As a fan of the original Starship Troopers movie, I am inevitably a fan of the Earth Defense Force series’ premise. They both share the same level of goofiness and display of macho bravado that make them a complete riot. The Earth Defense Force games are pure B-movie, I mean, B-gaming guilty pleasures. They capture that mysterious so-bad-it’s-good quality that no one seems to be able to properly break down or replicate which makes them a blast!
A few months after its North American PS4 release, Earth Defense Force 5 is finally available on PC. It’s the same pile of delightful trash that no one should be able to enjoy with a straight face, but eventually we do. You’ll hate the tutorial and cringe at everything that is thrown your way, until you realize that you are, against all odds, having a lot of fun. Brace yourselves, for this review will be filled to the brim with self-contradictory statements that I honestly can’t avoid because Earth Defense Force 5 is the best garbage game you’ll ever play.
If you have played Earth Defense Force 4.1, you’ll immediately realize that this is the same game, albeit significantly improved with several quality of life changes, more missions and better balancing. But is it worth enlisting again?
A Gigantic Can of Bugs
Earth Defense Force 5 offers a few game options for you to indulge in. You can play solo in a campaign with over 100 missions, start a four-player online campaign or go for split-screen co-op. Obviously, the more the merrier, so online should be your main destination to have fun with this game which should be the case, because in no way does Earth Defense Force 5 serve any other purpose. It surely won’t be your first choice when it comes to showcasing the visual prowess of your brand new graphics card.
Picking one of the four classes won’t be an easy task, but my guess is that most players will go for the Ranger since it is the easiest class. The Air Raider is the support class, always ready to call in airstrikes and help his teammates. The Fencer is the tank and comes in an exoskeleton capable of dishing out a lot of firepower. He is also the most difficult class to master with shields, a dual weapon system and a slower pace. Finally, we have the Wing Divers, a special forces unit with jetpacks exclusively comprised of women. So much for that “macho bravado” thing, then. Don’t judge them by their looks, they “have a degree.”
Let’s not be afraid to use accurate words here; the tutorial is a steaming pile of… rubbish. Picking the Ranger class, I instinctively rolled my eyes when I realized that I could jump over the instructor, and I shook my head in disbelief during my first attempt at the ridiculous dash. As it predictably dragged along – “Oh no, monsters are invading our base” –, and I noticed that I could blast the soldiers with the bazooka without any consequences. Soon, everyone was rocket jumping and apparently completely fine with it. This is an example of the level of silliness that pervades the entire game, making up for its flaws with a “couldn’t care less” attitude that speaks volumes of the series driving mindset.
It’s like Sandlot just doesn’t care. They know that their game sucks in most departments, from graphics to AI, but the whole package is a wonderful and unpredictable mess. Everything is silly in this game, from the insanely huge bonus crates to the cheesy over-delivery of the voice actors. Yet, at one point we stop caring about what was made on purpose and what plainly is the result of sheer incompetence or lack of budget (or both) and start having fun. It’s so over the top that it becomes immensely fun and playable, with bug parts flying everywhere and an amateur feel that makes it even more enjoyable.
While I can’t quite put my finger on what makes Earth Defense Force 5 rise above its blatant faults, I can concede that it comes with some features that I truly enjoy. The frenzied destruction is the obvious one, with every map acting as a sandbox playground that you can pretty much raze to the ground entirely. Bridges, skyscrapers, vehicles, you name it. Every part of the map is designed to be destroyed. If a monster is standing behind a building, don’t bother going around it, just blast the building to pieces and keep shooting straight. You make your own rules and your choice of class vastly affects your playstyle.
While the maps aren’t huge, most of them are reasonably large. However, it’s the scope of the conflict thats impressive, with colossal UFOs and gigantic creatures that make you feel like the real ant in the situation. There will be quite a few times when you’ll stare at the skies in awe, impressed by the size of some UFOs or creatures, and that is something that deserves credit but no screenshot will ever manage to do it justice. Sometimes the action gets so chaotic, with so many enemies thrown at you at once, that you’ll drown in a pool of lights and explosions, haplessly trying to escape.
The Bugs Are Back in Town
Allegedly, Earth Defense Force 5 comes with over 1000 weapons. I didn’t care to count, but there is indeed a great amount to choose from, with stats that matter such as damage, range, reload time, blast radius and so on. You’ll settle for a couple of good old friends with great range and nice damage, until something better eventually comes along. Some classes may even request vehicles, such as a cool motorbike you can ride at dizzying speeds through giant ants and spiders while shooting like crazy. It’s like the true Starship Troopers sequel that was never made — and no, those sequels don’t count, they are beyond bad.
