to watch, it also means the melee attack in Dark Void is way, way overpowered. At many points you can simply use your jetpack to fly around and land near fortified Watcher positions, melee everyone to death, and then just move on without expending a single round of ammo or using the excellent cover system at all.

I suppose it could be argued that the melee attack doesn’t have to used at all and just as it can be used to ignore the gunplay, the gunplay can be used to ignore the melee attack. Regardless on how you choose to play Dark Void, just keep in mind the true power of Will’s fists. While Dark Void doesn’t really have bosses in the traditional sense, it does take some design cues from other popular third person games this generation, notably Star Wars The Force Unleashed. After you have significantly damaged some of the larger watchers, you will see a button prompt that begins a series of quick time events, where just like The Force Unleashed, you get to watch your character preform some fancy moves as they destroy big enemies with style and grace. Before you condemn Dark Void for being yet another quick time event laden game, keep in mind these QTEs are few and far between, and they’re all rather easy, requiring about six or seven button presses at most.

Control

Left Stick: Movement, scroll through menus
D-pad: Scroll through available weapons
Right Stick: Adjust camera
L1: Throw grenade
R1: Unused
L2: Secondary fire
R2: Fire
□: Change clip
Δ: Press to change from standing, hovering and full on jetpack
O: Melee Attack
X: Jump
Start: Pause
Back: View Map
L3/R3: Crouch, Change directions mid-flight
Frustration

Dark Void has an initial control learning curve necessary to get used to the flight controls, which only show up about a third into the game. See, Will has three main movement options – standing and running on the ground, hovering with his jetpack, and outright flying with it. The difference between hovering and flying is that when flying, Will will travel much faster, but running into almost anything is near fatal on all but the easiest difficulty. The game allows players to approach situations however they please which is good, but flying in close quarters requires some skill and will more often than not be even more dangerous than the Watchers.

A larger flaw is with the many glitches you will encounter as you play. I’m not usually one to harp on reoccurring glitches, but Dark Void pushes my tolerance in some less than fun ways. I’ve experienced getting stuck inside objects and even parts of the levels not loading properly, forcing a complete reboot of my PS3. This might only be an isolated issue, but it is mighty annoying given as there is no reset button on these modern consoles.

Availability & Price

Dark Void was released for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 which virtually no difference between the two versions. It can be found fairly commonly at used game shops on both platforms for only $10 or less, or less than $20 brand new.

History

Hyped in the similarly underrated Bionic Commando [next gen], just like that game, Dark Void too saw minimal success on retail shelves, likely due to its proximity to the release of Mass Effect 2 and Bayonetta. Dark Void was further hampered by the fact that Dark Void was so universally slammed by major review publications.

Nevertheless, there are a series of interesting developer blogs for Dark Void watchable on youtube. Here’s a taste of what’s on offer.

After finishing Dark Void, Bear McCreary added a joke track at the end of Dark Void’s credits where he played the main theme song in 8-bit NES Megaman style. Capcom liked the idea so much that produced an April Fool’s joke, showing off a fictitious NES version that they had planned on releasing for the Nintendo Playchoice 10 Arcade Cabinet.

Soon though the idea seemed too good not to follow through with, and an 8-bit style 2D sidescrolling Dark Void “prequel” was released on the DSi shop. The trailer really fills you in on the rest from there.

Ah Capcom, when will you guys stop being such cockteases and actually give us new NES games for real?

Original Advertising

Overall

Good

  • Can be found on the cheap
  • Great concepts all around – virtual cover, jetpack gameplay
  • Players are free to choose how to tackle nearly any situation – by air, behind cover, or with the power of Will’s fists
  • Good controls that make the flight elements fun and enjoyable
  • Great looking graphics
  • Emotionally charged music
  • Some decent voice acting

Bad

  • Many glitches ranging from minor to severe
  • Story is disjointed
  • Some rather awful voice acting
  • The game feels at least an hour too short gameplay wise
  • The ending is abrupt and lame, at least an hour too short storyline wise.
  • There probably will never be a sequel

Conclusion

Despite the obvious problems Dark Void has, the concept is outstanding and the jetpack allows players to form their own solutions to battles. You can use the cover system and play it as a Gears of War style third person shooter, you can fly in and attack land targets as if you were playing a flight sim or any combination of the two at any time. For only $10, I urge anyone who thinks that the game sounds interesting pick it up. Dark Void gets enough right to allow all but the most jaded gamers to be able to overlook most of the flaws and see the unique experience the game offers.

