In 2009, American and European Xbox 360 players got their first taste of the popular Earth Defense Force PS2 series from Japan with the game's third entry, 2017, by developer Sandlot. The cult classic budget title featured frantic arcade action, but was marred by terrible voice acting, low-quality graphics, and massive slowdown when multiple enemies were on-screen. Still, it managed to garner a fan following, as few could deny how fun the game was.
Now, the bugs are back, and with them original series developer Sandlot. Taking notes from what worked best in both of the previous entries, and retaining the heart of what made the series such a cult hit was a tall, mech-sized order. Thankfully, like members of the EDF themselves, it looks as though they were more than up to the task.
Earth Defense Force 2025 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Release Date: February 18, 2014
It's been seven years since the alien Ravagers and insect armies attacked, and the EDF has kept the world safe. However, it seems the insects weren't completely eradicated, and colonies were lying dormant beneath the Earth's surface, waiting for the next moment to strike. These insects are more heavily armored, stronger, and more dangerous than ever before.
Luckily, the EDF is prepared with new soldier class types, and even more weapons than before. In fact, Earth Defense Force 2025 features the most weapons ever in the series, at a whopping 700 different implements of buggy doom with which to dispatch the gigantic creepy crawlers. Unlocking these weapons harkens back to the initial title, where unique weapon drops depend on difficulty level and soldier class type.
EDF 2025 features the most fun soldier classes yet, and each one has their own unique advantages. The Ranger class is your typical EDF soldier, shooting from a distance with machine guns, grenades, and shotguns but not one to shy away from the heavy weapons. The Wing Divers (similar to the Palewing character of Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable) fly high above the action and rely more on high-tech long-range laser and plasma-based weaponry.
While there's not much difference in your play style for these classes -- beyond the Wing Diver's limited flight ability -- the remaining two soldier classes offer a wholly new sense of control, and using them changes the way you traditionally play EDF.
The Air Raider can deploy shields and health generators while attacking with more explosion-based weapons such as grenade launchers, mortars, and even call in vehicle support and air strikes. This class is best used in a support function within the game's multiplayer.
Finally, the Fencer class has you getting down and dirty up close with your foes with its giant spear and thrust attack, and is heavily armored to withstand being in close proximity to the big bugs. The Fencer is also the only class that has four weapon loadouts rather than two, which allows for use of its giant shield, or even the ability to dual-wield twin Gatling guns -- while sadly sacrificing speed of movement for raw power.
As with everything in EDF 2025, bigger is better. The mission types don't really vary too much from "destroy the enemy," but how you go about that, and what enemies you encounter is always full of "holy shit" moments.
New spider types that drag you into their giant webs, flying enemies such as bees and swarming Ravager ships, and of course the giant walker mechs and even dragon-like creatures pull you quickly into pants-soiling moments. Ready to combat these larger foes are your own big vehicles, such as single-soldier power suits, armored transports, and tanks that carry up to three players, each with their own turret or railgun.
There's just something so satisfying about shooting giant bugs that it really doesn't matter how you do it, just that you can do it. And since that's pretty much all this game is, it's a good thing it's so much fun. Shoot bugs with rockets, punch them with giant mechs, blast giant spaceships out of the sky, zoom past creatures while riding a motorcycle and sidecar: the game has it all, and yet it really boils down to blowing up bugs. And that's always more fun with friends.
There's a heavier focus on multiplayer this time around, as the game not only offers two-player split screen co-op, but also four-player online co-op as well, letting each player take a different soldier class to balance out the action of taking on the game's enormous 90-level count. There's even a two-player versus mode as well, where players fight each other, though it's no nearly as enjoyable as destroying giant bugs together cooperatively.
As for how it looks and sounds...let's be honest: no one plays EDF for the story, graphics, or voice acting. You're going to get a b-grade videogame equivalent of the cheapest Starship Troopers rip-off you can find. That said, this is the best-looking game in the series, and the voice acting didn't have me immediately cringing -- though the dialogue itself warranted plenty of chuckles just for the sheer cheese-factor.
At least the level of destruction matches the output of your weaponry. Buildings come down after a few rocket blasts, and enemies go flying in every direction when blown up. The amount of mayhem on-screen never stops being fun, though once or twice I hit some slowdown in the framerate, but nothing as bad as the original game.
I'll put it simply: if you've enjoyed the Earth Defense Force games in the past, you'll love this one. It has more missions, more weapons, more ways to play with the new soldier classes, and just more fun. If you've never played EDF, check your brain at the door and enjoy blowing the shit out of some ugly bugs. I defy you to NOT have fun with this game.
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