Publisher: D3Publisher of America
# of Players: 1-2 (Online 1-4)
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Score: B+ (85%)
“The Bugs Are BACK!” and man, were they missed! As a longtime fan of the series since its 2003 debut on the Japanese PlayStation 2 (as part of D3Publisher’s Simple 2000 series of budget priced games), I’ll just go ahead and say that warts and all, Earth Defense Force 2025 is developer Sandlot’s best game to date. While the PS3 version still needs a wee bit more optimization (it’s developer Sandlot’s first game on the hardware) both it and the Xbox 360 version bring 85 offline solo or co-op missions, an additional 9 online missions, four classes (two new to the series) and well over 700 weapons split between the different classes.
There’s also paid DLC that adds some brutal offline/online missions with redesigned enemy types (but no new weapons as the main game has more than enough). The sheer amount of content and escalating challenge will test even the most hardcore shooter fan, but the game’s campy tone and solid yet not quite flawless visuals won’t be for every taste. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of old “B” sci-fi flicks from Japan and the US and games where you can blow the crap out of nearly everything on most maps, this one’s not only got your name on it, it’s going to make sure you’re not leaving home for a while once you fire this up…
If your first EDF game was EDF 2017 on the Xbox 360 or EDF 2017 Portable on the Vita, you’ll feel right at home as 2025 has a similar visual style (with a bit more polish and detail in the graphics) and the gameplay is the same run, shoot collect all that loot stuff you know and love. Yes, weapon, armor and healing drops are completely randomized (meaning you’ll be replaying maps many times over), but the new classes mean the game will be harder for some new players and great deal trickier for veterans. If your first game was the US-developed Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon, you’ll notice that the visuals are quite different, online play can be a bit funky at times (on the PS3) and some gameplay elements from EDFIA ended up here such as improved AI allies, weapon targeting on the guided missiles and the addition of extra classes to play as.
If you liked either game, you’ll love this one as much or more because Sandlot took a more epic approach to bringing the bugs and ‘bots back big time. As before, the “story” is doled out using in-engine scenes and loads of radio chatter (all delivered in intentional goofy voices) from assorted folks from fellow troopers to a pompous professor know it all spouting dubious science and worse, thinking he’s right about everything he says. And as before, you’re not buying this for the not at all deep story either…
While some of the enemies from 2017 are back and looking the same, the addition of redesigned and updated enemies from the legendary Earth Defense Force 2 (which was only released in Japan and localized for the UK) add some nice surprises to the intense action. There are giant striding tripods, a new “drone” class spaceship, new carrier drop ships, strolling robots protected by self-generated force fields, and a few new Hector types. On the organic side of things, you get a new giant spider to deal with, I believe those are hornets or wasps (not bees!) added to the insect mix and replacing the assorted kaiju from earlier games are (wait for it) two types of dragons, both a pain in the butt to to deal with whenever they show up.
Add in a new and tough final boss level and an interesting sub-boss ship structure that holds a few surprises and you’re good for a few weeks of play and then some. True to the series, this means the old final boss is now a regular enemy in a few missions, some maps are remade versions of older missions with the same name from previous games and so forth and so on. Overall, there’s that same sense of satisfaction here that comes from surviving by the skin of your teeth against some incredible odds as the game progresses and seeing some great gear as rewards for those efforts.
As noted, the game is actually than 2017 thanks to the new class system that initially limits each class until you become more accomplished as well as find some better gear than those starting loadouts. The Ranger class is back, as is Pale Wing (from EDF 2, now called Wing Diver), along with Air Raider, a support class that’s made for intermediate players (or solo players with cast iron balls) and Fencer, a melee-based class with a few killer tricks up his metal-suited sleeves. You’re free to play any class you like and switch between them, but sticking with and raising one at a time is very highly recommended thanks to the random drop and character growth systems.
As you play missions, enemies will drop weapon, armor and healing crates when they’re eliminated. Healing only works when you’re injured, but weapons (provided they’re not already owned) and armor add to your total after a mission is completed. The completely random nature of the drops and slow armor gain may frustrate some players used to set progression in their games, but it’s actually one of the things that gives the game its longevity. Trust me, this one isn’t getting traded in at all once you’re hooked, you can play if offline any time you want (POW! Take that, Titanfall, Destiny and any other much bigger budgeted game that’s going to bog down on day one with server hell and is useless as an offline experience!) and once you get a friend in on the fun, he or she will want to buy a copy for themselves.
