Earth Defense Force 5 [PS4] REVIEW | Frogs From Planet Space

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Moments of crisis are what unites us, especially in exterminating space bees and shouting “ EDF ! EDF! EDF! EDF! EDF!” from the safety of our own homes and away from something worse than bouncing giant spiders and ETs with laser guns!

Time to review Earth Defence Force 5, the latest in the main EDF series!

REBOOTING TROOPERS

Sadly in recent years D3 Publisher decided to release most of its titles only in digital form, so no physical western releases for this or the Iron Rain spin-off (which i am gonna cover later). Still surprised how that Oneechanbara tps “spin-off sort of but kinda not” managed to still get a disc release, but i guess the lack of tits and zombies (in EDF, i mean) is fairly self-explanatory. Waited a while for a sale and the got the “Ultimate Edition” (aka the complete one), which i recommend doing, wait for a sale on PS4 or Steam, even if you’re a fan.

Story-wise (yes, EDF has a story), it’s oddly a reboot, once again, so in the year of 2022 humanity must face space insects and robots for the first time, guided by your character, a civilian that found itself attacked during a routine inspection of the EDF (now a private military company), and must rise as the invicible warrior, accompanied by plenty of “so bad it’s good” dialogue and english voice acting.. sadly still without subtitles. Shame, because you’re more likely to miss some dialogue gems due to enemy growls and explosions drowning the radio speeches, a similar issue of recent Dynasty Warriors titles, even more so because story and dialogue is otherwise reported as text only briefings for the missions, without proper cutscenes.

On the upside, you can totally ignore it without losing much, but the campy charm of EDF also comes from the silly military songs your allies sing, their badly dubbed screams, absurd comebacks to seeing the unbelievable happen before their very eyes, one liners of legend (like the hilarious “do you like death? Then die!” from EDF 2017) and stuff like this. Also, take a shot when someone says “monsters” or “aliens”.

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FUTURE WARS, FROGS WITH GUNS, ALIEN ANTS

Gameplay has basically remained the same, it’s still the arcade stile tps (with some modern concession) it was before, with hordes and hordes of enemies to fight until you win, but there have been some minor quality of life improvements. To alleviate frustration, now you don’t lose all obtained armor pieces and weapons when you die (unless you play on Inferno, which the game doesn’t recommend when starting out, and rightfully so, it lives up to that name), and if you get a weapon or support item you already own, it gets some stats upgraded.

To give you some more prospective on why it’s so welcome, in previous titles it was so frustrating to play a 20 minutes hard level just to see the rewards screen flipping you off, implicating you wasted time for (mostly) nothing.

Also, now you have support items that expand the range of the “collection circle” around the character, the Ranger class (the basic one) has the ability to sprint for a decent amount of time, and while sprinting you can expand the aforementioned  “collection circle”. So, in short, now collecting armor pieces, medikits and weapon crates is less of a pain. It would have been better if you just automatically collected items left by fallen enemies regardless of where they are, as most normal games do and have done for the past decade.

Guess this was the compromise Sandlot agreed upon in order not to piss off old EDF fans (i guess), and in later levels you are gonna need to “reserve” dropped health packs for later use, but still, it’s no excuse, you could have kept that as before, and made the game automatically swoop armor pieces and weapon crates, instead of forcing you to run around the huge maps to get an item dropped by an enemy sniped miles and miles afar. This isn’t fun, its busywork that shouldn’t be here. Not to mention sometimes the items dropped may get stuck on top of building, so if you don’t use the Wing Diver class or have an explosive weapon to tear down every building in existence, tough luck.

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On this subject, the classes are the same ones seen in EDF 2025/EDF 4.1, with Ranger (the basic infantry dude), Wing Diver (the flying lady with energy weapons), the Air Raider (carpet bombing, special weapons and vehicles summoning), and the Fencer (the tank unit with dashers and multiple weapons slots), which behaves basically the same (at least at first glance), with many weapon specific to each class, many old classic, but also new toys like the frigging beetle bombs.

But on the upside all classes get a new ability/action, like the Ranger can do the huge sprint (as mentioned before), the Wing Diver can dash both ground and mid-air, etc., and in the name of reducing frustration and grinding, now all classes get a small percentage of armor collected, so if you play the game as Ranger in the first run (which is recommend even by the game itself), you won’t have to start upgrading their HP separately from absolute scratch. Also, if you finish a mission at Hard or Higher, you won’t need to finish it Easy or Normal, it will be marked as done for the character/class.

