It’s hard to write a review for a game like Earth Defense Force 2025. On one hand it’s an unadulterated throwback to over-the-top arcade style of game popular during the turn of the 21st century. It is a simple, no-frills shooter that combines big guns, big action, and even bigger enemies. Earth Defense Force 2025 is so aggressively a videogame that it borders on parody. It’s loud. It’s dumb. It is endlessly fun.
On the other hand, do you ignore the fact that the game is objectively a technical lemon? There are times where the framerate dips into single digits and resembles a corporate slideshow more than an interactive piece of digital entertainment. There’s clipping everywhere, the enemies have a tendency to get stuck outside of the playable game area, and the shooting feels floaty and disconnected most of the time. On paper, the game is a mediocre third-person shooter packed to the gills with a needlessly bloated 700 different weapons and generic enemies. It’s not too conceptually different from the popular-in-Japan Musou games made most famous by the Dynasty Warriors series.
But to call EDF 2025 a ‘Musou with guns and aliens’ does a disservice to the core of its experience: and that is to relentlessly shoot the ever-loving shit out of giant spiders and fire-breathing space dragons. It’s hard to describe the simple joy of engaging with a game that is so over-the-top, unabashedly juvenile, and achingly earnest in its construction. There’s nothing complicated about Earth Defense Force 2025, or any of its exceedingly similar prequels. No complicated story arc, no challenging button combinations, and certainly nothing to get in the way of you leveling an entire city block with explosives, simply because you can. Playing EDF 2025 is akin to having a conversation with your 8-year-old self and to ask him or her: “Do you want to shoot space aliens with a big gun?” If the answer is anything other than an immediate “yes”, I advise you to seek counseling.
Playing EDF 2025 is akin to having a conversation with your 8-year-old self and to ask him or her: “Do you want to shoot space aliens with a big gun?”
Earth Defense Force 2025 maintains the four playable classes and online cooperative play of the 2011 trainwreck insect Armageddon by Vicious Cycle. However, in the hands of franchise creators Sandlot and their ability to balance goofy seam-of-your-pants gameplay with overwrought oo-rah military bravado, the formula works much better this time. The Ranger is the most basic and easy-to-use class, and having played 2 other games in the franchise, Ashley found immediate success with his run and gun style. The other classes, Air Raider, Fencer, and Wing Diver, are quite varied in their particular skill sets and each caters to a specific kind of play style.
One key difference between the versions is that when it comes to split screen cooperative play, only the 360 version supports both online and local split screen; the PS3 version’s split screen is local only. However for us, EDF is about playing side-by-side on the couch in our living room, laughing at the cartoonish ways bug parts explode into the sky, quipping at our NPC soldier’s odd comments about steak and girlfriends, or when it comes time to get a little serious, strategizing on neutralizing the Ravager threat.
It’s in the multiple classes where strategizing in EDF 2025 actually becomes fun and rewarding, rather than something that’s strictly required to complete the level. While on Normal the game is rarely too challenging, I do find that my weaknesses as a Wing Diver are covered by Ashley’s strength’s as a Ranger. Sometimes it can feel like I am doing most of the heavy lifting so that she can run in circles and level half of future Tokyo, but there have been numerous situations in which we would have failed the mission, had she not come through with a clutch volley of grenades or revived me from death. Of course that’s nothing to say of the numerous times I’ve been blasted out of the sky by an equally errant rocket to the face.
Earth Defense Force 2025 is one of those games who’s flaws, however large, are dwarfed by its character, its heart, [and] its dedication to a style of game rarely seen anymore.
EDF’s controls are simple, and require your partner to essentially know how to press a sum total of 3 buttons and be able to utilize both joysticks. The over-crowded and chaotic hordes of enemies can be overwhelming at times, and if your co-op buddy adopts a spray-and-pray method of pest extermination, it’s entirely possible you’ll be caught in the crossfire and headed for a failed mission. This can be frustrating, especially if you’ve spent the previous 20 minutes grinding a particularly difficult level for weapon pick-ups, but the boisterous and slapstick attitude of EDF makes these setbacks feel relatively minor.
Would EDF 2025 be a better game if it ran with a solid frame rate, had a more unique and diverse repertoire of weapons, strayed from recycling the same enemies and locations across 95 grueling stages, and just had a more general coat of polish? Maybe. But then it would probably also have a cross-promotional Mountain Dew tie-in and be saddled with infuriating micro transactions. Make no mistake, Earth Defense Force 2025 is a flawed game in many, many ways. The overall sluggish pace of the level and weapon progression, the simplistic level of detail in the environments, the dodgy framerate, and the PS2-era quirky Japanese game ethos that permeates the entire experience is not something I can easily recommend for everyone.
Earth Defense Force 2025 is one of those games who’s flaws, however large, are dwarfed by its character, its heart, its dedication to a style of game rarely seen anymore, and its promise of delivering an experience you can’t quite get anywhere else. Blemishes and all.
Earth Defense Force 2025 is now available for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Earth Defense Force 2025 - Co-Opinion
- Learning Curve
- Learning Curve
- Player Roles
- Player Roles
- The Game Itself
- The Game Itself
- Does it Co-Op?
- Does it Co-Op?
While some of the game's less than polished terrain and chaotic set of physics can frustrate, Earth Defense Force uses a sum total of 3 buttons at any given time and they all basically lead to absolute carnage on screen.
Choosing a class that suits your play style is important and their differences (and thus cooperative pairings) are meaningful if ultmately negligible. No matter who you choose your focus as a two-man fireteam is clear: kill everything.
The Game Itself
Earth Defense Force 2025 does not feature a complicated story arc, lovingly crafted cutscenes, a modern aesthetic, or even a stable framerate. That's not only okay, it's absolutely perfect.
Does it Co-Op?
Did we mention the part where you shoot giant aliens with gigantic guns? Earth Defense Force 2025 is a paragon of couch co-op greatness.