Launching last December in Japan, Earth Defense Force 5 finally arrives, mandibles first, on western shores. The long-running cult shooter series places you on the frontlines as an EDF soldier in the war between earth’s united military forces and an invading extra-terrestrial threat.
EDF’s aesthetic instantly transported me back to the arcades of Tokyo. The same last generation graphics, blaring anime inspired soundtrack and bold, bright UI beamed forth from the labyrinth of screens in every Club SEGA and Taito Station I entered, overwhelming the senses in a cacophony of light and sound. This same frantic atmosphere and quintessentially Japanese strain of madness pervades EDF 5’s apocalyptic struggle against the encroaching intergalactic forces.
Giant, bus-sized ants, spiders, bees and woodlice, or “monsters” as NPC’s insist on referring to them, make up the majority of your bullet fodder, attacking in staggering, screen-filling swarms. Giant “aliens”, essentially bipedal frogs with guns, Cosmonaughts, more typical looking big-eyed Martians, and robotic enemies including UFO style drones and quadrupedal ‘deroys’ make up the rest of the roster of cosmic nasties. A few Kaiju boss battles make for some of the campaign’s highlights; the building sized behemoths proving to be formidable bullet-sponges for the EDF’s full firepower.
Four classes provide distinct playstyles, allowing an array of ways to approach battles. The all-rounder Ranger remained my go to throughout the campaign, with the ability to call in a vehicle increasing your mobility across the game’s expansive urban battlefields. Wing Divers, a predictably sexualised all-female air-based combat squad, favour energy weapons and use their retro-futuristic jetpacks to swiftly traverse the battlefield. Air Raiders play a support role, healing, setting town turrets and calling in air strikes, while Fencers are heavies, donning robotic exoskeletons which prioritise raw damage over speed and agility.
Simple, yet slightly clunky controls make tearing through the vast insectoid hordes suitably satisfying and messy fun, as bright purple blood and insect chunks fly everywhere. Health pickups and weapon unlocks are plentiful on normal difficulty and the power fantasy of mowing through enemies with ease while sweeping up loot is immensely gratifying and rewarding. Despite its rough appearance, the spectacle of the game’s large-scale battles and towering foes can be impressively cinematic, and the action always runs smoothly, handling hundreds of scuttling monstrosities with ease.
The game’s self-aware approach to its western regionalisation shines in the hyperbolic voice acting and wonderfully hammy dialogue. Your fellow soldiers spout forth cliched lines in exaggerated American accents constantly, and consistently seem shocked by the situation at hand. Highlights include; “I love being a soldier, being a soldier is the best when aren’t any monsters around” and “Good gosh! These monsters are red and are stronger than the black monsters”.
EDF 5’s campaign consists of 110 missions, each running anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes to complete, depending on difficulty level. Objectives remain the same: defeat all enemies, however varied enemy combinations and scenarios, from clearing out underground ‘monster’ nests to bringing down vast carrier ships, help diversify missions. Despite this, enemy AI’s primary tactic is to throw itself at you, and as such tactics play little role in combat, with challenge rather coming from dealing with their sheer quantity. This lack complexity or nuance makes gameplay repetitive making the brief nature of missions well suited to short, casual play sessions. However with a campaign that takes 25+ hours to complete, reaching its end is more a test of endurance than skill.
Four player online coop gives greater value to the class system, allowing each player to work a different role in combat, whether in a medic role as an Air Raider or providing covering fire as a Fencer. However, split screen coop is where I found the most enjoyment; an evening of blasting giant insects with your significant other truly is the height of romance. Sharing this ridiculous experience with friends enhances it tenfold, lessening the monotony and easing the grind of higher difficulties, yielding better loot.
Earth Defense Force 5 fulfills my one want from this cult series; to blast thousands of giant space insects. While outdated presentation and goofy voice acting add to the game’s charm, its repetitive gameplay and bloated campaign somewhat diminish it. EDF 5 thus seems best played in short, cathartic bursts or with friends, and while a wealth of content is rarely a hinderance, here it seems to stifle a sense of progression. Thankfully EDF 5 is fun, novel and compelling enough to keep me coming back to chip away at those alien scum until earth is saved!
Earth Defense Force 5 PS4 Review
Earth Defense Force 5 will satiate all of your giant space insect (and reptile) blasting needs. Its outdated visual presentation and fantastically melodramatic voice acting imbue it with a great deal of pulpy charm. Accessible and arcadey, its simple gunplay is immensely gratifying and even more fun when shared with friends, yet monotonous missions and a bloated campaign diminish the appeal of this otherwise entertaining and wholly ridiculous sci-fi shooter.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.