Earth Defense Force 2025 (referred to as EDF hereafter) is the next entry in the much-loved series, developed once again by Sandlot. The alien “Ravagers” are back, but they’ve got a wild hair up their collective ass this time around. Their defeat in Arizona nearly a decade ago has only pissed them the hell off, and the sights are set on the entirety of Earth itself. The planet’s unified military presence, the “Earth Defense Force”, is tasked with attempting to repel what is likely to be the greatest threat the world has ever seen. The Ravagers are returning with new insect creatures and massive robots on the ground, underground, and in the air.
EDF features a whole metric boatload of single player missions (yes, really), and a steady increase of difficulty as you unlock progressively more complex and powerful weapons for each of the four new, unique soldier classes. The absolutely ludicrous amount of weapons, somewhere in the ballpark of 700 total, serves to enable you to creatively wreak massive or precise destruction upon the seemingly endless hordes of giant bugs and bots.
The means to your end in EDF is greatly affected by the difficulty level you assign yourself at the beginning of each endeavor (easy, normal, hard, hardest or inferno) and which class you choose. Difficulty level chosen affects the “level” (power) of the weapon unlocks you receive, giving you incentive to at least try beating missions on a higher difficulty level. Regarding classes, there’s four of them. Ranger is your standard foot soldier with many direct fire and moderately powerful weapons. Fencer is your hulking, slow tank with brutish weapons to match its attitude. Air Raiders are hit and run, technically proficient, efficient and focused on strikes and vehicles. Wing Divers are the squishiest of them all but have the greatest potential for the skilled player, as the increase in vertical mobility along with powerful weapon choice allows many an option to eradicate all before you.
Multiplayer is a rather simple affair, with your standard split-screen options for single player missions and four-player online co-op or versus modes. Difficulty and quite a number of mission variables are set by the host, and it is typically a smooth affair, albeit stiff and dry. The menus are barebones and uninspired, with huge amounts of text strewn about various pages, with curious-looking presets for chat accessible through use of the D-Pad. Once into multiplayer, chat is controlled with the D-Pad and menu movement is transferred to the analog stick. This change left me accidentally bringing up chat options. After several times, slight annoyance set in. It’s the little things, ya know.
Speaking of annoyance, gameplay has its ups (variety and hordes of giant soon-to-be-dead insects and robots), but is wracked with downs. The story is entirely forgettable and completely unnecessary for enjoyment of the good this game brings to the table. Running about the expansive, terribly bland, low-poly, poorly-textured environments feels like a chore. There’s no controller sensitivity adjustment. Different character types have varying movement or look sensitivities so it takes some time to get used to, although I never felt truly comfortable. In fact, I felt quite limited by the cumbersome and inaccurate controls.
After an hour into EDF, I came to the realization that there wasn’t likely more than 10 lines of dialogue for every constantly screaming citizen or yelling soldier. Some of the explosion sound effects felt recycled from games nearly twenty years old. In short, playing EDF was like taking a trip back to the early PS2 era. With seemingly nary a single trace of anti-aliasing or texture filtering, a wobbly framerate that slows to a crawl at times, Havok physics that are lazily implemented, clumsy and unforgiving controls, it all just has an amateur feel. It’s quite the tragedy coming from a team that’s not exactly fresh out of game design school. Years and years of improved PlayStation 3 development processes should have enabled Sandlot to create something more worthy of inserting into my console.
Seriously lacking design and presentation aside, there is more content in EDF than you could shake two sticks at. There’s enough missions and variety to choke a horse, a weapon list that would impress anyone, potential for a higher body count than even Stalin could have dreamed of, and there’s a difficulty level for everybody.
If you’re willing to brave the wonky controls, bland looks, repetitive sounds and wholly uninspiring story, there’s a content-rich base-level appeal to Earth Defense Force 2025 that will draw you in. With upcoming DLC, there’s missions, weapons, and co-op to keep you entertained for a long, long time. EDF gets the basics right. Yet I cannot shake the feeling that the game could have used far more TLC from a developer that has already been around the block.
I’ll leave you with this:
Despite the game’s successes, it isn’t a good thing when someone looks over my shoulder and says “What beta are you playing?”
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