Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Earth Defense Force 5 Review (PS4)

The Earth Defense Force series is the video game equivalent of rich and fatty comfort food. You know it's bad for you / the games aren't great, but you keep eating because it tastes good and you keep playing because they're pure dumb fun that revel in their distinct video game-ness rather than trying to be serious and realistic or cinematic like so many "AAA" games these days. The latest entry, Earth Defense Force 5 for PS4, continues that tradition nicely. Not only does EDF5 feature the same fantastic giant alien bug shooting gameplay everyone loves, but it actually manages a mostly stable framerate for the first time ever in the franchise which makes everything even better. Continue reading our full Earth Defense Force 5 PS4 review for all of the details. 

Game Details

  • Publisher: D3 Publisher
  • Developer: Sandlot
  • ESRB Rating: "M" for Mature
  • Genre: Third-Person-Shooter
  • Pros: Rock solid performance; great co-op; tried and true EDF gameplay; improved progression
  • Cons: Not much different from EDF4.1(2025)
  • Price: $60

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For the uninitiated, here's a rundown of the Earth Defense Force series. The games are third-person-shooters where large open levels are filled with giant enemies - insects and spiders and robots and UFOs and more - and it's your job to shoot them all down. There can be dozens of enemies onscreen at once, massive explosions happening everywhere, and all of the buildings are fully destructible, which is why the graphics are a little simple and bland in order to maintain a reasonable level of performance. The games are full of sci-fi "B" movie schlock and cheese and are wonderful dumb fun.

Earth Defense Force 5 puts you in the role of a civilian who just happens to be touring a military base when the alien invasion starts and is thrown into combat where you prove to be an exceptional soldier despite your lack of training. Honestly, I'm not sure when in the EDF timeline EDF5 happens. Presumably it is after EDF 2025 (released as 4.1 on PS4), but it seems like enough time has passed that mankind has somehow forgotten that these same aliens have invaded multiple times in the past. At any rate, the plot isn't particularly important. All you need to know is that you get to shoot lots and lots of giant things.

Earth Defense Force 5 features more than 100 missions, five difficulty levels, 1000 weapons, and four character classes all playable solo or in local or online co-op. The character classes all play very differently with the ranger being the basic grunt on the ground, the wing divers being able to fly around, the fencers who pilot powered armor and can carry huge weapons, and the air raiders who can call in vehicle drops and air strikes. 

The normal gameplay loop of EDF is that you kill lots and lots of enemies and complete missions while collecting armor and weapon pick-ups that the enemies drop. Picking up armor gives your character more health in future missions while picking up weapons give you, you guessed it, new weapons to use. In past games you only upgraded the particular class you were playing as, which meant you had to play through the game multiple times in order to upgrade the four classes. In EDF5, however, you now collect weapons and armor for all classes (although they are weighted more towards the class you are currently playing as), which makes experimenting and trying different classes a lot more appealing than it was in EDF4.1. It also makes playing local co-op much better since all of the classes will have beefed up health and have decent weapons.

The gameplay itself is, admittedly, pretty rough, but that is how it has always been. These games have always been about dead simple point and shoot accessibility and EDF5 continues that. Despite being very simple, however, the mindless fun of blasting through hundreds of ants and spiders and robots and other enemies and the spectacle of it all keeps you more than entertained. The oldschool sci-fi cheese factor of the terrible dialogue and funky alien designs also greatly contributes to how enjoyable it all is. The gameplay is mindless and repetitive but, darn it, it's fun and there's lots and lots of stuff to do here.

My only real complaint with EDF5 is that it isn't much of a jump over EDF 2025/4.1. It looks and plays and feels pretty much exactly the same and the four soldier classes are the same as well. There are some new enemy types - namely humanoid alien enemies for the first time in the series - but they all get blasted away just the same. I was kind of hoping for the core game to improve just a bit.

With that said, there is one area where EDF5 has improved and that is in the performance. These games are notorious for bogging down and running at shockingly low framerates when the action heats up, but Earth Defense Force 5 was fairly stable through most missions. It still stutters and stumbles now and then, but it is greatly improved as far as general performance goes.

As far as the presentation goes, if you put EDF 4.1 and EDF 5 side by side I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. And I actually did play them back to back to check and it was pretty much the same. The sound effects and voice clips and everything is also the same. Originally these games launched as bargain priced titles so their intentionally simple and somewhat ugly presentation was to be somewhat expected and it did add to their charm. As a full-priced $60 MSRP release, however, it is hard not to be at least a little disappointed that EDF5 hasn't improved much over games originally released on the Xbox 360.

When it's all said and done, though, there is little doubt that Earth Defense Force 5 is the best entry in the series overall. Even if the core gameplay or presentation hasn't changed much, the smoother performance and greatly improved upgrade system make Earth Defense Force 5 the best EDF game yet. It won't do much to change anyone's mind that isn't already a fan of the franchise, but for those of us that love EDF's brand of alien bug blasting, EDF5 is well worth a purchase.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.