Review – Earth Defense Force 5
Earth Defense Force 5 did not impress me in the slightest when I first started it. Right off the bat the menu system is nothing special and the character selector gave me a glimpse of the borderline PlayStation 2 levels of graphics. See, I have never played an Earth Defense Force game before so this was my first impression. I have heard they are really fun, but it was never a series I actively tried to play. Once I started the game my eyes almost rolled into my head at the site of the visuals and the ridiculous voice acting. I was convinced this was going to be a terrible experience, especially after the first 3 missions were located in a boring underground bunker. Once Earth Defense Force 5 started opening up however, I started to realize the brilliance in the title and started having a lot of fun. Let’s dive in to this beautiful disaster of a game and see why you should still consider buying it.
The story and concept are extremely simple and frankly, it doesn’t need to try and be anything complex. You start the game as a visitor to the EDF’s underground facility and while on a tour, shit hits the fan. You’re then thrown a gun in a desperate attempt at surviving an onslaught of massive ants. Yes, you’re being attacked by massive ants. You then have to work your way out of the base all the while learning some basic controls from the tutorial. You eventually prove yourself enough in battle that you get to become a full blown EDF member and now get to be the lead person protecting earth from these invaders. That’s about it, but it’s okay because Earth Defense Force 5 isn’t about amazing writing or cinematic heart wrenching story moments. It’s about blasting alien invaders to hell.
The gameplay is very simple, but that might actually work in its favor as things can often get hectic as a horde closes in on you. Earth Defense Force 5 is a third person shooter with basic controls, but some button remapping might be needed as they were kinda wonky for me with some characters. There are a total of four characters you can pick from and all of them have a nice unique feel to how they play and contribute to a group. The Ranger is your more typical Marine type character who favors ground combat and is a bit balanced all around. The Wing Diver is an airborne class that is agile and can use their jet pack to fly around the map and favor energy weapons.
The Air Raider is the support class that specializes in deploying health recovery field generators and force shields. They can also summon vehicles to the battlefield and call in air raids. Last but not least, the Fencer is your heavy class equipped with a powered exoskeleton and jet boosters, able to carry oversized weaponry, melee weapons, and can use a special shield. This is also the only class that can use two sets of weapons to swap between in combat.
Each class plays differently and there is a little of everything for everyone here, but I stuck with the more balanced Ranger. I only had a couple issues with his controls since the jump button and the dodge button are mapped to the same button. Which means there are times where I just want to jump over a small planter, but would keep rolling if I wasn’t running directly straight. Other than that the general shooting and controls are extremely easy to pick up and play.
During the missions the enemies will drop large boxes that are red and labelled armor, green and labelled weapon, and two different types of health packs. Picking up the armor boxes will allow you to equip more armor during your loadout, and picking up the weapon boxes will unlock or upgrade weapons and items. There was a clear explanation of how it exactly works, because you don’t gain an armor point for every box you pick up nor a weapon for every weapon box. The best bet is to just collect as many as you can because even if you die during the mission, you can keep some of the gear you collected depending on the difficulty mode you’re playing on.
Despite each character being different, they share a similar goal, and that is to eradicate the alien intruders. With over 100 levels, there is plenty of alien and monster killing to be had here. My one issue is that the variety of enemies takes a while to grow, which means you’ll go through a lot of levels fighting the same enemies. For instance the first 25 levels you’ll come across seven enemies, but three of those are just a stronger version of the base enemy. There are boss fights here and there as well, but the meat of it will be fighting the same Ants, Spiders, Frogs, and Flying Saucers.
Eventually the maps start to recycle as well or they will have a battle take place on one side of the map for one mission and the other side for the next mission. It did lead to some fatigue at points as I felt like I was just shooting the same monsters on the same or similar levels. But the fatigue quickly fades as a new cool mission finally comes in and you get into an intense battle blasting limbs off.
If you find yourself getting a bit fatigued playing alone, Earth Defense Force 5 does feature two player couch co-op and four player online co-op. Unfortunately, I was not able to test out the online co-op as I wasn’t able to find any open servers nor would anyone join my match I created. Considering the massive battles, I’m sure having four human players taking down a horde is fantastic, but I wasn’t able to test the performance impact of it.
Speaking of performance. For the most part Earth Defense Force 5 runs fairly smoothly and I’d have to suspect it’s due to the graphics being extremely low. The framerate was inconsistent with its slow downs as well so I wasn’t able to even pin point what would cause it. There were times where I was completely surrounded with enemies and I’m blasting them to bits with all the limbs, guts, and particles flying everywhere with no slow downs. Then there was a level with snow and the game would slow down quite a bit just exploring around.
As I have mentioned a couple times now, the graphics are just lacking in every way. There really isn’t anything redeeming about the visuals, but I will say that the chunks that come off of the aliens are a great effect. The character models are PS2 era, the draw distance is laughable, the destruction is simple, but at least entire towns are able to fall. I guess the only redeeming thing about it is it allows there to be a ton of enemies on screen without major slow downs.
Sound design is also nothing to write home about as it’s filled with terrible voice acting, 1990’s sounding songs, and low quality sound effects. However, I must say that the voice acting while initially was grating to my ears, became humorous as you realize that it’s supposed to be b-movie cringey.
Earth Defense Force 5 is an interesting game in the way that it can do things so badly, yet be absolutely fun to play. It’s ugly, it doesn’t sound good, but I can’t deny a certain appeal and draw to the moment to moment gameplay. The massive battles, the gory kills, the cool enemy designs will keep you coming back.
By no means is Earth Defense Force 5 a good looking game, but the amount of enemies on screen makes up for it somewhat.
Fairly simple third person shooter with some light character customization. Nothing complicated at all, just aim and shoot.
The voice acting is absolutely terrible, but it is meant to be over the top campy and cheesy so it’s fine. Various weapon and enemy sound effects don’t sound high quality.
Fun Factor: 8.5
Despite it being ugly, sounding cheesy, and lacking depth in combat, there is something very fun about blasting a horde of massive aliens to chunks. Co-op mode increases the fun as well.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Earth Defense Force 5 is available now on PS4.
A copy of Earth Defense Force 5 was provided by the publisher.