QCF: Earth Defense Force 5
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Ser Flash in D3 Publisher, Earth Defense Force 2025, Earth Defense Force 5, Playstation 4, QCF Reviews, Saandlot, Starship Troopers, Stupid Fun

'm disappointed in all of you. every, single, one, of, you. None of y'all thought I'd like to know Earth Defense Force 5 was even coming out in North America? Like, really?—I mean, really?! Well, I hustled and this review is damn well happening because... EDF! EDF! EDF!!

You may remember the last time we took a look an EDF game here on PPR. I was at the helm of that one as well: the PS3's EDF 2025 (EDF 4 in Japan.) As far as North American releases go, I have them all. There's never one I miss. You might say I'm a fan. After all, I notoriously jump at the chance to play any new EDF stuff, and it turns out, Earth Defense Force 5 is no exception. So how is it? Let's (wing-)dive in!

EDF 5 was developed by Sandlot and published by D3 Publisher for the PlayStation 4 and is directly preceded on the platform by EDF 4.1: The shadow of new despair, which I dig quite a bit. Like EDF 4.1 before it, EDF 5 has the player take on a vast series of missions against a giant, advancing swarm of huge insects, drones, robots, and more in huge, fully-destructible environments by way of just stupid amounts of firepower. It's pretty much the best “dumb” game series there is.

There are a few core similarities in EDF's main structure: players increase their health with Armor pickups (applied at stage end), increase their arsenal with randomized Weapon crates (also awarded at stage end for each collected) and recover health with first aid, all of which are dropped from killing and destroying baddies. When all objectives in a given stage are met, they then proceed to the next stage. This core formula more or less hasn't really changed a lot since, well, the beginning, but that's not to say the EDF 5 is any less important to the series in general; these core mechanics are what makes the series special, to begin with, after all. But there are some big changes in specific for this release. These changes may seem minor at first, but they definitely make the game's flow feel much, much different from its predecessors.

For example, EDF 2017 (known as Earth Defense Force 3 in Japan) had players running around exclusively as a Ranger until the Pale Wing was introduced in EDF 2017 Portable for PlayStation Vita. Then, in EDF 2025 (EDF4 in Japan), introduced the Wing Divers, Air Raiders and Fencers as selectable classes right from the outset of the game in addition to Ranger. But all of these classes needed to be powered up and built upon one at a time: getting extra armor, weapons and so forth would only apply to the class being used, unless 2-player co-op was being played.

EDF 5 maintains all of these classes, but now, all classes are built up at the same time. This means that, while Armor is applied universally to all classes, any Weapon crate collected could be a weapon for a totally different class than the one in use. For example, I play Ranger almost exclusively because, duh, machine guns and rocket launchers. Nevertheless, in almost every stage, I end up getting Fencer and Wing Diver stuff that I may never use. On the one hand, it's possible to get into another class without having to grind their armor and weaponry up, but on the other, I kind of like just using Ranger. So that's a little bit of a downer.

This leads to another interesting choice that baffled me a bit; players are unable to select Inferno difficulty straight off the hop. In EDF4.1, my strategy was simple: Grind amazing weapons out of the first few stages on Inferno, then coast on Hard or Hardest for the rest of the game—and it totally worked. Now, only Hard is available as the highest difficulty to start, which feels a little on the weedy side. I'm totally the kind of guy that likes the challenge that post-hard offers, and I'm not getting it here. In this respect, EDF is a lot like Ace Combat to me; no way am I playing an Ace Combat game on anything lower than the highest difficulty on the outset. It'd be like using a Game Shark. So yeah, it's a little frustrating since I've been playing these games a very specific way for a long time and I should be getting weapons that are way too OP for casual use in anything but Hardest or above—just sayin'.

Anyway, these complaints don't mean I hate this game, quite the opposite. There are some amazing additions to EDF 5 that make it better on the whole. Died on a tough mission but also collected a ton of weapons and armor?—fear not, as collected weapons and armor are still awarded to the player at Death. Got a whole slew of the same kind of weapon one stage after another?—no worries, as those are then incorporated into your existing ones now, which increases their level and stats! Player classes also have additional perks as well; the Ranger, for example, now has a third equipment slot which can be used to equip enhancements for jumping, running, defense and even vehicles like tanks and atomic ray cannons, and yes, I've got one.

The rebalanced and new enemy types in EDF5 are probably the best new additions. There are now giant foes that require the player to either overwhelm them with high firepower or pick off various limbs in order to chip away at them. Hitting their weapon arm will cause them to cease firing, but they'll regenerate it over time. They can roll and dodge but players can mitigate this by taking out their legs. It's all super gross (dismembered limbs + a ton of alien blood all over the place + icky win) but also pretty satisfying.

EDF 5's presentation is definitely a step above even EDF 4.1, with super detailed environments, highly detailed enemies with dynamic impact damage that corresponds to where enemies are hit. Unloading your guns on the insect menace yields a huge amount of glop and goo that splatters all over the damned place when the giant bugs and other impressive biological hazards are dealt with—in other words—the bigger the blast, the more they splat. Some of the explosions in this game are just ridiculously satisfying; huge rolling shock waves, giant pillars of flame, dynamic lighting... it just feels great. As always, the mechanical and biological design is great, with set pieces that are both new and familiar that instantly identify as EDF. The sound is also everything you want in an EDF game. A ton of over-the-top cheesy B-movie voice delivery, Theremin-heavy music to lend it that extra B-movie flair, and great sound effects for dying aliens, explosions, guns, lasers, vehicles and more; even the interface sounds let you know without a shadow of a doubt that you're playing EDF.

Best of all, like EDF 4.1 before it, EDF 5 also allows players to take on the game online with up to three other players on in a couch-co-op style the entire way through the game. Given EDF's amazing Couch co-op action – something that we've freaking loved since 2007's EDF 2017 – EDF 5 has no shortage or replay, especially with friends either in the living room or online.

There are definitely issues here though. There are going to be times, especially when the screen fills up with enemies, that the framerate will bomb and slow to a crawl. There are also texture pop issues when the stage loads in as well. We suspect that the PS4 Pro will definitely handle these situations better, though how much better is definitely up for debate since Sandlot isn't known for making well-optimized games. Fun? Definitely. Smooth? Hell no. Some of the missions can drag on way, way too long as well. This game can also overwhelm the player particularly easily if they aren't careful too: Especially given the number of missions, this can be a little on the aggravating side, especially if players bite it just before the end of the stage.

These issues aside though, I can't stop playing EDF 5. I can't get enough. “Like EDF 4.1 but more streamlined and better looking” might sound like a lazy, unconvincing reason to pick this one up but in my eyes, it's just what the doctor ordered. And you know what that means: EDF! EDF! EDF!!

Article originally appeared on Press Pause Radio (http://www.presspauseradio.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.