Data

Platform: Playstation 3/Xbox 360

Genre: Third Person Shooter, Arcade style flight sim

Release Date: January 19, 2010

Developer: Airtight Games

Publisher: Capcom

Also from the developer: Dark Void seems to have been Airtight Game’s first major title

Also try: Gears of War, but only to see how lacking that game is to the verity that Dark Void has

Game Length: ~6 hours

ESRB: T, though I don’t get why. This isn’t exactly a graphic game.

Buy/Skip: Buy

Tenchu Z Review (Xbox 360)

Posted in Hidden gems, Reviews, Xbox 360 on April 9, 2011 by satoshimatrix

Ninjas are still cool

Back in the day, ninjas held a very active role in gaming. Ninjas such as Joe Musashi and Ryu Hyabusa were names that any kid would know. Now it seems the ninja mania of the 1980’s has largely subsided, forcing ninja games to step to the backburner. Even so,  a number of ninja-heavy games continue to pop up every now and then, including the long running Tenchu series. While Tenchu Z didn’t create a huge splash when it was released and was largely dismissed by major game reviewing publications, take it from me – Tenchu Z is worth playing.

Story

It’s roughly the mid 17th century, Japan. The land of Goda, where the Azuma clan of ninja reside, is on the brink of war with the neighboring land of Ogawara. As a new recruit in the Azuma clan, you are sent to assassinate those who are assisting Ogawara, including army officials and spies who have infiltrated Goda, as well as recover stolen items and rescue prisoners. In between thwarting Ogawara’s plans, you will be tasked with delivering divine justice to the wicked who terrorize the land. A shinobi’s work is never finished.

Graphics

The game may be in HD, but it’s very evident that From Software had nearly no experience with the 360 hardware. Much of what you see probably could have been accomplished on the PS2 without much degradation. There are no lip movements at all. Character models are particularly wooden and lack refined movement. From afar, they look passable, but Tenchu Z really comes across looking more like a budget title than anything else. The game is a ton of fun though, so the graphics are in the end, acceptable.

Audio

The music is largely subdued, traditional Japanese interments and very oriental sounding. All the voice acting is in Japanese, most of which is left completely unsubtitled, making it feel even more Japanese in origin. If you know any Japanese, hearing the various enemy voices can be fun in of itself.

Here’s the game’s main theme, as shown in its opening sequence.

Gameplay

Like the previous games in the series, Tenchu Z is a stealth action game that mainly focuses on unobserved assassinations. As such, Tenchu Z lives and dies by it’s gameplay, which luckily is functional and a lot of fun. After choosing if you want to be a ninja or kunoichi (female ninja), the player’s first task is to design how their character looks and what they wear. As you play the game, you will unlock the ability to buy additional costumes and accessories, making your ninja as badass – or as ridiculous – as you want.

Tenchu Z mainly centers around preforming assassinations while remaining unobserved. As such, there is an in-depth stealth system in place. Enemies will react not only to sight, but also to sound, and even to smell. It’s almost always a good idea to crouch rather than walk or run and to only move when enemies have their back to you. Many stages employ pitfalls and noise traps to prevent you from carrying out your missions. Daytime assassinations are more difficult as they require you to stick to shadows and avoid rooftops, and so on. After you kill an enemy, it’s usually a good idea to also move their body to a hidden location to prevent other guards from sounding the alarm. All this will sound old hat to Metal Gear Solid fans, but this level of depth in a ninja game is both surprising and appreciated.

