If these guys are defending our planet, it’s time to start welcoming our insect overlords!
Having never played an Earth Defense Force game before, I approached this game with little to no expectations. Having now played it, I have little to no expectation (or anticipation) for any other game in this series.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the small file size of this game. At just 269mb, it weighs in at less than many of my other currently installed titles, sprite-art masterpiece Hotline Miami for example, which for a full 3D game seems impressive. Vita memory card space is a precious commodity so not having to delete my other games was a big plus. Unfortunately this is one the best things I have to say about this game
The menus do a good job of describing what each of your options are, there is a voiceover that gives you a little breakdown of each category. This does, sadly, mean to work out what you’re doing initially you’ll need the sound turned up (I’ll get in to how punishing that is later on). “Deploy” is your campaign. Before hitting this, you’ll want to head in to the “Weaponry” section and choose your class. The default class is Infantry, a standard shooter class, good all rounder but nothing special. Personally I’d recommend switching to the Pale Wing class. The weapons are a little weaker at first (you pick up new weapons and upgrades as you play through the campaign), but this class has a jetpack, which comes in incredibly handy. You’ll often find yourself in large battle areas with enemies clumped in clusters across the map, and running between is far from fun. There is a 3rd class, Air Raider, which seems to be more of a support class, but I can honestly see no real reason why you’d ever touch this.
The first level drops you in London, overrun by giant ants. I grew up as a Nintendo kid, I’ve played Jet Force Gemini, so I’m no stranger to taking down this six-legged menace. However, I was instantly hampered by the fact that EDF2 makes no effort to tell you how you actually go about destroying these ants. I don’t mind when a game lets you work out controls in a natural way, but this doesn’t seem to follow any standardised control format. It took me forever to work out why sometimes when I pressed the left trigger I would jump and other times would roll. FYI, that tank you start next to, if you choose Infantry you can drive it. Naturally you stand near it and press Select to get in it (Lord knows how I worked this out), but the vehicles really add nothing. If anything, they are just harder to control than being on foot, and the additional firepower is ultimately not needed.
In terms of gameplay, you just need to kill all the alien bugs, simple. Shooting ants results in fountains of yellowy-green goo. I wouldn’t be hard pressed to describe it as fun, although the novelty maybe does wear a little thin after a few hours. The enemies do vary as the game progresses (spiders, UFOs, War of the Worlds tripod things) but the game rarely feels different. Playing the game on Normal difficulty, I developed a “strategy” of standing in one spot and spinning, and despite being told over my comms that the Ant’s acid would “melt my armour like cotton candy”, I seemed to be able to take a good 7-8 hits per second with little trouble. Ramping up the difficulty level does indeed increase the challenge, so if you are finding things a little too simple, turning that dial up does make for a better experience.
Now one thing you don’t want to turn up if you want any chance of enjoying this is your volume. The menu features super generic alien invasion music. You know what I mean, nasty, long high-pitched sounds. Then in the levels you get repetitive B-Movie orchestral pieces; this is not the worst of it by a long stretch. I could handle the terrible music, and there is even some charm to the cheesy voice acting of your unseen military counterparts and police services. The biggest auditory assault comes when you slay your foes. The ants, upon explosion, let out a shrill scream. A scream that they recorded once, thought “Yeah, that’ll do” and carried on with their day. So there’s no variation, just the same scream, over and over again, whenever you kill an ant, and let me tell you, you’re gonna kill a loooot of ants.
Visually, EDF2 doesn’t bring a lot to the table. The Vita has proven for the last few years that’s it’s a portable powerhouse, giving us visual spectacles like Gravity Rush, or console quality titles like NFS Most Wanted or Killzone Mercenary. This game is not going to be talked about amongst those games. Textures are bland, the lighting is poor, and the bugs seemed to have employed the same “poison fog” tactic that Lex Luthor pulled in Superman 64. Even the static images on the load screen are a blurry mess. When surrounded by enemies in game, it can become difficult to see what you’re doing, the in-game camera does little to compensate for crowding. Also, I often found my character struggled to stay perpendicular to the ground.
I’d love to talk to you about the multiplayer, but I tried on several occasions to give it a go, only to find that there was no-one online, and I would feel bad advising my friends to buy this game just so I had someone to play with. A few other notes I made during my playthrough include my slight irritance that the touchscreen is not properly utitlised. It can be used to control the camera in-game, but not to select menu items etc., A minor bugbear, but the interface seemed perfectly suited to touch. Also, on the few indoor levels, bodies will pile up in corridors as you play and block your path. This again isn’t major, they do disappear after a while, but it can still be frustrating as you’re trying to advance.