Think of a B movie. What do you imagine? Something so bad it’s good? Something truly bad, in a way that makes it intriguing? Maybe the term “guilty pleasure” comes to mind? You know you’re expected to not like or accept it, but you do anyway, because something about the movie speaks to you. The premise of Earth Defense Force 2025 hearkens back to the age of B movies in fantastic glory. Don’t let its cheese scare you off, though, because this is one well made and super-fun game to play!
In an age where so many game developers are terrified to be quirky or (God forbid) lighthearted, Sandlot–the makers of Earth Defense Force 2025–ask a simple question: “Why so serious?” Remember when you were younger? Remember when it was perfectly acceptable for robots and ninjas to occupy the same screen at the same time? Remember when weapons were designed not to be realistic but to be fun to use? That is the feel that EDF 2025 gives off.
Earth Defense Force 2025 never tries to be deep, existential, or even serious. The game is, very much, a game about cheese and corn. It’s a throwback to the golden age of gaming, when the industry wasn’t scared to death about being taken seriously or trying to emulate Hollywood. The game isn’t afraid to be a video game, and it embraces the absurdity of its premise earnestly.
[pullquote]Earth Defense Force 2025 never tries to be deep, existential, or even serious. Earth Defense Force 2025 is, very much, a game about cheese and corn.[/pullquote]
For those who are not in the know, the Earth Defense Force series are about the struggle of mankind to combat an alien invasion comprised of giant insects and robots. The motives of the aliens are never entirely clear beyond the desire to exterminate mankind. Are the bugs the aliens? Are the bugs from space, or are they mutated earth specimens? Do the aliens control the bugs, or do they simply let them run rampant as a force of nature? Those questions are never answered, but we hear these questions asked through various personnel over the player’s comm chatter. To delve into the game’s story is to completely miss the point of the game, however: the plot is merely a vehicle to direct you to the next mission to kill more bugs and robots. This is a game built around combat, looting, and a sense of scale and wonder.
The combat in Earth Defense Force 2025 seems fairly straightforward, at first, but it’s full of much more nuance than you might expect. Mastering that nuance is key to completing the later levels. The game is a third person shooter through and through. Even when you zoom in with a sniping weapon, you maintain a third person perspective.
There are four different classes to choose from. The Ranger is a standard infantry unit, the Air Raider is a combat support unit, Wing Diver is a light aerial unit equipped with a jet pack, and the Fencer is a heavy unit equipped with powerful weapons. Each class demands a separate play style and can additionally be played in several different ways. For example the Fencer can equip either powerful artillery pieces, such as howitzers or missile launchers, or powerful close range weapons such as pile bunkers or power hammers. Depending on how you equip him, you’ll want to play him in a very different way.
Each class has its strengths and weaknesses and complement each other in different ways. The Fencer can be equipped with powerful, high-capacity Gatling guns, for example, but while firing them he is almost immobile, making him a sitting duck for air targets. That’s not to say you can’t turn your Fencer into a powerful anti-air unit; you just need to know how. The Air Raider gets equipment that creates protective shield domes. Combine the Air Raider’s shield bunkers with the Fencer’s dual Gatling guns, and you’ve just made a powerful anti-air platform.
Many weapon types also have their own general limitations. Many of the homing missiles will lazily toss out a missile that will hang in mid air, for a second or two, before zooming off. During this time that missile is very much armed and very capable of killing you. Firing a missile without enough clearance or while in a heated melee is a surefire way to get yourself killed. The Power Hammers of the Fencer class may deal tremendous damage in a huge path in front of you but are also ineffective against aerial targets. This makes choosing the right weapon for the right job a crucial decision. Later on in the game you will encounter giant, flying drop ships. Without a long range weapon you will not be able to take them out, and the game has no qualms against letting you launch without one. This leads me to one of the game’s most interesting features–its mission pacing.
[pullquote]Each new enemy introduction takes place in a relatively controlled environment. This allows you to naturally grasp the threat level and weaknesses of these enemies.[/pullquote]
There are well over eighty missions in Earth Defense Force 2025. After around forty missions I’ve fought giant ants, massive quadrupedal robots, and even taken down an entire mothership. The game is a never-ending crescendo building up to numerous false climaxes, but the numerous missions also serve another purpose. Every few missions a new enemy or game-world element is introduced. Each new enemy introduction takes place in a relatively controlled environment. This allows you to naturally grasp the threat level and weaknesses of these enemies. From there the next few missions will mix together various enemies in various environments to challenge you, but these are not just tutorial missions, no no. Each new enemy is introduced a few levels before you even fight it. You’ll hear intercepted comm chatter about events taking place elsewhere in the world for one or two levels before you ever face your new adversary. This builds up a sense of drama and tension so that when you finally do meet this new foe, it’s already been hyped up. Combined with the pacing of the mission itself, each of these introductions are both dramatic and awe-inspiring.
Aside from the single player mode, the game features a robust online mode. You and thee other friends can cooperate on each of the game’s missions. It’s here where the classes shine the most as they mix together in glorious fashion. The Air Raider also shines the brightest here, allowing for some of the most powerful weapons to be fielded effectively. Both the Fencer and Ranger have access to powerful missiles that can only be fired through the help of the Air Raider’s target painters. The Air Raider, likewise, isn’t exactly a powerhouse of pain when it comes to combat. It requires you to score a certain number of points for his air strikes and vehicle drop-offs to cool down. The kills of your entire team count towards this goal, however, so the more you help your team, the better off you are. The game also features powerful vehicles that can only be used effectively when operated by a full crew. This makes playing the game cooperatively not only encouraged but very rewarding.
Overall, Earth Defense Force 2025 is a fantastic and fun game that’s best enjoyed with friends. If you’re the sort of person that can’t get past cheesy dialog or a corny, B movie premise, and you absolutely need your games to be super-serious, then this game isn’t for you. If, however, you’re tired of the current chain of pretentious, overly dark, and cynical action games on the market, and you’re looking for a fun and quirky diversion, then you should definitely give this a try.
To save our mother Earth from any alien attack
From vicious giant insects who have once again come back
We’ll unleash all our forces! We won’t cut them any slack!
THE E-D-F DEPLOYS!