The stupid power of “Earth Defense Force 2017″

After about 20 minutes, it would be easy to point at “Earth Defense Force 2017″ and laugh. You could poke fun at the voice acting, which conjures up memories of those Japanese monster movies, where all we would need is someone pointing and screaming. You can poke fun at the ridiculously simple-sounding plot, where aliens are coming down to destroy us all and we have to FIGHT BACK! You can even laugh at the fact that you spend a lot of time killing giant balloonish ants that are crawling all over buildings. I was tempted to (and did) a lot of those things.

What I can’t say however, is that I wasn’t having a ball doing it.

The folks at D3 publishing have captured lightning in a bottle. As ludricrous as all of the other aforementioned elements in this game are, you can’t pull yourself away from it. Picture a parody of “Lost Planet,” without the snow, and EDF is what you’re left with. There’s a certain campy satisfaction to blowing away ants that shoot TANG-colored acid at you while you hear comrades yell and scream over the radio, “MY GOD! THIS IS ACID! AAAAAH!” It never gets old.

It also helps that you can annihilate any building or structure you lay your eyes on. This is what would have made “Crackdown” an epic title — a fully destructable city. WIth enough rockets, you could literally turn a good part of a metropolis into a parking lot. In fact, I spent a lot of my time playing the game doing just that. The pieces fell in strange ways sometimes (not to mention it does the classic “see the pieces disappear” thing) but I actually didn’t mind. I guess that’s the definition of mindless fun — you don’t mind what’s wrong with it.

However, what’s stopping me from giving a wholehearted recommendation of this game is that fact that you CAN’T PLAY CO-OP ONLINE. Boo! This is exactly the kind of game that Live was almost made for! Sure, you can play two players and do splitscreen co-op, but that’s not the same thrill as raising anti-alien hell with someone across the country.

Visually, I’d say the game is average. The giant ants look rubbery and bouncy, and I had a hard time getting over how dorky the Earth Defense Force troopers looked. Some of the bigger skyscrapers looked decent, but when the fluffy ants started crawling all over them, the building almost looked like props. The same goes for some of the not-so-good-looking background items, like the cars. Everyone from the aliens to the humans moves a little too stiff — it’s like the entire EDF had a body cavity search right before the invasion. One good note of humor is how the game handles new weapons and power-ups — you get to see old-school bitmap icons, jaggies and all, that read “armor” or “weapon.” It’s like 1985 all over again.

Gameplay was fairly simplistic, though I have no idea why the left trigger controls jumping. That just felt strange and unnatural. I was slightly irked at being able to only carry two weapons at a time, though it never really served as a problem. On “normal” mode, the game isn’t that hard — I must have wiped out about 100 or so ants before I got hit with a good shot. Then the flying machines came out, and the pace of the game changed.

I would say EDF is good weekend rental, at best, since even good mindless fun can get tedious after a while. Online co-op would have put the game almost into must-buy status. It can be that fun.