Earth Defense Force 2017 was a sleeper hit for the Xbox 360 a few years ago — and more recently for PS Vita in Japan. Armed with nothing but last-gen graphics and a ridiculous number of on-screen enemies, it was the third-person shooter genre's answer to Serious Sam in that it's simple but rewards the destruction of hundreds and thousands of enemies. Unsurprisingly, it is part of a series that occasionally leaves Japan, and the fourth game in the series is on its way to a North American release. D3 Publisher, who is handling the translation, had the Japanese version available at E3 2013 to show off a couple of levels.
The first thing that jumps out about Earth Defense Force 2025 is that the graphics haven't significantly improved from the original. Gameplay runs at a steady but low 20-something frames per second. The power of the game consoles is devoted almost entirely to draw distance and maximizing the number of creatures that can be on-screen at once. Perhaps surprisingly, the gameplay still works and holds up in this environment.
The gameplay is a standard third-person shooter with an absolute minimum of trickery. There's no cover, and there aren't any juggling gauges; there's just you, the weapons you collect from missions, possibly a buddy (or three, if you go online), and lots and lots of enemies. Prior entries almost exclusively used giant insects, but there's a little more variety in 2025, with alien spacecraft and weapons from 1950s-retro science fiction adding to the chaos. There are only a few of the larger craft in play, supplementing the traditional and still-present insect hordes.
2025 features a few tweaks, partially through a set of four character classes: the vehicle-summoning air raider, the dual-wielding fencer, the basic but tough ranger, and the flight-capable wing diver. The classes did not appear to be upgradable, but you could shift the equipment loadout, based on what you had acquired. The class abilities mesh together as teamwork is the key to defeating of enemy hordes — especially on the highest difficulty level, Inferno.
Speaking of hordes, did I mention they're huge? The low frames-per-second count and simple enemy models allow the game to render absolutely ridiculous numbers of enemies at once. If you think Dynasty Warriors is insane with its hundred-plus soldiers on the field, try a claimed one thousand, each behaving individually and mixing multiple enemy types.
Earth Defense Force 2025 is a pure "B" game, and that's not a bad thing as the title lets you have simple, mindless fun. The fact that it will likely be fairly cheap on release — as the prequels were — doesn't hurt, either.
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