Don’t count on your allies to watch your back, they are as useless as a butter knife in this battle. There isn’t any motivation to save the citizens either, they seem to be there just to add to the confusion. While I’m at it, mission balance seems utterly broken. Some of them are long and incredibly difficult, the flying saucer invasion comes to mind, while the following missions are short and very easy. It almost feels random and could use better balancing to avoid unnecessary frustration.
We have established that Earth Defense Force 5 is crap, as well as the perfect sequel. It’s also repetitive, so it should be enjoyed in short bursts, probably with a few mates playing along and wildly cheering for the EDF. Drinks are optional, but recommended. It gets tiring after a while and doesn’t bring anything new to the series, but it’s a great game that embraces its flaws and entertains you in ways that most triple-A games fail to do.
If you don’t enjoy fumigating bugs without a second of respite, you are not EDF material. EDF soldiers have an itchy trigger finger, are loud talkers and possess a knack for massive explosions and flying bug limbs. It’s a relentless shower of bullets that only pauses while the next wave is getting ready to attack. The crazy weapons and very distinct classes provide some additional depth, especially in four-player online co-op.
When you get the hang of the classes and weapons, you’ll start to ignore some of the obvious flaws of the game and begin having fun. The Ranger’s dash mechanic is atrocious, and you’ll see bugs – game bugs, not alien bugs, that is – every few minutes, including trucks floating in the air and hit detection failure galore, but that is forgotten amidst the dumb fun the game provides. It’s retro gaming at its finest so turn off your brain and enjoy.
Earth Defense Force 5 isn’t a new game; it’s a revised version of Earth Defense Force 4.1. That being said, it’s not like you have many options when it comes to shooting giant bugs and humanoid creatures from outer space. It’s old-school gaming with old-school mechanics and, most importantly, old-school entertainment. Instead of looking into the future, Earth Defense Force 5 draws inspiration from the past, and it’s all the better for it.
Learning Curve: 7/10
You won’t have any trouble getting to grips with the gameplay mechanics. Nonetheless, you may need a few minutes to fully understand how some of the classes work, particularly the Fencer. When you become familiar with its specific controls, nothing is going to hold you back.
Graphics / Sound: 6/10
It’s great to see how far PlayStation 2 graphics have come. Oh, alright, PlayStation 3 graphics. Despite the rudimentary looks and appalling character design, Earth Defense Force 5 makes up for those failings with a magnificent sense of scope that feels cinematic and chilling.
As new and enigmatic foes come your way, you look up to the skies trying to fully grasp the notion of size and position. That frog-like creature didn’t seem that big from the ground. How am I supposed to dodge the attacks from that alien Godzilla thing? The primitive visuals don’t get in the way of impressive set pieces where scale plays a major role.
The sound is a delightful symphony of destruction. It’s so chaotic that it becomes almost unbearable, as explosions overlap with gunfire and soldiers chat all the time. The cheesy voice acting is marvelously tongue-in-cheek, on par with the “quality” of the original Resident Evil. It’s so bad it’s good, unintentionally silly in places but clearly dumb on purpose in others. You’ll have fun with it and won’t resist to join the troops when they spontaneously break out chanting “EDF! EDF! EDF!” Together with the silly sci-fi soundtrack, the battles become even more epic.
Value for Money: 7/10
Is it worth paying full price for a revamped edition of Earth Defense Force 4.1? It’s highly doubtful, although true EDF fans won’t hesitate. For the common gamer that isn’t familiar with the series, it’s a risky bet that needs to be well thought out. Those who can stomach the initial impact, outdated graphics and questionable mechanics, will be rewarded with dozens of hours of unabashed bug-shooting fun.
Earth Defense Force 5 is the sheer definition of a cult classic, but it doesn’t break new ground. It’s more of the same, just bigger and better. It’s a brash, dumb, guilty pleasure that is best enjoyed with friends. It will never be the game of the year, but it could turn out to be YOUR game of the year. When all is said and done, that is what really matters.
• Fun, fun, fun!
• Four-player online co-op and two-player split-screen co-op
• Tons of missions and weapons
• Impressive scale and chaos
• Cheesy but humorous dialogue
• It’s Earth Defense Force 4.1 but somewhat improved
• Graphics sometimes hurt my eyes
• Bugs, bugs everywhere (and I don’t mean the aliens)