Feel free to stop reading at any time if you think this game sounds good, because it only gets better
I gave a glowing review of EARTH DEFENSE FORCE 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair in my 2016 review, yet I haven’t written a real review of the game yet. I haven’t for a reason: I have not yet exhausted all of the content of the game. No, this isn’t like collecting all of the dildos in a Ubisoft Montreal title, or exploring all the nearly identical dungeons in Skyrim. After about 70 hours, I’ve only fully completed two difficulties out of 4 (easy doesn’t count), on one character class out of 4. I’ve done a bit on a second class, and some of the harder difficulties, so I’m around 8-9% complete with the game. And these aren’t identical classes, either. Each one changes up the gameplay substantially, and has their own unique arsenal which makes it practically a different game.
Writing a review now is like writing a review after completing one stage in Mega Man. But I like this game too much to not write a review of it.
The class I’ve played (and have been playing) is the Ranger. I’ve played some Wing Diver, but I haven’t played her enough to review her quarter of the game. I know how Air Raider and Fencer are different, but haven’t played them so I can’t comment. Consider this the Ranger review of EDF 4.1. I’ve been playing the PC port of it, which is well made and runs surprisingly well on my mid-range specs.
TO SAVE OUR MOTHER EARTH FROM ANY ALIEN ATTACK,
EDF is a game about shooting the hell out of giant bugs and robots. You do this in individual missions, which range between 5 and 15 minutes. Each mission usually ends when everything on the map is dead. This is also where the story plays out, in radio chatter while you play. Think Ace Combat, but without cutscenes. The writing is dangerously cheesy, and the localization nails the old-fashioned b-rank sci-fi movie vibe. I usually turn on japanese voices, especially in a game where none of the words matter, but this is one of the exceptions. The story essentially consists of increasing levels of despair on account of the human race, where the aliens continuously raise the stakes of their attack. Because giant insects can’t fly, that’s just… not possible.
It’s a 3rd person shooter, with very simple shooting mechanics. You point and shoot. Sometimes the weapon performs differently when you shoot, so you might have to adapt to how you point and when you shoot. Nearly none of the weapons are hitscan, even the sniper rifles are just very fast projectiles. This is true on the enemies’ part, too, so it feels much closer to a shmup than Call of Duty. As you kill enemies, white, yellow, red, or green boxes might drop from their body. Picking up the white and yellow boxes immediately repair lost health, while red and green boxes give you armor and weapons, respectively, at the end of the mission. Armor just stacks onto your total health, while weapons unlock a random weapon, ranked based off your mission and difficulty. The weapon unlocks might unlock a weapon you already own, so completing your arsenal requires a bit of grinding. There are healing guns for multiplayer, but healing is literally gay, so
FROM VICIOUS GIANT INSECTS WHO HAVE ONCE AGAIN COME BACK,
There are tons of different enemies in EDF, all with distinctly different roles. Mixing ranged and close-quarters attacks, enemies are almost always a threat. However, most enemies on their own are fairly easy to combat. That’s because each encounter usually consists of hundreds of them, almost always in a crowd. It’s easy to be swarmed by giant ants, and have your screen turn into an indistinguishable clusterfuck of insect appendages and pain. Beyond giant insects, the alien robots, called “ravagers”, also have a variety. Flying drones populate the air (because giant insects can’t fly), and 2 to 3-legged robots have a lot of health and are a pain in your ass if you don’t know how to deal with them. The ravagers also have shield bearers, which screen out your shots, forcing you to walk through the shield screen and deal with close-range combat.
Each of these enemies can be deployed in the level by various means, most of which can be destroyed. Tunnel exits spew giant insects exclusively, while ravager transport ships can drop all sorts of enemies. The transport ships can only be attacked while they are open, incentivizing killing them off early.
