Earth Defense Force 5 Review - Another Bug Hunt

  • First Released Dec 11, 2018
  • PS4
James Swinbanks on Google+


Earth Defense Force 5 is a clear culmination point for a series that’s been around since the PlayStation 2, reaching a scale that could surprise even the most hardened of EDF veterans. While it retains many of the familiar tropes from the franchise--four player classes, a huge variety of missions, unlockable weapons and items, and obscenely terrible in-game dialogue that's so bad it’s good--EDF 5 ratchets everything up to 11 and remarkably pulls it off. With bullet-hell style action and massive, open battlefields where every building is destructible, it feels like there’s no better time to get out there and save the world from rampaging space insects and their alien masters.

You play a nameless civilian who gets caught up in the invasion as the giant bugs start pummeling an EDF outpost. As you emerge from the underground base the scale of the attack becomes apparent, with you eventually joining the EDF and rising through the ranks to become Earth’s best hope for survival. It’s a fun, if typical, premise that plays out through the cheesiest in-game dialogue I’ve ever heard. It takes numerous hard turns, culminating in one of the most outlandish and audacious boss fights imaginable. Watching the story weave as it tries to connect the dots is like watching a slow motion trainwreck you cannot take your eyes away from--it’s so brash and ridiculous that you can’t help be charmed by it. Though while the dialogue and story can have you gritting your teeth at the levels of cringe, the action is something else entirely.

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Before getting out onto the battlefield, you’re given a choice of playing through each mission with one of four character types, each with different play styles and their own customisable loadouts. The Ranger is the stock standard soldier type and by far the easiest to use in direct combat, while the Wing Diver is fast, good for close combat, and can fly herself out of dangerous situations. While you can play through any missions as any player type, some choices certainly made for an easier time than others. Choosing an Air Raider, a character who can request long-range cannon fire and vehicle drops, for an underground mission isn’t the best use of its skills. But the game will let you do it anyway, happily letting you test things out and work it out for yourself. Loading times are quick, so if you make a poor choice of loadout, it’s only a quick hop back to the menu to change it up before getting back out there.

Fighting the alien hordes can be a completely overwhelming experience. The scale of everything is imposing, especially when faced with a swarm of very angry bugs that are clawing and climbing over not just themselves but apartment buildings, factories, and homes to get at you. The maps are huge, giving you a wide playspace to enact your destruction, and for the most part they use that scale and space well. Calling in a bombing run as an Air Raider will zoom the camera out to show a wide shot of the area, with the sky lighting up bright orange as the bombs carpet the landing zone. Various vehicles like tanks and armored suits can be called in or found scattered around, and although they can feel pretty loose and unwieldy at the best of times, they are at least a good way to move from one side of the map to another or to put some space between yourself and the horde.

Player movement also feels a little sloppy. Moving from a standard run into a dash feels more cumbersome than it should, as does general running about. Thankfully, aiming feels snappy and tight, so regardless of whether you’re in tight space or out on a mountain overlooking a wide-open beachside, combat always feels more rewarding than not.

Replayability is encouraged through battle. As you chew through swarms of giant ants, spiders, carpet bugs and more, blasting them apart in a flurry of brightly-colored blood and chunks, and downed enemies will drop armor as well as weapon and health pickups. While the health pickups heal both you and your nearby AI allies--who you can find out in the battlefield and enlist under your supervision--weapon and armor pickups both manifest after the mission is over, giving you access to new and upgraded weaponry and a higher base HP number respectively. The difficulty level you play will also influence your rewards, with higher difficulties giving you stronger weapons with higher base stats, encouraging you to come back on a higher difficulty level to grind out better gear.

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Although the offline single player is fun, EDF 5 and the differing play styles of each character type really come into their own in the cooperative multiplayer, where up to four people can join together and take on the entirety of the 110-mission-long campaign. Although offline and online campaign progress is separated, which annoyingly means you’ll need to play through the missions twice to unlock and access them in each, blasting through aliens with others takes the core gameplay to a new level. In one session, my Wing Diver went down while I was standing atop a large tower while attacking a mob of giant hornets. My co-op partner couldn’t reach me to revive me and instead resorted to destroying the tower, bringing me down with it so I could then be revived. Similarly, a guided missile weapon they were using as a Ranger took on a whole new level of lethality when combined with my laser sight to guide it for them, increasing its range far beyond its normal capability. Classes are balanced so they can helpfully support each other in unique ways, which you simply don’t get in the single-player mode where everything is put squarely on your shoulders.

For everything that’s happening on screen, with bullets, missiles, bodies and debris flying every which way, you might expect EDF 5 to experience frame drops on occasion. But only once did performance slow to crawl during an especially busy scene involving a mothership, a crumbling city, hundreds of enemies and a rainstorm. Some of the grimier textures and character models give it a dated look, though while it’s not the best-looking game around, it has the headroom to handle the sheer volume of things happening around you without severe performance hits when the action gets out of hand.

Despite the series' long-running nature, Earth Defense Force 5 is a standout action game, revelling in its own absurdity while crafting a brilliantly fun and lively action game around it. Its huge battles are a joy to watch play out both from up close and afar, and the wide variety of weapons and play styles with each player type offers plenty of reason to come back for more after the final bullet has been fired.

