The gigantic insects are back to lay waste to the world. But as you'd expect there are a few heroes brave enough to face the army of monster ants, spiders and mutants.
As a franchise, Earth Defense Force has already more than ten years under its belt. It started with the low budget Simple Series (Wikipedia) from D3. This background in low budget entertainment also makes it immediately clear where things are headed. This is a celebration of B-movies. Japan is the scene of an epic battle. Skyscrapers collapse as if built with cards and everything looks a bit cheap. Nevertheless, there's been a steady flow of sequels and US adaptations, and the series has managed to spawn a die-hard fanbase.
The infection spread to these shores with the release of Earth Defense Force 2017. At first glance an incredibly ugly game - but one that held enormous potential. Alone, or with a friend via split-screen, you make your way across huge maps in a virtually reproduced Tokyo. You fought against a variety of opponents with basic modelling, but that advance in such absurd numbers that the combat felt nothing short of grandiose. There were hundreds of unlockable weapons, upgradable soldiers and five levels of difficulty to conquer. It was unlike anything we'd seen and it grew a dedicated following.
Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon then appeared in 2011, and this time the development had been outsourced to a US developer. Improved graphics and a number of sensible gameplay mechanics came as a result. However, the sheer amount of enemies, blood splatter and number of missions dropped. Fans were disappointed as a result. But fans of the older titles can relax; development of Earth Defense Force 2015 has once again been handled by the original Sandlot team, and is an enhanced version of Earth Defense Force 2017 in all aspects that matter.
We're greeted by familiar sounds and menus on the home screen. And in addition to the choice of weaponry there are - much like in Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon - four soldier classes. The vanilla assault trooper is complemented by the jetpack powered and exclusively female Wing Diver. They soar in the air and use boosts to launch themselves between rooftops, but they are handicapped by the energy management aspect of their weak arsenal of electrical weapons. The Fencer is a heavily armoured but slow Mech, who makes use of four weapons or gadgets simultaneously. Finally there is the Air Raider, the support class that can order airstrikes and vehicle drops.
Multiplayer is where it's at, as this is where Earth Defense Force has always shone. In addition to the split-screen mode (unfortunately with noticeable drops in framerate this time around) there is an online mode spinoff, which offers something a little different from the single-player campaign. Unfortunately we were unable to test this, but it was very enjoyable in Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon - especially with mixed teams.
On the battlefield, EDF veterans can expect much of what they already know. The graphics have been cleaned up, but not up to the level in Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. The upside is that enemy numbers are back up and the entire horizon is lined with giant spiders. The draw distance is impressive. Sadly the framerate drops massively with multiple bursts of plasma fire, secretion fountains, and massive explosions. It's a price we're willing to pay for the entertainment it provides. There is a delightfully trashy atmosphere with nonsensical dialogue that makes for lots of laughter. The sense of standing in the midst of an overflowing battlefield is simply priceless. Sure, you need to overlook the sparse texture work and the extremly flat lighting.
Taking a look back at Earth Defense Force 2017 it's clear that this latest incarnation is the best EDF experience to date. All the beloved features are to be found here, including the collectible weapon crates, the content of which are revealed at the end of each mission. The chances of scoring a powerful Blunderbuss are better with the higher difficulty levels. The crates contain more than just rifles, shotguns and rocket launchers, you can also receive flame throwers, plasma guns, and mini nukes. Mines, turrets and vehicles can also be used to customise tactics on the ground. It's all about clearing each map of all enemies, but it doesn't feel like a flaw. Given that each class has its own weapons and trophy hunters need to play through all missions with all classes in five difficulty levels - there's a ton to do for the completionists.
A number of small but useful tweaks have been made. You can freely configure the control scheme, buildings don't topple over after just one missile, and soldiers don't just speak nonsense... they sing as well. Standard enemies like ants have new tricks up their sleeves, as they launch soldiers into the air, teammates can come to the rescue. You can also heal your allies by directing the medicinal cannon their way.
In short, Earth Defense Force 2025 offers fantastic fun for all fans of trash culture. Even though one may not believe it at first glance, the game is extremely rich on content and offers a lot of depth to experts. For casual players and/or graphical nerds with an affinity for next-gen tech there is, however, absolutely no incentive to buy this. A further point of criticism in addition to long loading times is the retail price. The predecessors match the trashy action on the screen with a wallet friendly price. While not quite a full retail price, the game's current costing still counts as a negative when compared to the previous offerings.