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June 2019

Earth Defense Force 5

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Release Date: Dec. 11, 2018


PS4 Review - 'Earth Defense Force 5'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Jan. 4, 2019 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Now begins the ultimate battle between huge aliens and Earth Defense Force. Humanity, fight against fate, the world existence is staked on this war.

Buy Earth Defense Force 5

Modern video games are all fairly complex. Sure, there's the occasional Bulletstorm, but even titles like that have a plot and quiet moments. Earth Defense Force is not modern in any way, shape or form. Since the franchise's debut, it has existed for only one reason: to put as much alien-killing carnage as possible on a console. The latest game in the series, Earth Defense Force 5, is not breaking the mold in any way. If you're familiar with Earth Defense Force, you know exactly what you're getting.

EDF5 is sort of a reboot of the franchise. You're put in control of an everyday civilian who's working on an air force base when, suddenly, aliens attack. That's the entire plot. There are some disjointed attempts at giving motivation to the characters and aliens, but the game treats that entirely as an afterthought. EDF5's plot begins and ends with "kill the invading aliens."

You start off fighting giant insects, but the game quickly ramps up to invading UFOs, giant robots, kaiju-style monsters, and more. You have lots of guns, including ones that shoot explosive bullets, ones that rain down lasers, guns that create more guns, and so on. Both you and the other side are in a massive city-destroying rumble until one side is completely dead.

Earth Defense Force is the Dynasty Warriors of shooters. There's a tremendous swarm of impossible enemies, and your job is to kill all of them. It isn't entirely mindless, though. You need to have a good sense of positioning and area control to make sure you aren't caught reloading just as a giant ant is about to eat your face. It's very much a power fantasy explosion-fest, where the fun is in seeing the increasingly absurd odds and how many ridiculous weapons you can throw at the enemies.

Like the previous games, EDF5 lets you choose from multiple classes. Ranger is the default "basic" class, which can equip a lot of standard weapons and is essentially a solid, all-around class. Wing Diver is a flying class that excels in high mobility and incredibly powerful weapons but has limited defense; the class' mobility and weapons are tied to the same energy gauge. Fencer is a slow, heavy armor class that requires learning complex canceling mechanics to get the most out of your combat. Finally, Air Raider is a support class that can call in air strikes and vehicles but does poorly solo.

The four classes are all a lot of fun, but as with the earlier games, they're pretty divided in terms of accessibility. Ranger is easy to pick up and play, and Wing Diver isn't far behind. Fencer is poorly explained and surprisingly complex, and Air Raider suffers heavily when played solo. As such, I imagine most players are going to gravitate toward the Ranger or Wing Diver class until they get more weapons and experience. If you're not planning to play the game in multiplayer mode, then Fencer and Air Raider aren't that fun to play unless you get very late game weapons.

One very nice change to the game is how the weapons work. Unlocking new weapons in Earth Defense Force is critical to success, but in previous games, you basically had to keep starting over since you only unlocked weapons for your current class. In EDF5, there are two nice changes. One is that you can now unlock weapons for other classes, so if you decide to swap, you aren't forced to start from scratch. The other change is that collecting multiples of the same weapon can upgrade and level it up, which makes it more viable to use weapons that you like for a much longer period of time. 

There's a lot of content in EDF5, including multiple difficulty levels, which unlock more varied types of weapons and equipment. EDF5 is a game that expects you to grind, but it rewards the grinding with interesting and exciting weaponry — and then it provides foes upon which you can use that weaponry. It's a simple play pattern that is a ton of fun. If you've played any of the previous EDF games, you know exactly what to expect.

To be honest, the biggest problem with EDF5 is that it's not very fresh. If you've followed along with the series, then nothing I've said in this review sounds new or distinct, and the truth is that it isn't. It's another Earth Defense Force game, and the changes are minimal, not game-changing. The lack of any kind of new class really hurts the game, as it feels the same as previous offerings. It's difficult to say that a game where you obliterate entire armies of invading aliens with insane laser beams is ever boring, but it does feel repetitive. It's still quite fun, but other than some relatively minor changes, there's not much here to recommend EDF5 over other entries in the series.

EDF5 is probably the best-running game in the series, but that isn't exactly high praise. EDF has always been technically weak, and EDF5 is no different. The graphics are PS3 era at best, and the visuals are mostly carried by the sheer number of explosions and flying alien body parts. It isn't a great-looking game, and it's easy to imagine someone being turned off by the early segments before it offers more explosions than the screen can handle. On the other hand, the voice acting is awful in a campy, B-movie way. It's so bad that it loops back around to charming and delightful. This is not a game you play for the plot, but you can play to laugh at the absurd cheesiness of it all, and the voice acting revels in that.

Earth Defense Force 5 is a tried-and-true entry in the franchise. It's cheap, cheesy, low-budget, and a ridiculous amount of fun. All the same flaws and foibles from the previous games are still present and accounted for, but some of the additional polish makes the game more enjoyable for casual play. All in all, EDF5 is a completely by-the-numbers offering that delivers exactly what it says on the box. If you want to experience the franchise for the first time, EDF5 is a great place to start. If you're a longtime fan hoping for something new, you might want to wait for a price drop.

Score: 7.0/10

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