There’s a special place in my heart for the Earth Defense Force series after all of the hours that I put into Earth Defense Force 2025 on the Xbox 360. Honestly, I easily spent over a hundred hours shooting away at the alien scum with friends and it was always a damn good time – even if nearly every aspect of the game itself was clunky as hell. I’ve neglected the series since then with the subsequent releases ending up getting ignored for bigger and more well-known titles, but with Earth Defense Force 5 I’ve finally returned to protect earth. Thankfully, blasting aliens to smithereens is still as a fun as I remember, even if the clunky side of the game is still present.
The plot of Earth Defense Force 5 is a fairly simple one: there are huge aliens invading earth and you’ve got to stop them. This means bouncing between multiple locations, shooting away at whatever monsters might be attacking, and then moving on to the next mission. Sure, there are small story details littered in between involving the invasion, but for the most part it’s fairly bare-boned.
Despite not offering much in the form of a story, Earth Defense Force 5 still manages to have terrible dialogue and voice acting. Typically, I’d see this is a bad thing, but given that the narrative itself isn’t really a big part of the game it actually feels pretty endearing and adds a few additional laughs to the experience. Earth Defense Force 5 is quirky as hell and it’s easy to see that it’s a low-budget release, so embracing the shoddy dialogue and voice acting actually adds to the fun.
Gameplay-wise, Earth Defense Force 5 plays like a run-and-gun third-person shooter, with an emphasis placed on taking part in battles that are quick and full to the brim with enemies (we’re talking in the hundreds here). One comparison that’s been common with the series over the years is with the movie Starship Troopers, and yeah, I’d say that’s pretty accurate. With over a hundred missions to play through there’s plenty to see in the game, whilst the ever-changing monster threat ensures things stay refreshing right up until the end. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all very simple and it can be guilty of feeling repetitive at times, but it’s undeniably addictive and for the most part a whole lot of action-packed fun.
There are little things that add to the variety though, such as the different character classes you can play as. There are four in total and each have their own unique roles, be it the ability to call in special attacks, being nimbler on the battlefield, or simply being able to enhance their gear. Certain equipment is exclusive to some classes too, which plays a big role in the loot-collecting aspect of the game – it certainly encourages experimentation when you get a new weapon to try out that doesn’t fit in the role of your ‘main’ class.
The loot-collecting aspects of Earth Defense Force 5 can get really addictive, especially with the amount of weapons and gear that you’re able to find. One thing I really appreciated was that if you found equipment that you already owned, rather than having duplicates it would instead level the item up and improve its stats. I’ve played plenty of dungeon-crawlers where I’ve found the same weapons over and over again and just had to sell or discard them, but actually using them to level up equipment here was a clever way to keep the player hunting for loot regardless of whether or not they already owned it.
Earth Defense Force 5 has plenty of different weapons on offer anyway though, so you shouldn’t have to worry about finding the same equipment too often. You can always customise your loadout too which is helpful – naturally, some weapons are better suited for different enemies, so changing it up depending on who you’re expecting to face off against can be imperative to your success. Of course, you’ll also find things like robotic armour you can use during some missions that packs much more of a punch than your standard weapons. Given Earth Defense Force 5’s emphasis on destructive action on an epic scale, these made for some particularly brilliant showdowns with your foes…
Everything about Earth Defense Force 5 makes for a fun experience, but it’s one that’s even better when played with friends. You’ve got the option to play online with up to three other players, or tackle two player split-screen multiplayer locally. Naturally, online multiplayer is probably the best option for the game (especially with the additional players), but I’ve also had a lot of fun in split-screen – sure, the chaotic nature of the game could be a bit too much for just half a screen at times, but you’ll still have a hell of a good time blasting through the aliens with a friend.
Whilst I’ve got a lot of positive things to say about Earth Defense Force 5, I’d be remiss not to mention how janky it can be. There were more than a few occasions where I’d find enemies getting stuck in the environment or when their AI was all over the place, whilst the vehicles you find in the game are almost no fun to use at all. Whilst I’d definitely say that the pros of the game outweigh the cons, there’ll be plenty of occasions where Earth Defense Force 5 shows its low-budget side very clearly.
It’s also evident in the game’s visuals, which wouldn’t have looked out of place on last-gen consoles (or even the gen before if we’re being completely honest). In honesty, the character and enemy designs themselves aren’t too bad – it’s the environments which are lacking, with the Earth Defense Force base you explore in the earlier missions looking particularly dull and vacant. To the game’s defence it does manage to emphasise chaos well, especially with the destructive environments and sheer number of corpses that are left around, but you shouldn’t expect to be left impressed at all with the graphics. At least it runs well though despite having hordes of enemies on the screen at once. I really expected to see slowdown after slowdown, but there was a consistent frame rate that only dropped slightly during some of the more hectic scenes, and even that wasn’t too noticeable.
Despite its low-budget presentation and the occasional janky moment, Earth Defense Force 5 is actually a heck of a lot of fun to play. Blasting away at a myriad of different monsters never stops being entertaining whilst doing it all with a group of friends just adds to the experience. It’s complimented by its simplicity, which not only helps give the game a real arcade-like vibe but ensures that the destruction never stops.
It’s definitely far from perfect (and I mean FAR), but there’s no denying that just about anyone would have a blast playing through Earth Defense Force 5. It’s a simple but addictive experience that just prioritises having a good time over everything else.
Publisher: D3 Publisher, Xseed Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4