Earth Defense Force 2017 is a modern classic. Originally released on Xbox 360 and later ported to Vita, 2017 focused on pure, empowering gameplay that appealed to our destructive side, as well as the side of us that craves as much power as we can get our hands on. It was later followed up by Insect Armageddon, a disappointing spin-off that, frankly, forgot everything that made the original so good (a natural result of handing the series to a different developer).
Earth Defense Force 2025 is the official sequel, made by original developer Sandlot with the promises of making this classic experience larger and superior in every sense of the word.
I can’t say they didn’t try.
The gameplay of EDF is deliciously simple. Set up as a barebones third-person shooter with nothing but a reticle and two weapons, the EDF experience can be described in four steps:
1) Kill giant bugs with rocket launchers, assault rifles, shotguns, grenades, and whatever weapons you can find
2) Pick up health upgrades, better weapons, and recovery items from enemy corpses to make a better soldier
3) Use your new upgrades to kill stronger bugs and get appropriately stronger upgrades
While this was all 2017 had to offer in its 60-mission campaign (on Vita – the original 360 version only had 53), 2025 changes it up with four classes and an impressive 85-mission campaign. Regarding the classes, Rangers focus on pure infantry ground combat and is the classic EDF class; Wing Diver is a class of flying female soldiers who are fast but delicate; Fencers are a slow, heavy class who can deal massive blows via heavy weaponry and a melee arsenal; Air Raiders have the ability to call in air strikes and summon vehicles like mechs and tanks.
My issue with the Air Raider class is that they are the only ones who can summon vehicles throughout the game, as opposed to 2017 where you could find a vehicle during a mission and hop in. I understand that they did it to give the group more character, but the levels suffer without a tank for my single-player Ranger to jump into occasionally. Additionally, the vehicles only control marginally better than they did in 2017, which is to say they are still unwieldy and sometimes barely useful. At the very least, control outside vehicles remains simple and excellent.
Although there are a few types of EDF missions, most of them can also be explained in a few steps:
1) Go to one of a few repeating map layouts (the most common ones are city, underground cave, and mountains, though there are others) on one of five difficulties (Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest, and Inferno)
2) Kill all of the giant bugs/giant robot bugs that surround you, and (potentially) move forward to more enemies
2.5) (Sometimes) Kill a second or third wave of bugs
In many ways, most missions of EDF are beatable horde modes that only differ in location and enemy layouts. In the past, these would manage to stay interesting using the power of creativity and colorful enemy types. Sometimes, there would only be one main “boss” enemy that needed to be killed, like the AT-AT-esque walking fortresses, the motherships, or the exclusive-to-2017 crazy dino-mechs. Sometimes, the mission would be an explosive war of you against an immeasurable army of gigantic red ants. Usually, having flying robot bugs, multiple species of ant, spiders with killer webs, giant walking robots with laser cannons, drop ships that spawn more bugs, and more would be enough to not mind it when you get a few similar short missions in a row. And of course, having online co-op makes everything better.
In its vision to make the game grander, 2025 adds crazy new enemy types, like bees that shoot deadly spikes, dragons that breathe fire, armored versions of old classes, and yellow spiders that create a web to pull unsuspecting soldiers into. Unfortunately, the actual mission part is where 2025 collapses.
Although some missions maintain brilliance (like taking down dropships and flying robots from the comfort of a tiny skyscraper) and killing bugs with an overpowered rocket launcher still feels wonderful, a vast majority of missions in this game are 2-3 waves of enemies and an environment shift, with little to break it up. And because these wave missions often feel longer than the brisk pace found in 2017 affairs, the repetitious nature became exponentially worse. There are two or three actual unique bosses in 2025, but they’re all loaded into the last twenty missions or so. So in other words, the first 65 missions consist of enemy arrangement after enemy arrangement. It’s still fun, and that’s not to say there aren’t some wonderful missions to break it up, but there are long stretches of the game where I was only tired and bored.
Earth Defense Force has always been known for its unique presentation, and 2025 is far from exception. Whether it be visuals or sound. EDF screams low-budget B movie. It’s charmingly ugly, with destructible buildings that collapse into 10 polygons and enemies that clip through environments like it’s their job. I’m not saying that I would want the game to be anything but a mild visual mess (it’s part of the personality and I respect that), but the low technical bar turns pervasive when load times frequently pass the 20-second mark and the framerate gets uncomfortably bad from time to time.
The soundtrack, likewise, feels like it belongs in a cheesy monster movie, but the audio stars of the show are the soldiers. During combat, your ally soldiers will spout dumb lines about how the bug’s tactics “should be illegal,” and they often break into The Battle Hymn of the Republic-themed song together, which is one of the best things this has over 2017.
Because Earth Defense Force 2025 is Earth Defense Force, it still plays great and taps into a brand of fun that no other games are quite capable of. It has serious issues in spite of its ambition, however, and some of these issues will turn some people off from the game. If it cut out a lot of the more boring missions and added a few more boss fights, this game could have merited a near-perfect score. As it stands, poor pacing and a repetitive mission structure make Earth Defense Force 2025 a game that feels as bloated as it does spread thin.
PS3 review copy provided by D3 Publisher. Earth Defense Force 2025 is now available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.