Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
There's only one way you need to play Earth Defense Force games – you simply have to give up all expectations and simply enjoy the ride. The developers at Sandlot didn't build the game to be on the same level as Call of Duty. Instead, it hunkers back into the memories of classic monster films, where a select few find themselves facing off against giant ants, aliens and even a Godzilla-like mech that will stop at nothing to trash the city.
Previous EDF games have leaned on this theory, so it shouldn't be a total shock that Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair is any different. The game has its fair amount of shortcomings, like with frame rate issues and the fact it's vaguely familiar with previous efforts (in truth, it's just an enhanced port of Earth Defense Force 2025 from a couple of years ago). That said, if you turn off your brain and just go with the flow, you'll find its destruction quite pleasing, whether you're laying waste to a radar station (and the mechs surrounding it) or, God forbid, eliminating bugs by laying waste to a multi-layered office building. Hey, it's for humanity!
Enough Destruction To Go Around
While the game isn't quite the technical remaster that, say, DmC: Devil May Cry was earlier in the year, Earth Defense Force 4.1 still flexes its next-gen muscle admirably. The destruction is off the charts, especially when you use a grenade launcher to clear out a field of crawling ants within seconds – or, yes, those buildings they're crawling around on. It's also fun to take on bigger enemies and watch them crashing down to Earth, whether it's a gun-toting mech or a UFO miles above the surface, spewing out bugs.
What makes EDF so great is that you can dish out this destruction in several ways. The Ranger class is usually the best for run-and-gunners, but the others – the Wing Diver, the Fencer and the Air Raider – introduce new techniques that are equally fun, especially as you partake in a "death from above" strike that sends spiders scampering to their doom. Each one is worth trying out, if only because of the different perspectives provided – and, of course, those fun new toys you can get your hands on.
In addition, Sandlot admirably added a fun co-op mode, either local split-screen or online, that allows another friend to join the fray. Sure, you may accidentally blast one of your cohorts with a bazooka (oops), but it's all in sheer, goofy fun, and laying waste to an alien armada never felt so good. Again, just accept the technical shortcomings that are attached (like light frame rate issues and occasional glitches) and you'll have a ball with it.
The controls aren't always perfect – controlling vehicles can be a pain thanks to slow movements and, honestly, you'll get more done on foot or in the air – but they are pretty good when it comes to targeting enemies and letting them have it. Action fans will feel right at home – even if that means leveling a city block or two. Again, for humanity!
Best of all, the game has plenty of replay value. You'll find an assortment of single player and co-op missions that you can take on across a number of difficulty settings, along with new gear that you can pick up from your downed foes. You do pretty much the same thing throughout until you get to the battle with the Godzilla-ish Erginus, in which things get wild as you're dropped into a Pacific Rim-like battle. Fans will love it – and newcomers should too.
A Game That Would Do Cheesy Sci-Fi Proud
Again, Sandlot didn't set out to make a game above and beyond the usual action norm – this is EDF, after all. That said, 4.1 is probably one of the best to date, mainly because it gets right to the point. There's no story to weigh down here – aliens are attacking and the only way you can reason with them is gunfire and missiles.
While there are some visual hiccups here and there, the cities included within EDF are ideal, as you can really dish out plenty of mayhem with a few well-timed missile shots. The enemies look good too – well, good on a cheesy sci-fi level, with mechs that stomp around at a slow pace and a giant Erginus that has no problem being a robotic jerk to everything. It won't win any awards, but fans of EDF will be quite pleased with the way the game looks. The quicker load times are noteworthy, too.
For that matter, the audio is pure cheese, but in a good way. If the heroic themes that play throughout each stage aren't enough, your cohorts have no problem delivering awful (yet hilarious) dialogue throughout, whether it's by singing a ridiculous anthem (before getting eaten by an ant, natch) or providing theories that, honestly, are better left unheard. Again, it's all part of the package Sandlot has presented, and they just follow the EDF way.