It is the gaming equivalent of a 1950’s monster B-Movie. Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable has obvious influences from those movies and proudly displays them front and center.
Of course this isn’t the first EDF, having seen releases on the XBOX 360 in previous years. The two games were well received by fans, due to the nature of being just the right side of bad. They weren’t great games with top end production values, but they were fun, having that canny ability of being so bad they are good, becoming something of a cult series.
EDF 2017 Portable takes that premise and continues it on the PS Vita. It is a simplistic game, missions and targets are obvious from the very beginning and you simply know what to do the second you enter the game. Blast those giant invading ants back to where they came from. It is pure run and gun, there are no cover mechanics, no convoluted cut-scenes, just you and your EDF team, versus the enemy. it could be considered a little too simplistic, but it works.
Visually it hardly stands out either, when you are treated to such gems as Uncharted: Golden Abyss or Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, EDF 2017 looks downright ugly, yet at the same time that is part of its charm. When you look at classic B-Movie films, they look cheap and tacky, they are cheesy and badly acted, but they had that certain charm, which is something EDF 2017 emulates to perfection. You look past the poor visuals and dire sound quality, because you almost expect it. It wouldn’t be the same with obscene levels of polish.
Beneath all of that though is a game that will eat up your gaming time, because it just makes you feel wonderful as you go through exterminating hordes of alien invaders, collecting the pick-ups they drop and upgrading your abilities. The missions are bite-sized, which makes the game a great fit for portable gaming, it isn’t one that you’d want to play in one long session, but it is ideal for a bus or train journey, one last go of something before bed, that sort of thing. It was a criticism of the 2007 original and also its sequel, as ideally you would want a much more meatier affair on a home console. Not here though, too many times there have been lazy ports of bigger gaming series, that don’t seem to quite get the handheld experience, EDF though, it just fits they nature of handheld gaming.
The areas of the game that should be negatives, are the same ones that also work in EDF’s favour. Missions are repetitive, that is true, there isn’t any change of mechanic of which to really speak of, there is no stealth type sections, no glorious set pieces, or anything to that effect. You pretty much repeat the same things over and over, but there are limitations which help keep the challenge going. You are limited to only two weapons in any given mission and how you chose these will decide on how easy or difficult each one can be, along with the basic five difficulty levels you choose before entering a mission. These really do range from a stroll in the (alien infested) park, to all out hell.
It is a game that almost cries out for repeat plays, which you won’t begrudge doing, simply because unloading a ton of bullets into invading aliens never seems to get boring. Another thing that convinces you to play through again and hopefully again, is that weapon pickups change depending on the level of difficulty, so you’ll earn much more powerful rewards on the highest difficulty, than you would on easy. It is a cheap trick, but one that, at the same time works. You don’t feel you have to start on easy and work up, nor do you feel that you are being punished for not playing on the hardest settings, it is all done using rewards for attempting to push yourself.
On the consoles EDF was great fun in split-screen, it really was a game that was better as a shared experience. With split-screen obviously not possible on the Vita, the inclusion of online multi-player is very much welcome. Whilst the game is fun in small doses in single player, the enjoyment factor simply explodes when played with friends online. Once again it is the simplistic nature of the game mechanics and the structure of the missions, you and some friends can just jump into missions, shoot away, finish and leave. It is honestly some of the most fun you can have online with a Vita right now.
There is a bit of a let down with EDF 2017 though and that comes with the price. At £34.99 in the UK and only available on direct download from PSN, it doesn’t scream ‘BUY ME’ and you do get second thoughts about purchasing, especially when it was a budget title on the 360. It is a game that revels in its B-Movie influences, so seeing a triple A price tag does feel like you are being taken for a mug. That said, if you do brave the price tag, there is the value there, you will spend hours playing, bite-sized mission by bite-sized mission. It does offer up a lot more game and a lot more fun pound for pound than, for example Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified.
EDF is a perfect fit for the Vita, despite not being a perfect game. It’s set up for portable gaming, it doesn’t feel like it has been a cheap port with little effort. If you can see past the price point then it is more than worth the space it will take up on your memory card. Gaming should be fun, it shouldn’t be weighed down with trying to have complex story lines and trying to be as real as possible, sometimes it should just be a complete release from reality and EDF does that.