James Swinbanks on Google+
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The Good
Incredible sense of scale makes battles seem immense and overwhelming
Audacious story that pulls you in
Huge variety of weapons and character types offers loads of replayability
Co-op play adds an extra layer of strategy and dimension to combat
The Bad
Controls can feel a little sloppy, especially when using vehicles
Dated character models and textures
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

James Swinbanks was just out to get a pizza when the aliens attacked, forcing him to become the hero and save the planet yet again. It took him 35 hours to rip through the alien bastards using a copy of the game provided by the publisher for review.
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Avatar image for Trip4w

why release a game 10 years too late? this looks like crap

Avatar image for dlM0kn

Having played IA and 4.1 I don't really see the appeal of these games but then again I've never been into musou games. I never got improved weapons and armor as fast I would like which leaves me with no incentive to keep coming back to it. In 4.1, I was still using the weapons I got in mission 3 at mission 20 and I was picking up everything on the map even if I knew I didn't need health or ammo. Maybe I should've shot the same 1000 ants a little harder? ah well, to each their own I guess.

Avatar image for tetrapod

"Controls can feel a little sloppy, especially when using vehicles" that's an instant 5.0, controls are kinda important in a video game where you control things.

Avatar image for tetrapod

Congrats, you managed to make a ps4 game to look like a ps3 game, that must have taken serious skill.

Avatar image for Yams1980

@tetrapod: I dont think you could have "ps4" level of graphics on a game like this. Theres likely almost 100 enemies running all at you at once on top of all the destructible buildings.

This game series is fun because of this massive zerg chaos, i rather be in an epic fight instead of a nicely rendered boss running at 30 fps.

The graphics are just fine, game runs smooth i dunno what else you want.

You want a game to chug to 5-10fps but have nice lighting and 4k textures? Thats what nvidias RTX is for, laggy fps gaming for a cheap cost of only 1300 USD.

Avatar image for aross2004

@tetrapod: Yes, because graphics = fun.

Avatar image for csward

Is this your first review James? Earth Defense Force games are like a worse form of Dynasty Warriors. Worse graphics, even simpler game play, less story, more bugs (both literally and software bugs) ect. Don't expect this game to be very good unless you like very simple games.

Avatar image for Vodoo

@csward: These games are fun for the old school fun factor. Having a bazooka with unlimited ammo and blowing the hell out of everything and leveling cities. It's also fun to play with a girlfriend that isn't into gaming btw.

Avatar image for tetrapod

@csward: how did they manage to make gameplay even MORE simple than DW.

Avatar image for Warlord_Irochi

@csward: "Can you accept that not everyone feels the same way you do?"

That was you, two weeks ago, in the Darksiders III review.

Avatar image for Dualmask

These games are always so ridiculous and fun. I still play one older version of it on PS3. This one at least looks better. Onto the Gamefly queue you go...

Avatar image for Barighm

Is the game localized? All I'm seeing are import versions in stores.

Avatar image for csward

@Barighm: Subbed in places maybe, but that's all you will get.

Avatar image for cruzmurillo

@Barighm: i believe in japan it did came out in disc version , here in the states at least for now we are only getting a digital version , u can preorder from psn , it comes out tomorrow

Avatar image for uwotm80

One of the best B-movie game series out there. I look forward to playing this one.

Avatar image for crashtestguy

it is so bad it is good, should be wrong. badwrong or badong. from now on i will stand for the opposite of badong... gnodab

Avatar image for darkallah

@crashtestguy: That's a lot of nuts!

Avatar image for EricShadow366

So the typical EDF experience then? Sign me up...I loved 2025 and 2017....those games were fun!

Avatar image for aross2004

Love the EDF games.

I wish they could just get the Starship Troopers license, it would rock with this game's mechanics.

Avatar image for Vodoo

@aross2004: Exactly! When I played the very first game coop with my girlfriend, I was like "this is an exact rip of Starship Troopers." Being all of the ST movies were total shit after the first, I can't imagine the license to be expensive.

But, I suppose it's cheaper to make a clone that would probably be no different in gameplay than paying for a licensed name.

Avatar image for Byshop

EDF!!! EDF!!! EDF!!!

Fond memories of earlier versions of this game.

Avatar image for sakaixx

Yet another win for the best box.

Avatar image for lionheartssj1

I've never tried the EDF games before, but this looks fun.

Avatar image for Mogan

@lionheartssj1: If Dynasty Warriors was any more low rent, it'd be Earth Defense Force. : p

Avatar image for girlusocrazy

Looks like a good palate cleanser

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

Looking at the screenshots, I am reminded of the game Gun Metal. That 2002 game wasn't really far off from Earth Defense Force in terms of gameplay, was it?

Man, if it's not for the Earth Defense Force's peculiar presentation and style - enough to garner this series a loyal following - it would have gone down the sink a long time ago. Heck, Sandlot had been making little else other than games for the series since it hit the jackpot in 2003.

Avatar image for Barighm

@Gelugon_baat: Nah, it's not hard to see why the game has garnered some success. You rarely see games nowadays that allow you to recklessly blow crap up ad infinitum. Just Cause 4 is probably the closest, but even that game has limits (notably traveling everywhere) whereas EDF is like Just Cause if each stage was one great big base, everything was destructible, and there are THOUSANDS of enemies.

Earth Defense Force 5 More Info

  • First Released Dec 11, 2018
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Average Rating3 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Published by:
    3D, Action, Shooter, Third-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.