Earth Defense Force, more commonly known as EDF, is back for it’s fifth major installment in the franchise and it pulls no punches to those filthy alien jaws. It has been a long beloved Japanese third person PVE shooter and has new weapons, tactics, and improvements to online accessibility. Developed by Sandlot and published by D3 Publisher and Sandlot, EDF5 is available exclusively on the Playstation 4.
EDF5 brings back all of the familiar mechanics from previous installments. In a third person shooter setting, you’ll pick one of four professions to tackle an massive alien invasion. Set in multiple locations throughout the world, EDF features a hearty 111 stages of various types. Many fan favorite encounters from previous versions are in as an homage so there’s a little familiarity in there for the veterans.
Solo and offline modes are available depending on your preference but of course the main attraction in EDF is the online PVE content. All of the traditional difficulties are back in, including Inferno Mode for the most die hard EDF fans. The capability to join rooms or to create your own is still in along with all of the same options. Unfortunately, the ability to have someone drop in mid-match still does not exist. This is a puzzling move at this point in the series as it’s one of the least popular aspects of EDF.
Once you’re in the fray however, EDF5 is the big ball of cheesy fun that it has always been. Its third person shooter action is second to none in terms of teamwork and difficulty. For those unfamiliar with the theme, EDF5 pits up to 4 players against an alien invasion in the tradition of any old movie that you enjoyed, made you roll your eyes, and laugh at the same time. Numerous references to major franchises have been in the series, including classics such as War of the Worlds or Godzilla but it has enough original spin and content to call its own as well. You’ll start out using basic weaponry, but as the game progresses you’ll end up utilizing more extreme measures and weapons that are equally a hazard to the enemy and your allies.
The sheer variety of weapons will keep anyone busy testing them against various monsters dozens of hours. They range from traditional functioning weapons to over-the-top cartoon and sci-fi instruments of ridiculous proportions. Weapons and enhancements are picked up during gameplay and are rewarded after the completion of a map. Unlike previous installments however, items and health can still be awarded upon failure, albeit at a reduced percentage. Additionally, you can now receive upgrades and health for all four classes simultaneously, not just for the one you are currently playing as. The non-current classes will earn less, but you can at least apply a small amount of grinding for classes you don’t directly play as much.
The staple four classes have made a return. The Ranger will play a traditional versatile soldier role and is capable of pinpoint attacks, wide-scale attacks, or even healing. Rangers can now summon certain vehicles as well too. Some of the vehicles that were present in 4.1 have been divided between the Ranger and Air Raider. This felt wrong initially, but after tooling around with it more, I found it gave a situational versatility to Rangers to either choose between vehicles and enhancements. Rangers can also sprint now, adding a new element to their play style and making them great for both tactical maneuvering and item collection.
Air Raiders return with a new balance that makes them formidable in the right hands. The various air raider abilities can be recharged in three different ways: by points as enemies die, by reuse timer, and by reloading. If you are accurate with your timing and aim, the Air Raider can make a difficult battle seem easy. And though he usually lacks in personal self defense, items like the Lapis Cannon make that job a bit easier this time around. The usual assist abilities such as power, defense, and healing posts are still a part of the arsenal making the Air Raider a versatile support class. The new controls for staging air strikes are not only welcome, but they make using point based strikes much more accurate. Vehicles are still a big part of the Air Raider. But since many of them have been split with the Ranger, and since air strikes have become easier to use, I found myself using them less and only for tactical reasons.
Wing Divers return as the flying laser gun (Pew! Pew!) toting field manipulators. A new, more difficult energy management system is in place this time as well as more dominant charge-based attacks. In EDF 4.1, if you died as a Wing Diver, it was usually no ones fault but your own. A little more balance has been brought to them, but once you start factoring in their unique enhancements to flying or energy management, they become easier to navigate. Overall, I feel they start off as more difficult but become powerhouses as the game progresses. The sheer variety in laser weaponry can either control entire fields with constant area attacks, take out prime targets, or take enemies on a chase of attrition.
Fencers have been toned down slightly in terms of weaponry, but still remain nigh-invulnerable in the right hands. It still remains as a sort of an experts only class though some of its core mechanics have changed. The old repel/parry dash cancel is now gone, but with the new enhancement system, you can choose between a level mobility that’s ridiculous, the capacity to remove recoil etc. from heavy weapons, or to become a walking tank with shield mods. Their melee weapons are still devastating and very ideal. However, many enemies in EDF 5 will target you the second you close into melee range and some can lay you out almost immediately if you time your approach poorly. Still, I feel they are pretty well balanced in terms of control and capabilities.
