The recent spinoff game Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon promised a glorious return for the series, but ended up being a crushing disappointment instead. Insect Armageddon's inexperienced development team misunderstood the series' appeal, replacing EDF's defining elements with puny weapons, boring objectives, and straightforward enemy encounters.
Now, Earth Defense Force 2025 puts the series back on track, returning development duties to franchise creator Sandlot and delivering the goofiest bug-blasting action this side of Starship Troopers. While much of EDF 2025's content treads familiar terrain, it has enough new features and improvements to make it a worthy successor to one of this generation's greatest cult classics. EDF's premise is simple enough: Giant bugs have invaded Earth, and we, as a species, have banded together to forcefully evict the humongous ants, spiders, and bipedal robots that have infested our business districts. What follows is a series of arcade-style shooting levels that emphasize quick reflexes and capable weaponry over strategy.
At its core, though, EDF is about more than pure shooting mechanics. It's about catching you off-guard with a staggering sense of scale. It's about surviving seemingly insurmountable odds through smart equipment choices. It's about pushing your skills to the limit to earn greater rewards, with the end goal of transforming from a itty-bitty, defenseless human to an unstoppable, death-dealing juggernaut.
EDF 2025's gameplay is driven by its expansive arsenal, which gradually unlocks as you progress through its campaign. You begin with a standard supply of rifles, shotguns, and grenades, but by the time you've finished the campaign, you'll be plowing through insect swarms with armor-shredding plasma cannons, skyscraper-razing rocket launchers, and guns that shoot lightning. EDF 2025's weapons deliver both a satisfying sense of progression and immense empowerment.
EDF 2025's loot system is equally brilliant, encouraging you to increase the difficulty to earn more powerful weapon drops. It's fun to test the limits of your arsenal by attempting tougher levels, and if the challenge becomes overwhelming, you can always dial back the difficulty and crush weaker enemies with your overpowered weaponry. By putting the player in direct control of difficulty for each individual level, the campaign never feels too challenging or too easy. No matter your skill level, you'll find a satisfying degree of challenge.
Earth Defense Force 2025 is very similar to the last Sandlot-developed entry in the series, though it introduces an array of needed improvements. Controls are tighter, characters have greater maneuverability, and enemy bugs are fiercer and less prone to becoming stuck inside level geometry. In addition to split-screen co-op for two players, an online multiplayer mode for up to four players has been added. EDF 2025 also features three new classes originally introduced in Insect Armageddon, greatly expanding the campaign's scope beyond EDF 2017's default Ranger class.
While the other classes add new layers of strategy to EDF 2025's multiplayer mode, neither the Air Raider nor the Fencer class are particularly effective in single-player mode. The charge times for the Air Raider's weapons are so extreme that they make combat feel like a game of hide-and-seek, and the slow Fencer class better serves in a cleanup role alongside more agile characters. Multiplayer is practically a necessity to bring out the full potential of these classes, as leveling them up solo is a drawn-out, boring process.
While blasting bugs into orbit with high-caliber weaponry seldom gets old, repetition occasionally weighs down the campaign. Having played through Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable recently, I noticed that there was very little in EDF 2025's first half that hadn't already been seen in the series. Some level objectives are ripped directly from EDF 2017; the initial ant invasion levels, multiple underground sequences, and a beachfront battle against an army of red ants all play very similarly to specific levels featured in earlier EDF games.
Presentation issues are standard for the EDF series, but some are more noticeable in EDF 2025 than in previous games. You can expect extreme framerate dips when the action gets frantic, especially in the split-screen co-op mode. Long load times also hinder the experience. In the PlayStation 3 version of EDF 2025, I waited more than 30 seconds before each level began, adding up to several minutes of dead air throughout an average play session.
Despite its lingering quirks, Earth Defense Force 2025 is every bit as fun as Earth Defense Force 2017 was, and it's a great improvement over Insect Armageddon. Though its rehashed content disappoints initially, EDF 2025 emerges as the best in the series in its latter half, delivering freakish new enemies, over-the-top weaponry and a solid and expansive multiplayer experience.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PlayStation 3 version of Earth Defense Force 2025, provided by D3Publisher. Images: D3Publisher.
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