'Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable' for PlayStation Vita.
In Hollywood, a movie with an outrageous premise, hokey visuals, and a (usually) corny script is often referred to as a "B movie". Video games as a genre don't really have an accommodation for "B movie" type productions. Well, Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable, a new release from D3 Publisher for PlayStation Vita, proves that accommodations can be made -- for better or for worse.
Emphasizing the "B movie"-ness of this game, the premise is a simple, yet outlandish one. The year is 2017 and the earth is under attack from an alien race that has set monster-sized insects loose to ravage the planet and it's up to the Earth Defense Force to put a stop to it. Really, that's all the background and story that's important here. There are a few things here and there to make it seem like there's more to it than that, but when one gets right down to it the game is as simple as see bug, shoot bug, then move onto the next one until the UFOs leave the Earth alone. Is it the kind of storyline that can be turned into an Oscar-winning feature film? Not in the slightest. It is, however, the kind that a can be turned into a testosterone-filled Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick for fraternity boys to enjoy along with a case of beer.
A third-person arcade-like shooter, there really isn't a whole lot to Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable's gameplay. In short, players traverse each level's urban map along with a handful of NPC soldiers until every bug has been figuratively squashed. The levels are laughably destructible, which is honestly mildly entertaining to say the least. To assist the player in locating the big bug threat, a handy radar map is part of the HUD that not only shows the player's location, but also the location of any and all targets remaining in the area.
The actual slaying of these exo-skeletal beasts is as simple as lining up one's crosshairs and firing a few rounds, though some weapons are more effective than others. New weapons are easily obtained through drops that appear when felling an enemy, though the new arms can't be used until a level is over; and even then the player can only equip two at a time.
Slightly improving over the gameplay found in the original EDF 2017 game, Portable includes two technically new features. First is the addition of the fan-favorite Pale Wing class from Earth Defense Force 2. She has the nifty and handy ability to go airborne for attacks from above and, in all honesty, is the best looking soldier of the bunch.
The other feature new to the PlayStation Vita version of EDF 2017 is local and online co-op play. There doesn't actually seem to be anything inherently new with Portable's new co-op features, but it does give players the chance to experience the game's levels with actual human players rather than the mindless NPCs that riddle the game's single-player campaign variant.
Essentially a port of a game that came out some five years ago, Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable looks its age -- and it didn't age well. While the Vita itself is only a year or so old in North America, it looks near ancient (in video game terms) when playing this game. It seems that publisher Sandlot did very little to bring the graphics up to par for a Vita game. Not only do environments look flat, characters look ugly and the giant insects look more like hollow insect-shaped paper dolls rather than the human-hungry invaders they're supposed to be. The actual visual quality is also called into question as not only are there anti-aliasing issues to be seen, but actual texture tearing and places where lines quite obviously don't line up the way they should, leaving for some rather ugly-looking lines.
The graphics are near-laughable and the audio isn't too far off. Voice acting is simply bad and many of the sound effects seem canned. Sandlot may not have done all that well with this game's voice-overs, but they got their money's worth of whatever $10 over-the-counter sound effect CD-ROM they used for most the rest of the game. Still, for as inferior as this game is presentation-wise, for a video game "B movie" equivalent, it almost works.
In summary, any gamer who downloads D3 Publisher's Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable expecting a Triple-A (or even Double-A, were that classification to exist in gaming) experience will be sorely disappointed. This game is as "B movie" as a video game can get and would-be players should approach this game the same way the would a viewing of the 1959 Edward Wood classic 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'.
(D3 Publisher supplied a copy of this game for review.)
Version tested: PlayStation Vita