A cult game, much like its cinematic equivalent, is something that can generally only be enjoyed by those who ‘get it’, who can see past its flaws and appreciate its unconventional charms where others see no value or merit. No current game series exemplifies this more than Earth Defence Force.
Built to budget standards and released at a fitting price, the original PS2 games dropped one or two players into a low-polygon-city filled with giant ants and asked nothing more them than to systematically kill every monster and then start a new level and do it all over again. The graphics were crude, the controls rudimentary and the variety non-existent but a small minority of Europeans, along with a much larger Japanese fan base, quickly latched on to the games. What they found hidden beneath the bottom-of-the-barrel production values was a game that remained purely fun in spite of its presentation. After all, there’s something about taking on hundreds of giant insects and robots that appeals to the videogame geek in all of us.
With the unexpected but welcomed announcement of an Xbox 360 version of Earth Defence Force, speculation began to run wild. The game would never appeal to the mainstream but with the expected additions of online co-op, HD graphics and the power to display even more enemies, surely this would be the perfect cult sequel. Unfortunately, however, what Sandlot and D3 have delivered is little more than an update of the previous games with none of the logical additions that were naturally expected.
Co-operative play was always the most fun aspect of the previous Earth Defence Force games, and remains equally compelling here, but to have an online co-op mode denied feels unnecessarily backward thinking… even for a budget title. This crushing blow to expectant fans wouldn’t have been so hurtful if Sandlot had poured its efforts into improving the offline experience but, aside from a few minor changes, this is disappointingly similar to the last Playstation 2 game.
Long-time fans need not rush out to buy an Xbox 360, then, but that’s not to say that EDF is a bad game, in its own right, far from it. As a 3D take on the old-school run-and-gun genre, the mixture of giant enemy hordes and fully destructible environments is often both exhilarating and deeply satisfying, albeit in a very tongue-in-cheek way. Those who prefer their game titles to be preceded by the words ‘Tom Clancy’s need not apply, but anymore with a scholarship from the Ed Wood School of Game Design will find a lot to love.