TRADITION AND ROCKET LAUNCHERS

Aside from that, not much has changed, for the better or for the worst, old flaws are still there, baked as they are (basically) in the EDF own “DNA”, or budget, so yeah, 8-9 locales reused over the dozens and dozens of missions composing the story/campaign mode, with different starting points and varieties of enemies and sometimes stuff like fog in order to mask the issue, but at this point you expect it from EDF, it’s a budget game after all, and it’s nothing new, at all.

The first noticeable addition is the new kinds of enemies, which means new kind of robots and bugs, but also humanoid ones, carrying guns of various sizes, shapes and types, adding a welcomed layer of challenge to the fights, as they can use guns, regenerate severed limbs, use evasive manouvers as you do, cover behind buildings and try to flank you. This alongside old enemy types, there’s a fairly good enemy variety, the biggest bestiary bin the series, actually.

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One improvement that isn’t obvious at first sight is in how the missions are presented, now they tend to make you feel more like you’re part of a large army and not just an unbelievably powerful lone warrior. Yeah, you eventually become just that, but you’re often helped/escorted by tanks, other infantry like units or exoskelon suits, you find some vehicles already in a prefixed spot in the map, and the story bits told via radio chatter are used better, so you get snippets of actual narrative when it matters during missions. Small touches that are quite welcome, as they make the narrative more organic, and making you feel invested more in this war.

Oh, yes, the vehicles, the eternal bug bear of the EDF series. They are a bit better this time (trucks/cars excluded, they still have an absurd and not-customizable control scheme, where R2 and L2 are NOT used to accellerate and reverse), still not that useful, outside of the exoskeletons with double energy cannons, flamethrower, machine guns (which are fun to use, more than most vehicles in previous ), and the new giant robot, the Barga, which doesn’t have weapons, but can stomp and punch enemies and decimate most things just like flies due to having a gazillion of HP.

Its controls are a bit clunky and it’s slow moving, but you kinda expect it from a giant robot (old school giant robot, too), less from tanks and powered suits n shit. That said, unless you need to use the giant robot to fight the kaiju monster (gotta love how it sticks to tradition, it’s gotta be a mecha brawl against a big ass monster in the end, not a rain of nukes, but a punch in the face) or are required to by the mission itself, you will mostly fight without vehicles, as you need to constantly move, aim and shoot to control the hordes, all done way more efficiently on foot.

Still, i found one of the worst cave levels of all the EDF series. There are less cave levels than usual in this particular installment, but one of them is absolutely frustrating, because you need to destroy enemy spawners… shame that some appears only at the very end of the mission on a high placed part of rock, and one single misplaced evasive roll or letting a red ant grab you can result in being flung to the very bottom of this huge, way too big winding cave where everything looks the same. While EDF 5 introduces a “compass/objective indicator”, it only does for some specific levels like in the EDF sub-terranean base used for the tutorial missions, or caves… and even so, in this cave mission it stopped existing as a feature half-way, for reasons, resulting in a 40 minutes long mission, it’s batshit and insanely frustrating.

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Yeah, stuff like this (that reasonably should have been snuffed by modern streamlining) is why most people will never bother to play or finish these games, even more if you approach them with intention to bumrush through the missions, the repetive nature and constant recycling of locales will drive you insane if you approach EDF titles this way. Even more for this one, since it sports the longest campaign of all EDF titles, with 110 missions, and even with the many enemy types, the small number of locations will become beyond obvious, when you find new enemy types, get through challenging stages and the plot seems to be moving… but ops, we found another set of enemies hiding in the caves or nesting in the city that need to be cleansed.

The story mode will take 35 hours (roughly) to see the end, with an insane final boss you probably won’t see coming. After that you replay the missions at harder difficulties to obtain better weapons, you’ll need them to tackle the Inferno difficulty. While killing giants ants with a buddy on the couch is still the recommended option, there’s of course the online co-op mode, with it’s own specific set of missions not shared by the story mode (which was already done in EDF 4.1), and there are DLC packs intended for the late post-game, that will kick your ass if you don’t grind and choose weapons.