Sandlot shakes things up here by taking away destructible environments in a few maps thanks to the new giant spider foe you’ll meet up with a few times during the game. It’s usually suspended on massive webs anchored between a few buildings and those buildings can’t be destroyed. While this becomes a pain in the neck because you now have to figure out how to work around those structures instead of simply blasting them into rubble, it’s also makes these maps puzzles of a sort as you need to get rid of those pesky arachnids before they zap you with their armor-draining webs and reel you in for a snack. PROTIP: Sniper rifles, rockets or missiles are good on these stages and yes, you can and should shoot that web down at some point.
As there’s no manual (ah, the age of paper-saving sucks, doesn’t it?), some of you making up tactics may lament the lack of something helpful to read, but EDF games have never had “in depth” instructions other than basic control layouts and some quick info about a few things you’re about to go up against. You’ll need to keep an eyeball on those load screens in order to figure a few basics out, poke around in the game options or hit up GameFaqs’ EDF 2025 board for suggestions and assistance.
The ONE thing to remember is, EDF 2025 is VERY deceptive to a fault. Some players will play on the default setting or bump of the difficulty because they think they’re total bad-asses and WANT the game to kick them in the teeth. Let’s just say that for the first few missions, you’ll be smiling away, but expect that smile to flip upside down and a few other directions as your lunch (and chosen character) get eaten, shot up, stomped and blown around by the assortment of now faster, tougher SUPER cheap enemies. While there’s no set way to play the game, the smartest thing to do is blow through the game on Easy just to learn the map layouts, gain much-needed armor, new weapons and a few of the simpler Trophies or Achievements.
Completing the game once is a great jumping off point as well as you may as well kill off one game mode before seeing how nuts it gets as you play through the rest of the difficulties. Or you can just jump in and hold on to that controller for dear life as you get stomped over and over – it’s all up to you. “Farming” certain stages on harder levels is also a great thing to do, as it helps boost your armor and weapons collection, allowing you to survive the harder missions that will surprise you if you aren’t reading the descriptions for each. If you’re told to take anti-air gear with you, you’d better be carrying anti-air gear with you, as you’re going to be shooting at something flying or floating above you.
As the maps are larger this time out, the game makes you work to get drops if you play solo. Wing Diver is the most mobile class thanks to her jet pack, so she’s may be the best choice for players who want to collect as many items as possible. Her weakness is that she’s got the slowest armor growth of the four classes, which is a pain to deal with once she starts breezing through missions with somewhat low armor. The burly Fencer is fast once you get his dash/cancel and other moves down, but his regular running speed is that of Baby Huey in a steel diaper.
Rangers are great playing all around guys and run faster than they did in previous Sandlot-made EDF games. They have a hard time getting drops in general unless you either luck out and get some within running/rolling distance or there’s someone playing an Air Raider dropping vehicles down for you and him or her to use. Air Raiders have it toughest because without those vehicles, they’re pretty much trotting targets outside of Easy and Normal mode. Even the loading screen that tells you about the class note it’s not a beginner’s class, but then again… the game doesn’t care how you play it at all.
Speaking of loading screens… yes, they’re long loading screens on both versions of the game and on rare occasions on older “fat” PS3’s you may get a freeze after playing for extended periods. This may be due to aging hardware more than the game proper acting up, as I’ve played the PS3 version on an old and newer console to varying load times for the same missions. There are some other technical hiccups here, from a sometimes chuggy frame rate (more noticeable on the PS3), occasional slowdown when there are massive explosions happening, both of which affect solo and online games. Yes, there are faster, better looking and more well put together games out there, but nothing beats EDF for sheer amount of content for that gaming dollar. I’d bet people may be more thrilled for certain other AAA titles, but this one will be the better guilty pleasure long after those other games have their day in the limelight.
Granted, the fun factor here is off the charts and with a like minded friend, couch co-op is just phenomenal and online play can be fantastic when everything comes together. Granted, “today’s standards” say every game should be running as smooth as silk online and off and those players that think this is a given may find themselves ticked off by some of EDF 2025’s issues. However, you cannot beat this game for pure “blow the hell out of everything” bliss and that’s going to be a huge selling point for new players and EDF veterans alike. So yeah, this one’s a BUY just for the sheer crazy fun of leveling a few blocks of real estate with a rocket the size of a small car and losing hours at a stretch in this wild future scenario Sandlot has crafted. I have a nice long list of changes and improvements I’d LOVE to see Sandlot implement in future installments, but I think D3Publisher knows where to reach me at this point.