With several difficulty modes and numerous class, enhancements, weapons , and vehicles to try out, EDF5 will keep you busy for a long time. It’s very easy to go from zero to a few hundred hours played in a short span. It’s one of the few games where I find hours melt away without any regard for what is going on around me. Ultimately, I find EDF to be one of those series in which the difficulty adds replayability due to higher risks and rewards instead of simply just being high risk. And if the online mode becomes too frustrating, players can always grind or train solo in the offline mode.
The central story line of EDF has been essentially the same for every installment. It mimics several cult classic movie plots from early kaiju and sci-fi classics. Namely, Earth is invaded by an alien species who command armies of giant insects, monsters, and other variants and subspecies of aliens. The EDF are always rallied to save the day and go through various victories and crushing defeats as the wartime plot unfolds. You can expect to see many classic tropes and clichés applied in a classic B-movie fashion as you progress through the game. Rather than a weakness, this has always been comedic strength of EDF and this installation is no different.
Controlling each character in EDF5 is unique. It is a non traditional scheme for a shooter, and it often throws veterans of other third and first person shooters off in that regard. Once you acclimate to them however, you’ll find that the feel, maneuverability, and mastery are all tied into the controls directly. For example, the Fencer’s quadruple weapons handling flips many standard controls but allows for an impressive layout of of boosts, dashes, parries, melee, and ranged attacks to be combined into unique combo strings of your creation.
The camera within EDF5 can sometimes cause issues, especially during plot points where it will shift to a zoomed in perspective. This will sometimes omit your character and any enemies you may be close to which on harder difficulties can result in a quick death. Otherwise, the camera controls normally for any third person game and you will constantly utilize it to scope your surroundings, cover, and enemy positions. This gets crucial towards the end of the game as some enemy weapons are capable of one-shotting you from a laughable distance is you aren’t careful.
The graphics in any EDF title have never been high end. They are often a cartoonish derivative but this is somewhat appropriate for the setting and the gameplay style of fighting massive hordes of enemies. EDF 5 seldom has terrible slowdown even with dozens to hundreds of giant enemies on the screen simultaneously. This is something that many high-end developed games often fail to do and is in my opinion an accolade.
The various effects on weapons, vehicles, and airstrikes are laudable. From the laser weaponry of the Wing Diver to the consecutive bombing of the Air Raider the textures are varied and appropriate. Some moments you will feel like your playing in a Saturday morning cartoon and in others a modern shooter. Despite the amalgam of displays, skins, and textures EDF5 blends them quite well into a streamlined product.
In terms of combat and weaponry, EDF5 delivers the crisp sounds of the battlefield quite well. Weaponry in particular from both allies and enemies is enjoyable, especially anything that pew-pews. Some weapons will give you nightmares, such as the alien soldier laser sniper as it melts your life and face away in record time.
Voices however can range between campy and great to downright annoying in the instance of civilians. One lady in particular has such a repetitive wail when she runs away that it makes you want to strangle whoever programmed and/or recorded it. Most of the voice acting in EDF5 however is on point for a B movie action game and many of the lines will have you laughing or eye-rolling in an enjoyable way. And I have yet to complete a single session where you and three players from around the world didn’t break into tandem military cadences at least once.
The music fits the game well and is quirky to say the least. Composed by Masafumi Takada and Jun Fukuda, EDF 5 features a soundtrack that was ripped right out of sci-fi movies of the silver screen. But while it does fit the bill and can certainly be creative, it did end up being a game where I turned the music off eventually. This isn’t so much a criticism of the music as it is a homage to the amount of time I spent in EDF5. Any game you spend hundreds of hours in eventually has repetitious elements. I eventually streamed my own music into the game, but for individuals looking to beat and put down EDF5, you probably won’t need to do so.
When all is said and done, EDF5 is a sheer blast of classic nonstop co-op sci-fi shooter action. The par for the course combination of graphics, sounds, and setting is constant contributing factor in EDF’s continued international longevity. The added enhancements, weaponry, and mechanics are capable of both great frustration and overwhelming enjoyment. If you enjoy third person shooters or action games and have a broad sense of humor, EDF5 will be right up your alley. And while it helps to be older, or a fan of older classic sci-fi movies, it isn’t necessary to enjoy the action the EDF5 presents.