A downside of this game is how certain enemies have “plot armor” in certain missions. When playing the mission, you won’t be able to defeat a transport ship, because it’s not supposed to die in this mission… for some reason. You might not notice it when playing it first, as the enemy might be too powerful for your current weapons, but replaying the game multiple times makes this issue stand out. However, this element is used in a vast minority of missions, and it’s not hard to figure out which missions they are, so this isn’t really a problem.
WE’LL UNLEASH ALL OUR FORCES! WE WON’T CUT THEM ANY SLACK!
There are 4 classes to EDF, each of which plays completely differently. The Ranger (the one I have most experience with) is as basic as it gets. You run around and shoot shit, and you can do a roll for a little speed. The Wing Diver can fly, but has very light armor. Their jetpacks have fuel, which regenerates slowly and is used for reloading weapons, so you can easily get screwed. Air Raider, as far as I’ve seen, deploys FUCKING TANKS and FUCKING HELICOPTERS and FUCKING MECHS to help kill giant insects. Fencer, as far as I’ve seen, is clunky and slow, until they don’t want to in which case they’re fast as fuck. Again, haven’t played Air Raider or Fencer yet, so I can’t judge.
Each class has a unique set of weapons. These weapons, as I said earlier, are gained by collecting the green weapon crates during missions. Since the drops are random, new weapons trickle in at a natural rate, so you’ll never be overwhelmed by the size of your arsenal. And your arsenal is large. Purely from the Ranger’s standpoint, there are 6 weapon categories, plus a 7th “special weapons,” which consists of weapons that don’t really fit into the other 6. Within these categories, there’s even more variation: multiple “series” of weapons get improvements, seemingly developed as the war goes on. A new rocket launcher might get improved ammo capacity, and blast radius, but perform otherwise identically. Other weapons take statistics to the extreme, feeling almost experimental. The “Air Tortoise” series of missile launchers do a great amount of damage, but take many seconds to reach their target, and even more time to reload. Some weapons can only be reloaded outside of battle, meaning you have limited ammo (normally, ammo is unlimited). Because of this variation, the weapons are not simply more powerful than the ones earlier on the list. Sometimes it is advantageous to bring a lower-powered weapon, based off some weird, but helpful, gimmick. This is a thing called, “fun”. I know it’s a strange concept, as not many games have it nowadays, and I myself haven’t experienced the emotion in years.
THE EDF DEPLOYS!
So you’re wondering what these headers were referring to, or maybe you’re wondering why you see people on the street randomly shouting, “time to fumigate!”. Well, EDF has a very valuable feature that distinguishes it from any other game about shooting giant insects. But first, let me tell you about a seemingly useless feature that ties in with this.
Allied troops are scattered across the mission area, and are usually deployed with you. They fight alongside you, but generally don’t do too well in battle. The only other excuse for them being there, is to keep all enemy forces from swarming you first, as they prioritize the non-player characters. They can serve as a distraction, while you do all the damage to the giant insects. But sometimes they do something different. Occasionally you’ll see a little red arrow over a friendly’s head. Walk near them, and that will turn into a health bar. After this, he’ll follow you around. Again, not very helpful, but this is where it gets good.
At any time while playing, you can make your player character shout one of many pre-written phrases. Shortcuts can be set for these, or you can navigate the extensive menu of calls and responses. You would think this for multiplayer (which is included, and is as fun as it sounds), but it’s integrated into the singleplayer game, too. Every troop that’s following you will react in a special way to your calls. Shouting “EDF!!!” will cause your squad to shout the same. Allied troops will also talk to each other in 2-line conversations. Think The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but intentionally funny. A conversation could be, “Why did you get married?”, “There’s no reason!”. Obviously, the best part about this is a little menu called, “sing”. Yeah, there’s 3 verses of a 4-line song you can perform with your squad.
Now, does this shouting actually boost morale among friendly AI? Fuck no, they’re screwed from the start and they know it. Does it provide tactical support? No, not unless you’re using that for multiplayer. So why include it? For the same reason Spider Man was included in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, that’s why.
Also published on Medium.