As a fan of the Earth Defense Force series since its debut in 2003 as part of the Simple 2000 series on the Japanese PlayStation 2, I’ve seen the series grow from a quick 25-level budget run and gun experience to the mighty, soon to be released solo, couch co-op and online play of EDF 2025, coming in less than a month to the PS3 and Xbox 360. D3Publisher of America rolled into town with a complete Xbox 360 version that had everything unlocked (all 780 weapons!) and allowed for non-stop fun for a few hours for some cold-braving editor types who dropped into the Ace Hotel for a spell.
While couch co-op play was the focus when D3PoA was here last year, this time it was the hectic online multiplayer mode for two to four players put to the test. Gameplay is rock solid and depends on teamwork between your squad-mates in order for success. Unlike other shooting games, you can’t bump off your team just to hog the glory and goodies for yourself because not only will it be rude, on the higher difficulty levels, you’ll be chomped, blasted, roasted and spiked to death (for starters) by swarms of pissed off bugs, robots, dragons and other menaces…
For the uninitiated, the game is an initially simple run and gun with hundreds of enemies onscreen, massive mostly destructible environments and hundreds of weapons to collect and use against anything trying to chomp or stomp you and your teammates. The difficulty increases as the levels progress, culminating in some massive scale firefights with swarms of gigantic enemies coming at you from everywhere. Of course, for all that insanity going on, EDF never takes itself too seriously, instead going for a vibe based on old Japanese monster flicks with a dash of gung-ho action films for good measure. In solo play, the game is much more difficult, so only the elite EDF player can brave Inferno Mode and survive.
Multiplayer is perfect for groups of like-minded friends who want to get into the game’s level of challenge with a minimum of fuss although each player will need to come into an online match with a character who’s already been through a few levels just so he or she is packing some decent weapons that are better than the starting loadout. Playing with D3’s Michael Cerven (I’d call him an EDF elite for his ability to sit in on a session for as long as I did as still want more). Up until a few months ago, I hadn’t seen the nine online only story missions locked away from solo players, but thanks to a few friends with Japanese PS3’s and PSN accounts, I got to play through them and was blown away. These levels were all played yesterday once more and they’re still plenty nuts, featuring multiple bosses in one, three globe shaped hornet nests to take down in a mountain setting in another and a few other surprise filled missions.
Sandlot’s skills developing on the PS3 and 360 have grown over the years and while the game isn’t going to blow the graphics hounds out of the water, the visual improvements over EDF 2017 are immediately noticeable. Shops and signage are more clear and detailed, there are more bystanders running for their lives and those new enemies plus the redesigned ones from EDF 2 all look beautiful (although you don’t want to stop and stare at that Dragon boss as it swoops down blasting a wall of fire in your direction). Most of all, the sheer level of destruction and amount of enemies onscreen eclipse some of last-gen’s AAA games by miles. In fact, if you’re NOT blowing the hell out of the real estate on those city maps, you’re not seeing all of what EDF has to offer. The game doesn’t penalize you for becoming a wrecking crew, so have at it and level as much as you can. Hey, as long as every enemy is gone and you complete the mission, Japan can rebuild whatever you blast down.
Yes, you’ll still see the occasional frame rate drop and smaller objects popping in on the more wide open maps and sure, those cave map textures are a bit weak. But the game makes up for this by providing endless action and plenty of “Holy crap!” moments that will have you hooked in each time you pick up a controller. Online play is highly customizable with options for weapons restrictions, chat on or off, a very nice selection of emoticons and gestures and much more. It’s pretty funny to see a player do a quick victory dance or push-ups in the middle of a mission, although I’d not attempt this when there’s danger nearby. Or at least you’ll want to hope one of your online buddies can save your bacon when you get grabbed by that ant or dragon…
For those EDF-heads wondering why the amazing Genocide Gun isn’t here, I asked and was told that Sandlot tested it when making the game, but it was causing some MAJOR slowdown issues (about as bad or worse than in EDF 2017), so it got the axe. I take it they didn’t want to tone it down at all, so although I’m disappointed we didn’t see it here, it won’t be missed because I could see the issues with two to four being fired on a map and pretty much turning the game into a frame counting exercise, something that’s a HUGE no-no in an online experience. Of course, with Sandlot no doubt looking at the PS4 these days, I’m hoping that extra power gets used to bring back the GG in all its glory sans the slide show. We’ll see what happens in the future, but my fingers are crossed for its return one day.
While some gamers are drooling over online-only shooters such as Titanfall, Destiny and a few other AAA releases that are getting hyped up as the next huge things, I’d say keep an eyeball on this game because it’s more than worthy of your gaming dollar. You’re getting weeks of playtime or more if you go it solo, the couch co-op and multiplayer are there and ready for prime time and the upcoming DLC extends the life of the game even more, adding some VERY challenging missions to the mix that will test the skills of even the most hardcore EDF players on the planet. February 18, 2014 is right around a few corners and for some it’s going to be a day some spend indoors with the biggest EDF game to date. Back in a bit with more on EDF 2025 – most likely in the form of a full review.