The level starts out on a small bluff overlooking the beach, sunset turning the sky bright orange, and the troops are getting pumped for battle. Constant radio chatter fills the air as the giant metal robots of the alien Ravagers walk in from the ocean, accompanied by a small fleet of flying Gunships. I've chosen my favorite shotgun and rocket launcher for this encounter, and I'm ready to lay down the firepower on everything in my way. It's the first encounter with the Hectors, as the giant robots are known, and they're the biggest enemy yet. At about 100 feet tall with a huge machine gun for one arm and purple glowing spiky thing for the other, they're imposing enemies. I can tell this isn't going to be easy.
We head down to the beach, and the chaos of battle starts immediately. The Gunships come in first, laying down fans of red bullets that only do a small amount of damage, but come in waves. The Hectors hit the fray immediately after we thin the swarms of Gunships a bit, and their guns lay down a constant scatter of bullets while the purple spiky thing shoots exploding energy pulses. The troops are yelling in the heat of battle, enemies are falling as they're picked out of the air, and then a Hector goes down with a screen-filling explosion, completely killing visibility. I can still see firepower raining in from beyond the flames though, so a few friendly rockets get sent back while I dodge madly. The screen is shaking with the violence of explosions, while the bass is rumbling the world. The Earth Defense Force is fighting madly for the fate of the planet, and every second is filled with shooting, dodging, giant enemy creatures, and enough pure action for any ten other games.
Earth Defense Force is an addictive blast, and honestly that's all I've ever asked from any game.
Earth Defense Force 2017 is a straightforward run 'n gun shooter made of pure awesome. Huge enemies swarm its levels while huge explosions tear them apart. Giant ants, spiders, flying enemy transports, robots, and bosses ravage the cities of Japan, while the EDF saves the world by means of heavy weaponry. Everything is destructible, from the fences around houses to the tallest skyscrapers, and the EDF will frequently do more damage while saving a city than the aliens could ever dream of. It's all in service of saving the world from the evils of the Ravagers, though, so taking out a city block in order to free up a clear field of fire makes perfect sense. Really.
Earth Defense Force isn't about logic though, it's about blasting the hell out of every alien in sight over the course of 53 levels. Every encounter is epic, every battle larger than life, and the EDF's arsenal is more than up to the task of exploding, frying, perforating, or blasting the alien scum off the face of the earth. The initial three weapons available at game's start quickly blossoms into a huge collection containing machine guns, shotguns, missiles in both straight-shot or guided versions, grenades, sniper rifles, and other creative methods of destruction. The early weapons are relatively weak, although one shot from even the wimpiest rocket is enough to take down a building, but the farther into the game you go the stronger they get. Additionally, each level has five difficulty settings to choose from, and getting through the higher difficulties raises the odds of finding something more powerful. The weapon drops don't reveal what's inside until level's end, though, so collecting all 150 (and the achievement that goes with it) takes a bit of luck, not to mention the skill needed to survive the hardest settings.
Surviving is possible though, thanks to the Earth Defense Force's level structure and character advancement. Once a level is reached it can be played on any difficulty, and it's always open to play. On top of that, one of the enemy drops is a red Armor icon that adds 1 hit point for each collected at level's end. While that doesn't sound like a lot, the initial 200HP at the game's start will easily top 1000HP by the final battle, and the higher difficulties are tuned for both the stronger weapons and larger health bar. Earth Defense Force is designed with replay in mind, and clearing out all the levels on all difficulties is going to be a major quest.
It's worth doing, though, because Earth Defense Force is pure awesome fun. It shows its budget nature on a regular basis, with silly physics, limited enemy types, a ridiculous amount of clipping (especially with debris), a variable framerate, and a handful of huge battlefields that get recycled endlessly. The gameplay is so fun and polished though, that these issues just don't matter, and the only nagging flaw ends up being the lack of online multiplayer. Thankfully, there's single-screen co-op available, so it's not a total wash. Whether in single or multiplayer, the fast action, perfect controls, and amazing 50's schlock sci-fi atmosphere is a joy to play in, and the levels have that "just one more" feel that's the hallmark of all the best games. Earth Defense Force is an addictive blast, and honestly that's all I've ever asked from any game.