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    Jun 21st, 2006 at 02:05:56     -    THE Earth Defence Force 2 (PS2)

    Well, I finished the game with the guy character on the default difficulty setting. Very standard anticlimactic ending - the designers clearly were de-emphasizing the story in favour of Blowing Things Up In Interesting Ways, a decision which I must agree with in this case. The final level, though not excessively difficult, is very impressive, but I won\'t spoil it here. The real payoff is that the game appears to give extra weapon unlocks as a reward for beating all the levels on a given difficulty.

    EDF2 also rewards \"sequence breaking\" of a sort - whenever you unlock a level by beating the previous one, it\'s immediately available at all difficulty levels. Using this, it is possible to pick out some of the easier levels and beat them on harder game modes, as doing so will generally unlock higher-quality weapons. There\'s a catch to this, though - some levels, particularly on higher difficulty, practically mandate that you have to have a certain amount of HP in order to clear them (or mad skillz). Hence you would probably have to grind lower levels for \"armor\" powerups (which increase your max HP). This isn\'t a problem, as there are so many levels that just going through the whole game on Easy and Normal will give scads of armor - more than enough for Hard level, which will then give enough for Hardest, etc.

    Other levels, however, are really dependent on the chosen weapon - especially one particular early level which features a cameo appearance by a single very famous monster. The creature\'s AI is scripted to attack a bunch of houses at the beginning of the level, so you can get free hits on him. With a strong enough weapon, it is possible to kill him before he can even attack you. On harder levels, you just need a stronger weapon - but it so happens that by clearing a later level on Hard mode, I managed to unlock a ludicrously powerful short-range weapon, and so I cleared this level on Inferno mode (the hardest available) without coming under attack at all, and unlocked some more very cool guns. Rather broken, yes, but this is the sort of game where balance can take a back seat without destroying the fun factor.

    I\'m planning to start work on a weapon FAQ sometime...

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    Jun 16th, 2006 at 12:40:02     -    THE Earth Defence Force 2 (PS2)

    I really like this game.

    I've just encountered a new type of enemy, which appears to be a variation on the old tripods (quadrupeds, actually). These ones are much nastier - in addition to having many of the same attacks as the old ones, only souped up, their legs are flexible and made up of a chain of segments. (Very cool idea, and impressive for a budget game.) On occasion one of the bastiches raises his leg up, and then it's time to duck and cover lest you get impaled on the nasty spike on the bottom of his foot. Oh, and they can take a lot more punishment too - although I found that the standard homing missile launcher, when spammed, will take them down without TOO much trouble. ("Mr. Itano says hello, punk.")

    So I unlocked a more advanced weapon today, the Goliath R rapid-fire rocket launcher, and immediately decided to try it out on one of the earlier levels on Hard difficulty. (Which is pretty hard in general.)

    In this level you have to take out these two giant UFOs which keep spawning more giant ants and spiders into the city. The spiders are pretty lethal on Hard mode, because the webs they shoot are tough to avoid, and on Hard they shoot more of them at a go, so the damage can really rack up.

    Transcript follows.

    - Mission start. Decided to go for the UFOs first.
    - Tested the new launcher on the UFOs. It takes 3 salvos (each salvo lasting about 4 seconds, with a 1.5 second reload time between salvos) to kill one UFO, and the range is ridiculously long. Knocked both UFOs out before even making contact with the enemy.
    - Made contact with the enemy. Proceeded to get on hoverbike and run like a scared little girl. (Apologies to any scared little girls reading this.)
    - Noticed that the game puts you on the roof of the hoverbike when you get out of it, for a very good reason. If you're travelling slowly enough, you can surf on the hoverbike while it coasts to a stop, launch a salvo of rockets (or hand weapon of your choice) at your pursuers, jump in again and take off, and repeat ad nauseum.
    - Noticed that colliding with things in the hoverbike can damage it seriously. Note to self: be a safe driver.
    - Proceeded to spam rockets into the chasing spiders/ants, run, repeat. Noticed that the blast radius of the new launcher is pretty weak - not that good for crowd control.
    - When bored, proceeded to spam rockets into the surrounding buildings for grins. Said procedure also took out a few spiders.
    - Noticed an oil tank farm on the edge of the city. Hatched a Plan.
    - Whittled the enemies down to one last remaining spider.
    - Accidentally crashed the hoverbike into a tank, totalling it.
    - Proceeded to drive the tank around the city, picking up all the powerups dropped by the enemy, with the spider in chase. Blew up a few (more) buildings for grins. (Note: EDF2 kind of sucks in one regard: the powerups - which often contain unlockables - MUST be collected before you clear a mission; there's no "auto-collection" function.) There are a LOT of buildings in that city.
    - Planned to lure the spider into the oil tank farm and blow it up.
    - Drove the tank over some debris and accidentally flipped it upside down. So much for Plan A. Hatched Plan B.
    - Got out of tank and lured spider to stand next to tank. (This was a bit tricky, because the spiders actually jump around most of the time rather than walking/crawling.)
    - Jumped into the (inverted) tank and fired the main gun straight into the ground at point-blank range, blowing both tank and spider to smithereens. (Note: When a vehicle blows up, the occupant emerges unharmed.) Mission accomplished.

