Video Games

Earth Defense Force 5 – Review – Bugs, bugs, bugs

The ants want to get in your pants

What’s that coming over the hill? It’s a million ants? And thousands of spiders? With some giant wasps flying over them? Oh, and there are gun-totting frogs mixed amongst them? And I can play either a soldier with a vast arsenal, a flying laser-shooting lady, a guy who can call in artillery, tanks and mechs or an actual walking tank? And this goes on for more than 100 missions with new toys to play with after almost every mission? And it’s a split-screen local co-op with several difficulty levels for almost endless play? Give it to me now, right now.

That is exactly what went through my head upon hearing the pitch for Earth Defense Force 5. If any of that sounded exciting to you, then you are in the right place and EDF 5 is going to be the perfect game for you. After clocking countless hours exploding bugs and spaceships alike, my partner and I are now seasoned defenders of Earth. We’ve ridden around in tanks, we jumped in giant robots and we’ve discovered just how difficult it is to fly a helicopter. And yet, we keep going back for just one more mission time and again.

In our house, there are very few multiplayer games that see regular play. We’ll dip into Overcooked every now and again if we want to test the strength of our relationship or a Lego game if we want something lighter, but without fail, the Earth Defence Force series is the go-to game. We love to shoot bugs, upgrade our characters with the latest gear and gradually take on greater and greater challenges. At this point, it’s probably my favourite co-op game, if not of all time then of the past few years. And I’ve yet to fully explain to you what it even is, get your act together Nevi.

Earth Defense Force sees you (and a friend) take the role of Earths defenders as you try to push back hordes of giant insects and alien invaders. You’ll be running around in a 3rd person shooter blasting everything in sight and feel like a badass. In EDF 5 there are four different character classes to play: Ranger (fairly standard soldier), Wing Diver (flies around and shoots lasers), Air Raider (call in airstrikes and drives vehicles) and Fencer (can equip a lot of big impact weapons, is basically a human tank). Each class plays entirely different from the others to almost be a completely different game. For example, the Ranger is the classic run and gun but also has access to every weapon type you can think of including rockets and shotguns. Whereas, the Air Raider can call in a laser bombardment, lay down some turrets and then summon a mech to stomp around shooting things. Each class has its strengths and weaknesses and when playing in co-op, knowing how to cover each other and what your teammate is capable of can make all the difference.

The game has a mission-based structure that tells a story of the planet being overrun by aliens and you take up the fight to repel them. It is campy, thin and mostly serves to put you into fun situations against one horde or another. The story isn’t the reason to play this game but it is silly enough and never self-serious that it is a welcomed addition.

And then there are the bugs. Not the giant ones this time but the ones that cause the game to sometimes go a bit wobbly. Sometimes if there are too many enemies and explosions on-screen, the frame rate takes a hit and the game turns to treacle. This is never too much of an issue as usually the explosions take care of the enemies so things can run smoothly once more. Any other glitches and issues are minor and honestly part of the charm. You don’t want a polished experience and if you got one it would be a different game. This is EDF, it’s meant to be a little broken.

So you’ve read all this and you aren’t convinced. It sounds sort of like Dynasty Warriors but with a gun rather than a sword. And it sort of it, but at the same time, it’s so much more. Whereas in Dynasty Warriors games (and their ilk), you have a set combo that you use and sure characters are different but you use very similar button inputs. In EDF, every weapon type is different. Even the choice of whether to bring a mech or tank changes how you are going to play this mission. And part of the fun is trying out all the different gear. When you get a new weapon or upgrade for your favourite gun, you can’t wait to try it out. Every time I get a hint of getting a new giant robot to pilot, I get giddy. And yes, this goes back to my obsession with big robots, Gundam and the word mobile suit, it doesn’t change the fact that the same is true if you like tanks, shooting rockets, big lasers or explosions in general. Every new thing is a surge of endorphins as you load up a new mission to try them out.

And then there is the fun of doing the mission. While it might sound like pointing and shooting, EDF can get hard, fast. You need to play tactically, take out the enemy gunships, spawn points and heavy hitters and then worry about the horde of spiders heading your way. The range of enemies keeping each mission fresh and when you fight a new combination you need to switch gear to combat this new threat. That being said, you can easily turn down the difficulty and turn off your brain before mowing down a million ants. EDF is versatile like that.

Earth Defense Force 5 is one of my favourite games of the past few years and has since gotten me into the series further. We’ve played through Earth Defense Force 4.1 and while that game is great and the story is funnier, EDF 5 is the definitive experience. Everything that makes these games good has been brought to EDF 5 and a whole lot more. I’ve purposely not spoiled some of the main reveals in EDF 5 because you should experience them first hand and be as awe-inspired and giddy as we were. If you have a willing participant, then and some time to spare, then you should get on Earth Defense Force 5 like a wasp on a jar of jam.

Thank you for reading. If you want some more shooty bang video games, then why not check out my retrospective of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune or Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Alternatively, if you want a shooty bang book, then you could do a lot worse than Horus Rising, the first booking in the Horus Heresy.

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