Missions usually present you with the goal of assassinating a single target, but leaves how to accomplish this task to the player. You can rush in and attempt to kill everyone in sword fight after sword fight or take them out one at a time with a well placed lunge through the back or a snap of their neck. Or, you can use your grappling hook and other items to skillfully move about remaining completely unseen, killing only your target.  Sounds simple, but with so many guards, it’s easier said than done.

Another complication are the innocents that populate some areas. Usually merchants or housemaids, these unarmed civilians will totally freak out and their noise will alert guards if they spot you, and killing them will result in major deductions to your reward money after completing each mission.

There are a total of fifty stages, but not all involve assassinations. Occasionally, you will be tasked with retrieving secret documents, disarming explosives, rescuing hostages, etc. There is an online multiplayer mode, but I have never played it so I cannot give any impressions.

Controls

Luckily the controls makes sense, are easy to learn and won’t account for many cheap deaths.

Left Stick: Movement
Right Stick: Look
LT: Defend
RT: Check enemy vitality/strafe
LB: Use item
RB: Crouch
A: Jump
B: Draw katana/sheath katana
X: Attack
Y: No usage
Start: Pause
Back: no usage
L3: no useage
R3: Change to first person view, throw gabbling hook

Frustration

Being detected sucks. It will drastically reduce your reward money. There are times when guards will seemingly come out of nowhere and spot you. If this happens, it’s usually a better idea to just restart the mission that continue on. Occasionally the controls become a little awkward, such as looking over the edge of roofs and when crawling under building foundations.  Add on lengthy load times and the problems can potentially be a deal breaker for some gamers.

Availability & Price

Tenchu Z isn’t particularity rare, but it is somewhat uncommon. Expect to pay between $15-25 for a used copy. Search around your local area and you should come across a copy with enough searching.

History

The Tenchu series dates back to the PS1 in 1997 and over the years, sequels have been somewhat sparse. Tenchu Z has no bearing on the timeline canon of the Tenchu series and can thus be considered a side story.  Tenchu Z remains the only HD Tenchu game and unfortunately poor sales have so far prohibited a sequel.

Overall

Good

  • Being a Shinobi is awesome
  • Stealth killing is awesome
  • Good controls
  • Great replay value

Bad

  • Rather repetitive goals
  • Stages repeat constantly
  • No explanation of what items do
  • Some uneven difficulty spikes; Tenchu Z isn’t combat focused, so when you are forced to engage the enemy, the game feels sluggish.

Conclusion

Tenchu Z, manages to offer a thrilling and entertaining experience, flaws and all. Jumping from a rooftop and stabbing a guy in the back so he dies before he hits the ground is a kind of morbid fun that no FPS headshot can compare with. The game might not be pretty, but like they say, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Give Tenchu Z a shot. Chances are you’ll find it to your liking.

Data
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Ninja Stealth
Release Date: June 12, 2007
Developer: K2 LLC
Publisher: From Software
Also from the developer: No idea!
Also try: Ninja Gaiden Black, Ninja Blade
Game Length: ~30 hours
ESRB: M
Buy/Skip: Buy it, rent it or borrow it. Just…try it.

Earth Defense Force 2017 Review (Xbox 360)

Posted in Hidden gems, Reviews, Xbox 360 on October 28, 2010 by satoshimatrix

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.

Story

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.

Graphics

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.

Audio

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

Gameplay

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.

Control

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
RT: Fire
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
Start: Pause
Back: no usage

Frustration

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.

Audience

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.

History

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!

Overall

Good

-Simple controls, simple gameplay and simple fun

-Probably the best Co-op multiplayer game on the 360

-Lasting replay value

Bad

-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.

Conclusion

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.

Data

Platform: Xbox 360

Genre: Third Person Shooter

Release Date: 2007

Developer: Sandlot

Publisher: D3 Publisher

Also from the developer: Global Defense Force, Monster Attack

ESRB: Teen

Buy or skip: Buy