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    Jun 11th, 2006 at 12:33:22     -    THE Earth Defence Force 2 (PS2)

    Just got this game today. Unfortunately, since I stumbled across it in a fairly ill-informed import shop, I ended up paying full price for what is normally a budget game. Fortunately, the game's worth it.

    It starts out on a very strong note. In the first level, you (assuming you have chosen the default settings) find yourself standing next to a tank on a bridge over a river. On the far bank, a seething mass of *something* is crawling over everything - buildings, people, and so on. So you jump into the tank, like any other shooter player, and squeeze off a couple of shots with the main gun...

    ...And realize, a moment later, that you have just blown up a bunch of giant ants and demolished Big Ben.

    At its core, "Earth Defence Force 2" is a standard run-n-gun third-person shooter, made on a budget... but for what it is, it's excellent. The game is simple, and usually amounts to "destroy all enemies to win the stage". Even within this constraint, the stages somehow don't really get stale. Perhaps it's because they usually end pretty fast, and new weapons are doled out on a fairly regular basis.

    The story is pretty standard. Aliens are trying to invade the Earth (again), and they're starting by dropping tons of giant mutant insects in to soften things up. Against these hordes stands the Earth Defence Force... in other words, the player (or players - the game supports co-op mode), armed with a couple of guns, the odd vehicle or jetpack, and... well, that's about it. As stated, each level amounts to "blow all the bad guys up before they do the same to you", but it hasn't gone stale on me yet after 4-5 hours of play.

    The levels are worth a mention. They're huge cityscapes - we're talking Katamari Damacy huge - and virtually everything is destructible. Furthermore, unlike in the GTA series, when you blow up a building, it stays blown up even if you go off to the other end of the level and come back. New enemies appear every couple of levels, so things never get TOO boring. Thus far I've encountered giant ants (who have a nasty kick, and can spit acid), giant flying ants, giant spiders (who jump around and shoot webbing that slows you down and damages you), small UFOs which spam laser bolts, larger UFOs which spawn the aforementioned creepy-crawlies, alien tripods suspiciously reminiscent of the ones from "War of the Worlds" and just about every FPS since Half-Life 2, and... well... a boss who is instantly recognizable, but I won't spoil it for you. Apparently I've only cleared 13 or 14 of the 70-odd levels...

    ...And the equipment at your disposal is similarly inspired. The game has two characters: a standard ground trooper (male) in a uniform which could have come straight from a B-grade alien invasion movie, and a female Special Forces trooper who wears a jetpack (and a skirt, natch). Whilst this does reinforce the usual gender stereotypes, I find the female soldier to be more interesting in a fight - there's definitely something to be said for aerial mobility in this game, and her weapons are also pretty different from the guy's. To balance the fact that she can fly, the guy can drive vehicles. Unfortunately for him, the vehicles aren't much to write home about - there is a stock hoverbike, a stock chopper and a stock tank, of which only the tank is actually worth very much in a fight. (The bike is admittedly useful for zipping around the huge levels, especially in missions where you have to chase down a specific target.)
    Each of the characters has a different arsenal of weapons; the box claims there are about 140 (!) different weapons. Whilst some of these are straightforward upgrades of others, there's a lot of variety here - the three different versions of the standard assault rifle I've unlocked, for instance, handle quite differently from each other. Some weapons are pretty unique - the female trooper has a very short-ranged weapon which spams a bunch of low-damage laser beams in all directions, kind of like a really deadly sparkler, and is great for strafing runs - while others are just over the top. Take the guy's Sky Turtle Beta homing missile (yes, that's its name), for instance: it's so incredibly slow that you could probably outrun it by driving the tank, but when it blows up, it can take several medium-sized houses with it.

    I suppose you could call this the console version of Serious Sam, but that wouldn't really be doing it justice; the scope of this thing is just amazing, and it goes beyond many full-price titles in terms of what it delivers. I'm very, very impressed.

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    Jun 11th, 2006 at 11:51:00     -    Shoot the Bullet (PC)

    Haven't had much time to play this recently. 5-1, Meiling's standard attack, is easily one of the more difficult missions in the first half of the game. I just managed to clear it for the second time (first time was on the office pc).

    The interesting thing here is that you can exploit a bug in her AI: whenever you hug the edges of the stage, it messes with her movement and targeting. However, this time I tried it without exploiting the bug, and it was actually easier. See, she also has a spread attack which is quite a bit easier to dodge if you aren't restricting yourself to hugging the edge.

    There's a moral somewhere in this, but I'm not sure what it is exactly...

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