Sunday, 21 February 2016

Earth Defence Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space

Developed by Sandlot and out now for PlayStation Vita, Earth Defence Force 2 has released alongside the PS4's Earth Defence Force 4.1 – which may make you say “wait, what?”. Both are something between a remake and a remaster, with the Vita's entry originally released on PS2. The beating heart of the EDF series that you need to understand above all else is this: The budget for each game is small, but the devs make no attempt no hide this. In fact, they wear it as a badge of grubby pride. 

Originally known as Global Defence Force, the new moniker's subtitle – Invaders From Planet Space – should serve as a none-too-subtle hint that this is a game with its proverbial tongue wedged deep into its proverbial cheek. Just as well really, because as soon as I say “You'll be killing giant ants, giant spiders, and giant robots”, I've adequately explained three quarters of the game. No branching dialogue trees; no moving block puzzles; no moral choices; no QTEs. Just swarms of huge enemies trying to kill you. You see something, blow the crap out of it as quickly as possible. Simple as that.

Despite the ultra-simplistic gameplay, there is a degree of planning and tactical thinking involved. Before each stage (of which there are almost 80), you get to choose your class and equipment. Classes, there be three: Infantry, Pale Wing, and Air Raider. Infantry are fairly tough and handle the kind of weapons players will be used to (rifles, rocket launchers, grenades, etc) so are great for beginners. They, and the Air Raider, can jump into any vehicle that may have been kindly left for you on the map. Vehicles are fairly rare, but who doesn't love driving a tank? There's also helicopters, and a speedbike with a crappy machine gun. The Air Raider is so called because they can use smoke grenades to call in bombing runs. They also get some cool equipment like sentry guns – but their personal weaponry tends to be slow and awkward. The Pale Wing starts off the weakest of the three, and they're a bit rubbish at long-range combat. But! They have a jetpack. A fucking jetpack, people!

Sometimes, an enemy will drop an item. This will be health, armour, or a random weapon. Each armour pickup increases that class's maximum health by one (after the mission ends), and the weapon will be added to your arsenal once you return to the menu. This means that you can slowly build your characters up to be powerhouses but, until you do, you'll tend to find that each stage is best tackled by a particular class. Or you could just keep grinding the first few levels for hours upon end like a psychopath.

I fell in love with this game within seconds of the first level, when a dodgy cockney voice asked “What's goin' on?” as I watched ants the size of whales run around what was supposed to be London. I chuckled as the giant insects were matter-of-factly referred to as “Buggernauts”. Glee roared through my veins as I made a mess of hundreds of giant insects, robots, and other monstrosities for hours. But, sadly, the Blue Peter budget began to show itself in much less amusing ways. It wasn't until the times I somehow ended up with a few stragglers at opposite ends of the map that I realised how damn slow all these athletic soldiers move. And while the fact that EDF 2 has a lot more cramped areas than EDF 4.1 shouldn't matter, it does. It's all very well having dozens of bug corpses at a time, lying around until they magically disappear; but when they block your bullets and set off your explosives, they can now and again give the enemy an unfair advantage. As for the time I was being shot at through a wall and I couldn't shoot back...

There's both ad-hoc and online multiplayer and, if you can get a game in this way, it's arguably the way EDF is meant to be played. It's also great fun solo but, either way, this eleven-year-old game still needs a bit more tidying up.

Good dumb fun, but occasionally buggered. 3/5.


Luke Kemp

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