Earth Defense Force is a ridiculous series. The over-the-top third-person shooter that has players defending earth against giant insects originated as a game in D3 Publisher’s line of budget titles, and has gained a dedicated following since the original outing released on PlayStation 2. While the games have always had their fair share of issues, the absurd premise managed to keep players entertained through several sequels.
Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair is the latest title in the long-running series, and it’s an enhanced version of Earth Defense Force 2025. The remake brings along a few new features such as a new visual shine, and missions have also been tweaked. But is Earth Defense Force 4.1 the game that is going to break the series out of its niche and into the mainstream?
The core gameplay in Earth Defense Force will be familiar to anyone who has played a third-person shooter. Players will run around in a gigantic, highly destructible city while battling both huge insects and alien robots. This is a game that is ridiculous on the onset, and only gets goofier as the story continues. While plenty of enemies, like giant ants, will only take a few hits to take down. there are always dozens of them crawling around the city. Well, at least they’re supposed to be crawling. Sometimes the animation breaks, and they just kind of have a seizure. Ant seizures are probably not a laughing matter, but it’s pretty funny the first time you see the game break.
Whether or not you can accept the game constantly breaking and just being janky in general will probably determine if you can get any ounce of enjoyment out of Earth Defense Force 4.1. If you are ready to laugh at how often it completely breaks, then you’ll probably have a decent time. If not, you can probably close this review now. This game isn’t for you.
With that out of the way, there are a lot of different ways that you can murder the poor giant ants that are convulsing around your television screen. There are four different classes that players can choose from to help defend Earth. The most basic of these, and the one that I spent most of my time playing with, is the Ranger.
Rangers are on-foot soldiers that can carry up to two different weapons. It’s a class that is easy to pick up and play, and you’ll be getting so many different weapons throughout the game’s 90+ mission campaign that you’ll always have a new toy to experiment with. The weapons the Ranger can use range from basic assault rifles and powerful rocket launchers to more experimental weapons that really show off the wackiness of EDF.
The second unit available to players is the Wing Diver, which is an aerial unit that has a pretty rad jetpack. While it’s fun to glide around the city, at least until you have to wait for your jetpack to re-energize, the class initially requires players to get closer to enemies in order to deal big damage. This never jived with my play-style, but the extra mobility of the Wing Diver is definitely something that can come in handy.
The final two classes are the least traditional units: Air Raider and Fencer. Air Raider can carry up to three different weapons, but the majority of them are non-traditional. For example, the Air Raider can call in support vehicles (such as tanks) to use or call in support maneuvers such as air strikes. It’s a fun class to play as, especially in multiplayer. Fencer on the other hand is a giant hulking armor suited soldier. He may move extremely slow, but he has access to the most powerful weapons in the game.
There’s a nice variety in the different class types, and Earth Defense Force 4.1 is just a content-filled experience. That makes it so disappointing that the game just isn’t all that fun to play after you stop laughing about how ridiculous everything is. Most of the enemies are defeated with next to no strategy, although some of the bigger encounters will cause you to slightly use your noggin, which becomes tiresome after a few hours. You have a bunch of awesome weapons at your disposal, but rarely anything interesting to combat. The game’s later missions are more fun, but you’ll likely have had your fill of shooting at targets by the time you reach them.
One of the most frustrating elements of the game comes in the form of how it structures the online and offline campaigns. You can’t just select to play a level that was giving you issues in single-player online. Instead, the progress is kept completely separate. This is incredibly frustrating, and basically forces gamers to choose if they are going to only play online or just play solo. Since there are so many levels in the game, it’s a damn shame that it makes it so hard to access the content that is on the disc.
If you’re going to play Earth Defense Force 4.1 then the best way to do it is with friends. The game supports both local and online multiplayer, with the online play going up to 4 people. Playing with friends makes the game much more enjoyable as you can joke about the ridiculous missions you are playing, try out different types of classes, and there are even a few extra cooperative missions that are designed specifically for four players to take on.
Rounding out the package is a local multiplayer mode that asks the question, “What if the real giant insect was humanity all along?” Yes, this mode allows two players to fight each other instead of invading aliens. There isn’t a ton of variety to this 1v1 mode, but it is a fun diversion, if only for a few minutes.
Earth Defense Force is a series that is set in its ways. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It’s found an audience large enough to make sequels viable, and those fans love the games for the same reasons that the detractors hate it. For better or for worse, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair is more Earth Defense Force. Sure, there’s no denying that it’s a poor game, but it’s a pretty charming one that can be enjoyed with friends.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 exclusive, which we were provided with.