Assuming publishing duties for their fifth entry in the Earth Defense Force series, D3 has just launched number 5 in their entertaining action saga. Out for PS4, we tested the game using a Playstation 4 Pro.
Since Starship Troopers never got a proper videogame (Microprose’s 2000 game was okay but the 2005 title by Empire is best left forgotten) I’ve always considered the Earth Defense Force games more or less spiritual cousins to the 1997 Verhoeven movie. They’ve consistently been decent games, though never truly great – but always providing plenty of fun and making sure I look forward to the next one.
We’re now at number five, which is currently a Playstation 4 exclusive though I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a PC release later since the same thing happened with the previous game. And why not? Earth Defense Force 5 has many of the same inner workings as 4.1 did, and I believe it runs on the same visual engine as well. In a way, that summary sums up everything that’s great and wrong about about D3’s sequel.
As with the previous Earth Defense Force titles, the core concept is never meant to be deep – but fully designed to be entertaining. Taking control of a soldier of the EDF, you fight off waves of invading space insects, mutant frogs and whatnot. Taking down enemies means gaining loot, and eventually this will result in new and/or stronger weapons. It’s a familiar grind, and one that still doesn’t feel stale even though we’ve seen it countless times before within and outside of this particular series.
The action is easy to get into, the (cartoon) violence is explosive, and things go fly and go boom without much pause in between. The presentation helps as well – Earth Defense Force 5 is inspired by the countless B-movie sci-fi classic we’ve seen over the decades with its silly narrative and ditto characters. In a game that presents itself like it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s easy to forgive the fact that the action is rather mindless.
Earth Defense Force 4.1 introduced four different character classes, and it was a strong mechanic that returns in the fifth edition. Some characters emphasize firepower, others have agility and range through their ability to go airborne. This works well in terms of providing a bit of diversity in single player gameplay, but it’s especially fun when you engage in a cooperative multiplayer session. Having one player wreak havoc on the surface while another provides air support is a ton of fun, even though it doesn’t seem to matter too much from a tactical perspective – your chances of success don’t vary greatly between different possible combinations.
The loot system in Earth Defense Force 5 is an improved version of the previous game, where you now level up weapons across all character classes no matter which one you played your last mission with. It makes sure every character class is worth picking, no matter what stage of the game you’re in and encourages experimentation.
Despite subtle improvements like this, the new Earth Defense Force feels quite similar to the last one. That’s not necessarily an issue because the game is a ton of fun, but I can’t shake the feeling that the series isn’t evolving at the same rate other games are. While the game harkens back to classic sci-fi tropes of the fifties and sixties, it’s not trying to be “retro”. Let’s hope the next one makes sure the series doesn’t end up in that direction. Recommended, but when you consider the price you could also pick up the previous title instead if you don’t have it already.