Earth Defense Force has long been one of those “guilty pleasure” kinds of games. Part Dynasty Warriors, part Deadly Premonition, the series has simple but hectic gameplay mixed with cheesy dialogue with equally terrible translations. Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair acts as a fantastic entry point for newcomers to the series and the recent PC port is decent, despite its relatively high price point
Earth Defense Force takes place years in the future, as humanity has discovered giant bugs living underground. These bugs emerge from the ground and attempt to take over the planet. Meanwhile, aliens are invading across the planet. The Earth Defense Force is the only thing standing between us and these hordes of creatures.
Gameplay-wise, EDF feels heavily inspired by the Dynasty Warriors series, in that you have to fight back hundreds of enemies. Enemies drop weapons and armor upgrades as you plow through the hordes. However, unlike the Warriors games, you’re only goal (generally) is to wipe out every enemy on your radar. While there is a scoring system built in to a small degree, you generally won’t be going back to retry missions to get a better grade.
Instead, if you do re-play missions, you’ll be doing this to get more weapons for each of your classes. There are four main class types: Ranger, Wing Diver, Fencer and Air Raiders. Ranger is your basic space marine, but also one of the easiest and most adaptable characters. Wing Divers can fly but use the same energy to fly as they do to re-load weapons. Fencers are slow, bulky characters with chain guns and Air Raiders use vehicles to get around and do damage.
Rangers should be your first choice, as they offer a huge range of movement and weaponry that make them simple to use. Using their machine guns and rocket launchers to go on a bug hunt feels like one of the most perfect representations in video game form of Starship Troopers, down to the Ranger suits being clearly inspired by the film.
Wing Divers offer one of the more varied gameplay styles, as flying across a map can be fun. However, their weapons require some serious upgrading before they can really do much of anything. This is also true of Air Raiders and Fencers. If you plan on playing through once, you should really go with Raider, but the game is clearly designed to be played multiple times across multiple difficulties with different characters, so if you are really itching to play more of it, there are plenty of options.
Gameplay primarily consists of exploring a map, killing a bunch of enemies, rinse and repeat. There are some boss battles throughout, but the game does get slowed down significantly when it puts you in a large arena area against five or six flying enemies that require you to focus all of your attention on them. These enemies can be incredibly fast and will require you to change all of your tactics. They aren’t fun, but thankfully they don’t take place often enough to get in the way of blasting through a pile of giant ants or spiders.
While graphically it is not going to set the world on fire, it is fairly impressive that, even with lower quality models, it is able to maintain a relatively stable framerate throughout. This is true even when the game has waves and waves of ants and ships flying at you. While the game does lower the visual quality of further away enemies notably, the fairly consistent framerate makes the experience solid throughout to play.
This also transfers to playing the split-screen multiplayer which is insanely fun. While the online multiplayer is somewhat broken at times, playing split-screen feels like the perfect way to play it. Maps are huge and require you to go across huge amounts of terrain to get anything done and having a second player allows you to more easily manage everything that is going on.
The biggest issue, though, is that the port really doesn’t feel like it should cost as much as it does. The game costs $50 and there is over $20 worth of DLC available at launch, but it feels like the game should cost more in the $30 range. It’s a really fun time, but if it were a little bit less costly, it would likely attract more people.
That said, there is a huge amount of content on offer here. There are over 80 levels, each designed to be played multiple times through by multiple classes on multiple difficulties. Replaying these levels yields more weaponry and armor to protect yourself and the core gameplay is fun, if a bit mindless. Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair feels like one of the better “tune out” games around.
SCORE: 8.5 out of 10
A code for Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair was provided to Pixel Related for review.