Earth Defense Force – it’s full of bugs (pic: D3Publisher)
A reader recommends everyone plays at least one entry in famed shlock shooter series Earth Defense Force, and he’s not wrong.
Earth Defense Force. It’s an overlooked series. And first impressions of it are terrible. But look at Steam or YouTube reviews and you will see nothing but love. It even appears in the fairly select PlayStation Hits line-up.
What’s going on? Let’s look at a typical playthrough. On starting a new game of EDF, it appears to be a very poor third person shooter. It looks like something from the PlayStation 2 era. There are no modern mechanics like firing from behind cover or recovering health over time. And the enemies just charge at you mindlessly. The first few missions are a mediocre experience, even with an open mind. If you upped the difficulty to try to make things more interesting, you will find it’s simply impossible.
Play past this initial impression and you might find that EDF is actually a twin-stick shooter. It’s a battle of attrition where you constantly struggle to land hits on the enemies while keeping distance and dodging attacks. It’s a lot of fun, and you can work your way to the end credits on easy difficulty, but some missions will still seem very difficult on normal difficulty – and the game has three more difficulty levels above that!
Here is where Earth Defense Force shines. If you have a swarm of enemies bearing down on you, you have already messed up. No amount of determination or reflexes is going to let you survive the deluge of acid and plasma being fired at you. The game shifts – how do you avoid getting to the point of being swarmed?
What loadout you pick for the mission. Where you choose to fight. What order you aggravate wandering enemies. Whether you defend or abandon allied units on the map. You are now playing a strategy game. And yet, all your careful aiming and dodging still makes a difference.
At this point, the lack of modern gameplay mechanics becomes a strength. There is value to your victories, because Earth Defense Force never cut you a break. And every moment is unadulterated fun.
Other aspects worth calling out are the storyline and the multiplayer. EDF is notorious for having a badly delivered story and hilariously bad dialogue. While the dialogue through the games is very, very silly there’s a bit more going on than at face value.
Non-player characters react to situations with more flexibility and variety than you would see in any other game (you will hear new lines of reactive chatter after 100+ hours); and the story exposition seems stupid but is loaded with more intention and drama than most people realise. This is very much a deliberate sci-fi B-movie in game form.
The multiplayer has a lot of problems; the lobby system is very basic, there’s no way to drop into a mission in-progress, all progress is lost if a connectivity problem occurs, and overall it’s not a game you can just drop into for 30 minutes. But my goodness, when it works, this is a top tier game. EDF’s unrelenting enemy swarms make for great teamwork and strategy opportunities.
My single desire for the franchise is that they’d implement casual drop-in/drop-out or quick matchmaking. It would make the game incredible.
If you’re tempted, then Earth Defense Force 4.1 is arguably the best in the series. It’s available on PlayStation 4 and Steam, is coming soon to Switch, and the slightly older Earth Defense Force 2025 is available on Xbox.
Try any game in the franchise for more than a couple of hours and you’ll find yourself proudly chanting: E-D-F!, E-D-F!
By reader James Stocks
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