BUDGET DEFENSE FORCE

Not being a port from PS3/360 like EDF 4.1, it looks better than that one….but not that much better, honestly, and as usual some slowdowns are bound to be expected, given how these games are the antithesis of “optimized” and share similar issues to the Dynasty Warriors series, with them trying to get as many enemies on screen as possible, at the expense of graphics and some fluidity.

That said, in a single occasion (just once), while playing mission 96 or 97, the framerate dropped down to 10 or something, for no good reason, making it barely playable in any sense, i tried – just out of morbid curiosity – to struggle my way through the mission anyway to see if it somehow the game engine would recover…. and like 15 minutes later or something…. the framerate rate came back to normal, even better, at even more than 60 fps, then stabilized at the normal framerate a couple minutes later, as random as the drop and insane uptick. A surreal experience (one i recorded, thankfully) indeed.

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BUY GUNS. GAL GUNS.  (BUY GUNS)

Again, this is a budget game through and through, don’t expect top notch physics, come on, it’s EDF, so of course you may see your unit being blasted or hit by a huge monster, and fly like Raggety Ann in the sky for miles, sometimes till you hit the far far away invisible walls of the stage. Even at it’s worst, it’s just funny to watch, and you get up like nothing (outside of some HP you arleady lost when hit by the blast), you’re an EDF soldier, of course you’re more resilient than a cyborg, powered as you are by cheesy dialogue, soldier pride for mother Earth panache and shit. 🙂

On the subject of old flaws, it’s still annoying that defeated enemies’s corpses (especially the big ones) remain as solid objects in the map for more seconds than it should, so they block your shots, and force you to be extra careful with rocket launchers and explosive weapons in general. Even more oddin a game that otherwise is the embodiment of frugal design, so you’d think they just make fallen enemies vanish right away as to not “weight more” on the engine or something. But then again, enemies will eventually find ways to trap themselves in the geometry between two high rise building, so….

One surprising thing to note it’s the music, in this case handled by Masafumi Takada, beloved composer known for his work on Killer 7, No More Heroes, God Hand, Dangaronpa…. yeah, you totally do not expect to see him work on EDF of all things. It’s not like you can recognize his style here, you can’t, it’s a better work than previously done on EDF titles, while keeping the typical fanfares inspired by 50/60s’ b-movies, american and japanese ones, the music you expect from an EDF title. From what i gather some fans like the EDF 4.1 soundtrack more, they’re both good so it’s just a matter of personal preferences on this regard.

Final Verdict

Earth Defense Force 5 isn’t gonna convince people that hated the series, so yeah, it’s Earth Defense Force all right, one that reboots the story (yeah, there was an actual story running through the previous titles) and brings in a marginal technical upgrade over EDF 4.1, alongside new challenging enemies, new weapons, the biggest campaign of all EDF history, and some quality of life improvements that make some of the mechanics less old fashioned and frustrating, with regards in cutting some of the excessive grind.

Still, some of the issues remain (like item collection being ancient in every way), and make you wish Sandlot was allowed more budget to actually create enough levels and match the insane amount of missions they made, hence making the experience a lot less repetitive. And some money for a proper presentation and cutscenes would be nice. If you didn’t like EDF before, this one isn’t gonna convert you, it just ain’t if you didn’t like the concept or the gameplay before.

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If you’re a fan, you’re gonna love this one as well, with the meaty campaign to chew through over dozens of hours, improved mobility options for the soldier classes, and the huge number of enemy types, the best selection of foes so far, including humanoid frogs with guns, an Anguirus rip-off kaiju, frog-o-dactyls (yeah, flying frogs with dinosaur wings), giant robots and more. And actual fun, repetitive and arcadey, but actual fun, devoid of psychological trappings made to sell microtransactions.

EDF is a flawed series, an acquired taste, made for a specific niche, that much is sure, but i really can’t think of any series where you can kill giant spiders with “turtle speed rockets”, use gas cookers as improptu flamethrowers, and snipe dragons with the same B-movie pizzaz. EDF is magical, in a way, and while there are always improvements to be made (some that really should have been made by this point), i wouldn’t “AAA”-ize for anything in the world.

I’d say this is the best EDF title so far, if you’re into the series. Flawed, dumb good fun.

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