Does anyone remember the old cartoon Defenders of the Earth? It starred characters from older pulp comic strips: Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Mandrake's friend Lothar. They fought against Flash Gordon villain Ming the Merciless, saved their inept children countless times, and generally delivered horribly obvious dialog in a wooden fashion. Nothing but 80's cartoon schlock here. Whenever I hear the words "Earth" and "Defend" together, my mind goes back to that show. That's my preconception of those words together.
Earth Defense Force 2025 totally lives up to that preconception.
Earth Defense Force is a B-movie-style romp through Japan, fighting giant insects, giant robots, and other giant things in an attempt to save the Earth from complete destruction. The game roughly breaks down into shooting at everything in sight until all of the red dots on your HUD are gone. Once that's done, more red dots are added and you repeat the process until you see the mission complete prompt on your screen.
Over the course of 80+ missions, you'll shoot, jump, and collect power-ups. Seriously, it's a ton of content for a budget title like this. If you're one of those players who likes to 100 percent a title, you'll be here for awhile. Each level has five difficulty levels - Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest, and Inferno - split across all four for the game's classes. That's twenty playthroughs to get all the medals for each level!
The four classes don't play like each other at all. The Ranger class is your basic soldier: choose your two weapons, run, jump, and shoot your way through everything. They're the most versatile class, but also the most vanilla. Wing Divers are the only female model in the game, with jump jets to fly high above the fray, but with weaker (because it's missing?) armor and a weird laser shotgun weapon. Air Raiders don't raid any air at all: this is the support class that can call in vehicles and airstrikes. Finally, there's the Fencer, a soldier wearing heavy power armor who can carry four weapons into battle. You can unlock over 100 weapons per class, but I largely found myself sticking with a chosen few for most of the game.
Each class provides a wildly different gaming experience. I played through most of the game as the basic Ranger, but switching things up with the high-flying Wing Diver or the hammer-and-shield-wielding Fencer was fun. I also enjoyed the Air Raider's fire-and-detonate Limpet gun, but the class is obviously meant for the game's co-op mode.
Yes, there's couch co-op and online multiplayer in Earth Defense Force 2025. There's two-player split-screen, up to four players in online multiplayer, and a competitive mode that pits two players against each other. Two player split-screen is the game's real jam; it's damned fun sitting on the couch with a friend, drinking a beer, and shooting giant insects. EDF 2025 is a true Lazy Sunday game.
Earth Defense Force 2025 isn't the the most graphically-intensive title. It looks like a late PlayStation 2 or early PlayStation 3 game, but developer Sandlot has put the power of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to better use. Buildings and other environmental objects are fully destructible and the giant insects retain solid detail even while coming in huge, huge waves. In fact, these details unnerved me in some of the early levels: I have severe arachnophobia and the spider model in this game are pretty detailed. It didn't stop me from playing, but it did freak me out to see a huge mess of spiders leaping at my tiny Ranger.
When I first started Earth Defense Force 2025, I was kind of bored. The game strips out most of the mechanics you've come to expect from most first- or third-person shooters. There's no cover, no regaining health, and for most of the weapons you don't have to worry about ammo. Just aim yourself towards the enemy, hold down the trigger, and dodge occasionally. I first compared it to the Dynasty Warriors games with a ton of similar enemies all begging to taken down by your singular protagonist, but the core of EDF 2025 goes back even farther than that. Back to old arcade shooters like Robotron and Smash TV; when the individual enemies were just cannon fodder and the skill was in managing the constant stream of red heading in your direction. EDF 2025 is a pure game, with nothing getting in the way of you and shooting things.
Once you get past the first few early levels, the game really starts to surprise at times. One thing EDF 2025 does really well is provide a sense of scale. Being caught in an anti-invasion air raid, taking down a transport ship, or fighting a giant four-legged fortress; at times the game can absolutely bring you into the situation. When the aforementioned fortress lumbers across the city, shaking the screen with every step, you'll feel like you're a part of something pretty awesome. But those moments are just crazy highlights in what feels like an average game most of the time. Honestly, if you're just renting EDF 2025, you may miss all that the game has to offer. You really have to put some time in to get to the good stuff.
Earth Defense Force 2025 is straight B-movie, which is why it's a great game to play around like-minded friends. Every line is delivered with classic radio drama seriousness and the script has the voice actors repeating everything so you don't forget what you're dealing with here: GIANT INSECTS! The actors say it like their scripts have it in all caps, so that's how I'll write it here. Here's a few lines from the game's first mission:
- "People are being attacked by GIANT INSECTS!"
- "The GIANT INSECTS were supposed to be exterminated seven years ago!"
- "GIANT INSECTS! It's huge!"
- "What's going on? Why are there GIANT INSECTS?"
- "We haven't seen GIANT INSECTS in seven years!"
- "We engaged with GIANT INSECTS and defeated a number of them."
- "GIANT INSECTS again after seven years, but soon they'll be an endangered species!"
It's all very tongue-in-check. You can tell that Sandlot was striving for this and they've largely succeeded. This isn't Bioshock Infinite or Uncharted. Nothing here is serious. Instead of giving you a series of characters to empathize with and guide you, EDF 2025 instead chooses to hammer its points home in its hammy dialog. In fact, the other members of the EDF are little more than cannon fodder; I killed most of them in every mission because friendly-fire is always on. EDF is pure game; the story and presentation are just simple set dressing.
It's repetitive, but ultimately, I found Earth Defense Force 2025 to be pretty fun at times. There's something endearing about a game that outright screams, "SHOOT, GODDAMN YOU, SHOOT! NO ROOM FOR HEARTS AND MINDS HERE!" If you dig deep enough into the game, Sandlot has provided players with a ton of content that will keep them occupied for quite a while. And it all comes at $10 under the standard price for most titles, cheaper if you search online. If players are aligned with EDF's predilections, it's a steal. If you're not sure, rent the game on GameFly, call over a friend, grab a few beers, and see if Earth Defense Force 2025 can change your mind.
Is it great? No, but it's firmly good and something you should try at least once, like bad shots, bungee jumping, and the Virtual Boy.
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