Yeah, bit behind schedule on this one. Sorry. You know how it is.
No.3 – Earth Defence Force 2017
EDF2017 pretty much killed static-console gaming for me. Apart from Super Mario Galaxy (which exists in a separate category to pretty much all other videogames), it's the last game for any of the mainstream formats that I've invested any significant amount of time in, because nothing's ever been this much fun again.
"Grown-up" gaming has become so astonishingly boring and formulaic that I just can't summon up the will to plough through another hour-long tutorial with far too many control buttons in it in order to play a game that's just another po-faced grey-and-brown FPS with pretentions of depth and profundity. On the rare occasion that something did register a flicker of interest, like Bioshock, it was immediately snuffed out by the idiotically-limited control options.
Even stuff that under normal circumstances I'd have expected to like, such as GTA4, couldn't light a fire. The poor framerate, murky brown graphics and phenomenally irritating mobile-phone system just sucked all the joy out of it, and New Liberty City just didn't have the character of the old one.
In GTA3 I could look around and instantly know roughly where I was thanks to distinctive landscape features and topography, but in GTA4 everywhere seemed to look the same. I'm sure it's amazing if you put the effort in, but as far as I'm concerned I did that when I worked to earn the money to buy the disc, and I no longer have a young man's patience when it comes to games that put you through hours of dull and annoying slogging before they get going. EDF makes no such demands.
After a 20-second intro scene ("The Ravagers – are they our friendly alien neighbours?") and a bit of loading, the game drops you straight into the action. Unlike the typical modern actioner, it doesn't feel the need to explain to you that moving the joystick forward causes you to move forward, or that pressing the fire button makes you fire your gun.
You're just suddenly dumped in an abandoned city with the brave-but-dim members of your EDF team ("A bug! A very huge bug!"), rushing towards the alien landing sites as the last of the terrified inhabitants flee in the opposite direction, and the next thing you know the streets are full of GIGANTIC SPACE ANTS!
The game doesn't stop and explain your mission to you at this point, because you already know what to do with GIGANTIC SPACE ANTS, don't you? Everybody knows what to do with GIGANTIC SPACE ANTS. You shoot first, and then you keep shooting.
In another break with 21st-century videogame tradition, EDF doesn't send you out to tackle the alien invasion with nothing but a sharpened stick and a pair of sturdy hiking boots, either. From the word go you're armed with an assault rifle with limitless ammo – more than capable of making very short work of GIGANTIC SPACE ANTS – and a rocket launcher that can (and inevitably does) take down entire skyscrapers with a single shot.
Properly tooled up in such a manner, the first wave of intergalactic bugs is easy meat, and you wonder why it is that other videogame army commanders keep sending out the only hope for Earth's salvation with nothing in his pockets but a useless pistol and an Oyster card.
As subsequent levels arrive, you keep expecting EDF to knuckle down and start getting more complicated and tiresome. But it never does. It just throws more and bigger and tougher aliens at you, but keeps giving you better weapons to fight them on with too. You never have to learn any extra controls beyond the ones you use in the first mission, and you never have to do anything more complex than shooting everything you can see.
(Heck, the game even takes care of Y-axis aiming for you, automatically locking your sights on enemies above and below your line of fire if there's nothing directly ahead to shoot at. This is a 3D third-person shooter where you can get by on one joystick, one fire button and – maybe – one weapon-change button.)
It's Total Carnage in 3D. What more do you need to know? Tune in later this week to find out what's No.2!