Friday, May 11, 2007

Good thing we didn't call them "The Happy Fun-Time Rainbow Fuzzlebunnies"

Following a tip from the SA forums, I picked up Earth Defense Force 2017 for the Xbox 360. It's a Japanese "budget" title, but don't let that fool you. Behind the mediocre graphics, horrible dialog, and laughable translation work, there's a damned solid game under it all.

The premise isn't anything new: Aliens have arrived. They're not nice. Their advance army consists of swarms upon swarms of giant insects. Then they break out the giant robots, hunter-killer drones, and fucking mecha-godzilla. You're a commando in the Earth Defense Force (how original!), and it's up to you to save the world.

Cheesy, yup. In fact, one of the first lines of dialog in the game is from a news update: "Alien UFO's have appeared all over the world. The government is referring to the aliens as 'The Ravagers'. We do not yet know their intent, and we hope that we can form a peaceful and mutually beneficial relationship with them." Hmm...

The gameplay is simple. You fight a mind-boggling number of aliens with an absolutely stupid variety of weapons. The range of weapons is insane: assault rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, guided missiles, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, acid cannons, autonomous turrets, land mines. It already sounds like a lot, but consider that each category has up to three dozen variants. Do you want the huge, slow-firing rocket launcher? The rocket launcher that fires a spread of three rockets that each split into four more rockets? The rocket launcher that fires a stream of smaller rocket launchers that fire swarms of bees? Okay, I made the last one up, but you get the idea.

Did I mention that there's split-screen co-op play? The only thing better than splattering countless thousands of giant bugs with huge explosives is doing it with a friend. The last co-op game I enjoyed this much was the original Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance on the PS2.

I apologize if I sound like an unapologetic fanboy, but I am absolutely in love with this game. It's flawed, but in an absolutely perfect way. Back when Serious Sam first came out, it captured the essence of the shooter. The graphics and sound effects were passable, the levels were uninspired, and the main character was a direct rip-off of Duke Nukem (or Bruce Campbell, if you'd prefer). There weren't any keycards, jumping puzzles, escort missions, or any of that garbage. It was you, a bunch of guns, and a flood of enemies. EDF2017 captures that adrenaline-rushed feel perfectly, and I can't recommend it highly enough -- especially for those of you who enjoy local co-op games.


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