Author Stephen King once said that his books were the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries. Disregarding the fact that often Mr. King's work is at least occasionally more substantial than his remarks suggest, the point is well taken. Sometimes all you jones for is some tasty salt and grease, delivered up quickly and with at least the appearance of food.
What has this to do with Earth Defense Force 2017? If ever there was a videogame equivalent of junk food, this is it. If all you want is a hit of action, wrapped up in a mindless story and semi-pretty visuals (as long as you don't look too closely), then this is your game, and waistline and arteries be damned.
Story and Gameplay
Like one of those godawful films parodied on MST3K, the story that drives Earth Defense Force 2017 is pure Velveeta. Giant saucers appear over various cities around the globe, dropping huge insects and a variety of mechanical units that the forces of Earth must battle using an arsenal of convention and experimental weapons and fighting vehicles. If this sounds more like a set-up than an actual story, it is, but it really doesn't matter much. The attraction here is simply running around, blowing stuff up. Salt and grease and the appearance of food.
The game is voiced by a large crew of completely over-the-top and/or inept actors, reading a "script" that giddily deflates any thought that this could be a serious story. Your fellow soldiers bark locker-room slogans to "pump...you up" as you battle wave after wave of aliens. The radio chatter is neverending and gets a bit repetitive on longer missions.
On foot, and in the vehicles you control, playing the game is simplicity itself, which, I have to admit, was kind of refreshing after fighting some of the more convoluted, multiple function control schemes of recent shooters. Pick your weapons before the level, kill aliens, collect floating, 2D armor, health, and weapon powerups on the battlefield, and repeat. And repeat. And...repeat. Playing through a level on a harder difficulty (there are six difficulty settings) unlocks better weapons and armor. There are no mid-level saves, but most of the levels aren't terribly long and the lengthier ones are well paced, with a few moments of down time between waves of enemies--a good opportunity to run around a collect power-ups.
You don't need specialized etiquette training to eat a Big Mac--rip open the box and have at it. Well, that's just about as complex as Earth Defense Force 2017 gets, too.
Art Design, Graphics and Sound
Don't look for bleeding-edge graphics here. The visuals do what they need to to "get 'er done," but not much more. Some of the alien--bugs and mechanical (especially flying)--units look really good, though not terribly detailed, and the physics system is excellent. Blow up a giant ant or tarantula and watch it tumble realistically to the ground. Shoot a sidewinder missile and follow its delicately traced path to the target. Even after nearly two dozen hours of gameplay, this stuff never gets old. Human figures--including your own avatar--aren't particularly well realized and move with less-than-perfectly-smooth actions but in the midst of the action it's not a huge issue. Stuttering framerates are, however.
Absolutely everything is destructible and while buildings and other structures explode and implode rather spectacularly, the blocky animations of collapsing buildings don't reward close scrutiny. However, knowing you can bring down a distant high-rise far in the distance is cool, and I can understand that maybe trying to create individual animations for thousands of buildings might have been time and cost prohibitive. On the other hand, the characterless, blandly modern cities all pretty much look the same. Hell, they are the same, despite the fact the story is supposed to move the player to a number of world locations.
As for style, well, after over a century of speculative fiction and film, it's probably impossible to design aliens and alien craft without reference to the icons of the genre; this is not a game you go into expecting wildly innovative art direction or striking, original creature design, and you get what you expect--big bugs and big robots.
As noted, the voice acting is either terrible or intentionally hilarious, and the music is similarly noisy and cheeseball. Weapon and alien sounds range from good to generic and seem a bit undercooked.
Earth Defense Force's single player game is long and entertaining and the multiplayer component is less stellar. There is a dual controller, split screen option and a rather lame online option featuring all of one game type.
As the film Supersize Me demonstrated, Man does not live (long) by McDonald's alone; sometimes, though, that Quarter Pounder with Cheese satisfies like nobody's business. Earth Defense Force 2107 isn't a great game, but it's a really fun one and unlike the grease bomb you score from the local burger emporium, it won't have any long-term deleterious impact on your health.