I consider the Earth Defense Force series to be the video game equivalent of junk food. These releases won’t necessarily win any end-of-year awards, but I just can’t turn them away. They’re on the same level of the Starship Troopers films (well, the first one at least), as you mow down waves of enemies with everything from pulse rifles to bazookas to impressively powerful vehicles, using every ounce of your energy to prevent them from taking over.
Earth Defense Force 4.1 for PlayStation 4 and PC has been the highlight of the series thus far, thanks to its zippy frame rate (when the screen isn’t bogged down with enemies) and its ridiculous action. Keep in mind it’s not often you fend off against large bugs, robots and dragons in one play session, unless you’re playing this. But Earth Defense Force 5 bumps things up a notch with even bigger challenges, as well as more robust loadout options and better multiplayer options. It makes each alien hunt even more worthwhile, especially for the holiday season. (That makes sense, right?)
The story in Earth Defense Force is on a similar level as a SyFy production. Aliens are invading our planet in many forms and it’s your job to send them packing however you can. That’s...about it. But that’s all that’s needed, as D3Publisher and Sandlot inject each of these games with cheesy spirit. Watching someone get blasted with a rocket, only to get back up ten seconds later and chant, “EDF! EDF!” or even lead a war singalong is the stuff of magic.
Earth Defense Force 5 wins when it comes to abundantly wild action. Each of the 110+ waves gives you a new challenge to overcome, whether it’s flying saucers flooding the skies with laser fire or giant robots pursuing you with everything they’ve got. Fortunately, you can push back with your soldier classes and expand your arsenal with new weapons you pick up over the course of each stage. (Watch out for those green crates.)
The controls are simple when it comes to running around and aiming, but there’s a deeper strategy at play in EDF. Would a rocket launch be easier when it comes to taking out insects? Or should you shoot at them and save your stronger weapon for the “bug generators” perched above the city? It’s your call, but the results are fun to watch either way.
The classes provided in Earth Defense Force 5 pack a punch. The Ranger is likely your best bet when you begin, even though they take a while getting across the map. The Wing Diver is good if you’re looking to strike from above with speed and efficiency, though you’ll run out of energy much more quickly. The Fencer is more of a defensive-style class with powerful weapons and shielding, but takes a heaping amount of patience. Finally, the Air Diver takes a strategic approach, calling in attacks from afar. There’s a lot to experiment with here, depending what your approach to gameplay is.
You can also change up your loadout with different weapons, which can change how you play. Want to try a grenade launcher and a laser rifle? Or maybe a multi-rocket launcher is more your speed? You’re free to fool around here. In fact, it’s encouraged.
Vehicles also play a big part, as you can use tanks, mechs and more to direct more firepower at your foes. But they take a bit to unlock; and they don’t have the smoothest of controls. Still, it feels righteous to clear out bugs with a few mortars. And here we thought Raid would be the most effective thing against them.
That said, Earth Defense Force 5 isn’t without flaws. There are times the action can be too overwhelming, particularly when you’re hounded by hundreds of UFO’s. (And this is just in one of the game’s opening stages -- yikes.) What’s more, the lack of checkpoints is frustrating. If you die in a stage, you have to start it all over again. Fortunately, health boxes are found scattered throughout a stage -- you just have to be quick enough to go get them before you’re wiped out. There are adjustable difficulty settings, but even on easy, you’re in for the fight of your life.
This is where Earth Defense Force 5’s multiplayer come in. The game enables you to connect with three other online players as a strike team, and it’s here that you can make more of a difference. Granted, it’s not as well organized as other co-op supported games but it’s still fun, especially as you all start cleaning house with your bazookas and eventually earning vehicles to use during a mission.
You can also play with a friend in two-player split-screen and this option is joyous as well -- particularly if you’ve got someone that loves cheesy sci-fi as much as you do. Calling out attacks and having a good time with a couch session makes Earth Defense Force 5 way more fun than it has any right to be. Give it a shot, but don’t neglect online -- that’s a blast in itself.
With over 110 missions, Earth Defense Force 5 offers abundant replay value, as you can go back in and try them out on tougher difficulty. You can also just mess around and have fun with things, such as blowing up buildings within the environment. (It’s funny what a well-timed bazooka shot or two can do -- but blame the bugs for the mess, yeah?)
This sequel won’t win any accolades with its visuals, but it does look better than 4.1 did. The graphics really pop when it comes to throwing your soldier into impossible scenarios, even with some stages finding repeated use. The enemy animation is also pretty slick, like the insects and the large half-human/half-frog creatures that try to crush you, even after they're down from so many hits. There are times the camera can be problematic (like with cinematic events that you don’t have control over), but not nearly enough to throw off your Earth-saving sprees.
As for the audio, it’s great. The cinematic score sounds like it was ripped out of a low-key sci-fi film; the sound effects are pretty good, if not entirely original; and the voice samples are the best part about the game, with everyone shouting out random things, including that beloved “EDF!” chant. (They’re devoted, I’ll give them that.)
If you’re looking for a game to engulf you within its story for hours at a time, Earth Defense Force 5 is not for you. It leans more towards “quick action”, where you can jump in and save the city one step at a time. But there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when you can add friends into the mix both locally and online. Plus, the combination of theme, gameplay, weapon variety, class selection and over-the-top excitement just can’t be beat, even if it doesn’t change too much from what previous games had provided.
To sum up, Earth Defense Force 5 operates best when you don’t take it seriously and just have a ball turning wayward alien foes into ash. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Now go crush some bugs for Christmas!0comments
WWG’s Score: 4 out of 5 stars.
(Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.)