The EDF are back — and I’m delighted. Sure, you could buy other games featuring giant robots — but you’d be missing out.
Earth Defense Force 2025: On the plus side
Earth Defence Force is a Japanese games series with an almost cult-like following.
I should know, because after purchasing Earth Defense Force 2017, the “previous” title in the series (if one ignores the US-developed and incredibly mundane Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, and by all means please do) I became a member of that cult.
So much so that when Kotaku Australia’s editor, Mark Serrels asked me to name my “game of the generation” for the PS3/Xbox 360/Wii era, Earth Defense Force 2017 was the game I named.
So needless to say, the sequel has a lot to live up to in my eyes.
I’m rather happy to say that it does. The core of Earth Defense Force 2025 isn’t substantially changed from the previous games. Alien invaders have landed on earth, and are dead keen on taking over. As a member of the Earth Defense Force squad, it’s your job to blast them away, whether they’re giant spiders, ants, walking robots, flying ships, or… plenty of other surprises along the way that I don’t want to spoil just yet.
I know, I know, that sounds incredibly cheesy and generic, and Earth Defense Force 2025 is entirely aware of that point. Levels often begin with hyperbolic newscasts about the alien invaders, and as you play, military and scientific updates are piped through that give both context and comedy to what you’re doing. I swear, when my troops began singing while blasting, it brought the entire room down in tears of laughter.
It’s like every Godzilla film you’ve ever watched, but you’re on the ground going crazy with a missile launcher. Or an assault rifle. Or an energy weapon. Or just about any combination of the above, because again like its predecessors, Earth Defense Force 2025 positively revels in giving you lots and lots of interesting weapons to play with, although you can only take a few into combat with you.
Earth Defense Force 2025 borrows from pre-Earth Defense Force 2017 titles in that you have classes to choose from this time round. The Ranger is your basic infantry soldier (and the one that’ll be most familiar to Earth Defense Force veterans), while the Pale Wing is a flying type with energy based weapons and horribly sexist armour. That’s not a parody thing; it’s just less protective because boobs, or something. I can’t justify it, and I’m not even going to try to.
Then there’s the strategic Air Raider, a support class, and finally the terribly slow-moving Fencer, the tank class.
Earth Defense Force games trade on having absolutely insanely hectic combat by putting you in the ground floor version of a Zerg rush. You’re not facing one giant red bitey ant, or even a dozen. You’re facing hundreds, in the style of, say, the Dynasty Warriors games, but with a lot more actual explosions.
It’s hectic in an arcade sense, and survival is not guaranteed. Make it, and any armour and random weapon pickups you’ve grabbed are yours. Die, and you’ll have to restart all over, in classic arcade fashion. Developers Sandlot have smoothed around the edges, but unlike Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, they haven’t tinkered for the sake of it. Online play is supported with lobbies, as well as split screen for those “shooting things with your best mates” moments. Not enough games offer that, in my opinion.
Earth Defense Force 2025: On the minus side
Not everything is rosy. Earth Defense Force 2025 is a budget Japanese title, and that means that it’s not exactly cutting edge when it comes to visuals, or for that matter managing its screen slowdown. This was an issue with Earth Defense Force 2017 as well, and while you do grow used to it, it’s nonetheless annoying to see.
Earth Defense Force 2025 offers the same levels of difficulty as Earth Defense Force 2017 did (Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest and Inferno), but it’s notably more stingy when it comes to handing out armour upgrades. Armour allows your health total to grow between levels, and it’s rather vital for surviving later levels — not to mention the explosions that occur when a member of your own squad inadvertently runs in front of that missile you just fired.
The voice acting in Earth Defense Force 2025 is terribly cheesy, and that is quite deliberate, but it also can become a little repetitive, especially in any level where civilians are threatened on city streets. There’s only so long you can hear the same scream loop over and over before you start contemplating hurling a few grenades their way just to shut them up.
Earth Defense Force 2025: Pricing
The Xbox 360 copy of Earth Defense Force 2025 I purchased cost $64.98. More on that below.
Earth Defense Force 2025: Fat Duck Verdict
An aside to start with. Reviewing Earth Defense Force 2025 hasn’t been easy. Not just because I don’t particularly want to stop playing it, but also because it was rather hard to track down a copy.
The local distributors, Namco Bandai Australia, listed it for release in Australia on the 27th of February. I checked around on that date, and EB Games had no online listing for it, while JB Hi-Fi had, for some reason, shifted availability to the 6/3, one week later. I somewhat presumed there was a case of the copies sitting on a boat somewhere, but on the 5th, JB Hi-Fi dropped it entirely from their online listings.
At the time of writing, that’s still true; check either JB Hi-Fi or EB Games online, and they’ll return no results for Earth Defense Force 2025. It’s like it doesn’t exist in Australia.
So I headed into my local shopping centre (which has both franchises) on the 7th. EB Games in-store staff had never heard of it, but their computer was certain it was due out on the 7th. They couldn’t explain why they didn’t have “at least one copy”. But they didn’t, so all I got there was a shrug.
JB Hi-Fi, despite their website having randomly scrubbed the game from existence, had an Xbox 360 and PS3 copy — one of each — on the shelf, so I pounced, and that’s what I’ve reviewed.
I still don’t get it, though, and queries to both Namco Bandai Australia’s Twitter account and their local PR representatives have been met with a brick wall of silence. What the very heck? Why not promote a game? It might — just might — sell some copies, or something!
End of digression.
Should you buy Earth Defense Force 2025?
Yes, of course you should, presuming the concept of a lightly satirical B-movie blastfest with your mates appeals. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges, and sometimes a bit stingy with the armour powerups. That’s all part of the fun.
What’s interesting is that I’ve been playing Earth Defense Force 2025 alongside the online-only Titanfall recently. They’re both action-heavy shooters with strategic elements, upgrades and big shiny robots. I’m not even going to try to claim that Earth Defense Force 2025 looks anything like Titanfall’s next-gen shiny-visuals-of-explody-goodness, because it doesn’t.
But while I’ve still got to finalise my thoughts on Titanfall — and that will take a little more play — I’m struck by the fact that I don’t think I’ll be playing Titanfall six months from now.
I’m pretty darned sure I’ll be playing Earth Defense Force 2025 six years from now, because that’s what I do with Earth Defense Force 2017 already.
Or in other words, as long as you can find it, buy this game.