Obscured View

A few chosen words on the world of video games

Archive for October, 2009

Damn you, Mothership!!!

In waiting for the deluge of good titles that are coming out later this month, I picked up a $13 game from Amazon because everyone told me how horrible it was.  Lavish descriptions of the horribleness of the experience flowed from those that had played it.  Tales of  bad physics, terrible collision issues, horrible dialogue, early 90’s era graphic techniques, poor animations, silly enemies — it was an endless stream of bad… yet these were all recommendations for the game.

And you know what?  Everything they said is true… and more.  Earth Defense Force 2017 is likely the worst best game I’ve ever spent $13 on.

“Let’s hurry back and get a bite to eat!”

-Every soldier

I think what makes the game so amusing is that everything you’ve learned in how a player interacts in 3D games over the years — expectations of collision, physics, weapon function, gravity — it’s all thrown completely out the window in EDF: 2017.  Collision is almost non-existent, physics are comically exaggerated, falling damage is… what falling damage?

“Nests have appeared all over the world.  The bugs are moving around… and attacking!”

-The Reporter, who dies at least twice

The game takes place on Earth in the year 2017, when an alien force invades.  The aliens must have a sense of humor, because their primary invasion force is giant bugs.  Giant ants and spiders, more specifically.  They crawl all over the geometry, up buildings, under bridges, on ceilings, get stuck on things, have zero mass once killed, shoot web and acid at you, and are sufficiently creepy.  To this we add over the course of 53 missions two variants of a giant robot, a huge dino-bot, a big AT-AT-like walker, an air attack “ufo” and some drop ships.  Mostly it’s just ants and spiders though.

“Damn you, Mothership!!!  Did we wake you up?!”

-The Commander

Environment wise, there’s not much to it.  Buildings,  ground, a few trees, and maybe a bridge or so.  There’s only really four maps you play on — city, rural, shoreline, and underground.  Each map is cut up differently so you don’t see the same stuff that often, but it’s really just there for you to shoot stuff while standing on.  And boy do you shoot a lot of stuff.  There’s levels that drop the frame rate to a slide show with the amount of monsters they throw at you.

You can blow up just about everything man-made in the game, and oh do you take advantage of that.  Any explosive can drop any building.  40 story skyscraper?  One hand grenade and it’s down.  Shopping mall?  One grenade.  Playground?  One grenade.  Car?  Nope.  Cars don’t blow up, silly!  They just fly off into the atmosphere!

“Don’t you die until you’ve shot all your bullets!”

“YES SIR!!!”

-A commander and soldiers

What’s useful about blowing everything up is that you can then see the enemies coming, since they tend to swarm rather quickly, and you can keep them from spazzing out on the buildings.  Typically the first thing you do in a city map is just start chucking explosives around and leveling the entire city while the AI controlled soldiers make all kinds of silly comments.

Obviously there was a budget issue when this game was being developed, because there’s only three voice actors for the entire army, typically around 10 to 20 guys on a map.  This is amusing in many ways, not only because you hear the same guy talking as if he’s multiple guys, but there’s a dynamic dialogue system in place so that solders will answer each other as they talk… all in the same voice.

“The robots’ heads hide in their bodies!”

“That’s funny.  They don’t seem like the shy types.”

-On seeing the robots for the first time

The character animates poorly.  You can almost hear his spine breaking when you turn.  You move faster by diving in a direction over and over rather than running.  You have only one hit / death animation when you fly into the air either when you die or when an explosive lands near you.  It’s all bad, in a completely good way.

“I’ll see you on the other side… in HELL!”

“You bet!”

-Typical soldier chatter

I can’t really glean any lessons from this game because there’s almost no level design to mention because there’s no way to use the level to your advantage.  All the monsters just walk over things or shoot them down to get at you, so really you’ve got nothing but a flat plane, with the tunnel levels being the only exception.  If I could take the game seriously, I’d bitch about how bad the tunnel level is constructed — no landmarks, similar textures, lack of map, confusing layout — but I can’t so I won’t.  The monsters have (almost) enough sense to always come to you, so there’s not a lot of hunting you have to do unless one glitches and runs away from you instead.  It happens enough to mention.

What the game does gloriously in sacrificing everything else for it is give a great sense of scale to the enemies.  Bosses are not big, they’re friggin’ HUGE.  That mutated thing at the end of Gears 2 that you had to helicopter around?  Fighting things like that in EDF:2017, you’re on the ground right in front of them… and they’re not immobile.  The sense of epic (albeit cheesy) scale is awesome.  You ever want to fight an AT-AT from the ground?  One that’s also a carrier that’s constantly spitting out more enemies and armed with guns and shields?  EDF:2017 has you covered.

Weapons (171 of them!) vary from weaksauce piddly things to city-leveling epicness.  Some of them are grin-inducing.  A 30 round simultaneous grenade launcher with a 40m blast radius per grenade sent giant spiders flying in all directions including the stratosphere.  Very satisfying.  There’s a few rare weapons that some people have spent days of play time grinding for, while others (like me, fortunately) got them in just an hour or so (Lysander Z, baby!).  Ah, random chance.  In 4 years plus of playing WoW, I never had one random world purple drop for any of my characters.  Thankfully, EDF:2017 had my back.

So can I recommend the game?  Sure.  As a complete time-waster that’s got some insane difficulty to it, I certainly think it fits the bill.  Split-screen co-op (no on-line) keeps things interesting, so grab a friend and you’ll have a city-leveling blast for the 8+ hours it’ll take you to get through it… and that’s only on one difficulty!

And an amusing mentions on achievements — there’s only 6 of them total.  Beat the game on easy, normal, harder, hardest, and inferno for one each (no, you don’t get the easy one for beating it on normal!), and collect all 171 weapons.  That’s it.  It’s 99 Nights in its old-school achievement philosophy.

Here’s the trailer.

I see on Amazon that it’s up to 24 bucks now.  Apparently there was a recent list of the “hardest Xbox achievements” and EDF:2017 was on it, hence the price rising with demand.  It’s still a great deal — just keep your expectations of tone in check and you’ll have a blast with it.

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