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Review

Review: Earth Defense Force 5

With each new release, the Earth Defen­se Force series has slow­ly moved away from its origins as a bud­get series. Sure, they’ll never have the pro­duc­tion values of AAA tit­les, but the con­stant refi­ne­ments and qua­li­ty of life chan­ges have made the latest ent­ries in the series some of the most enjoy­a­ble third-per­son you can play nowa­days. Earth Defen­se Force 5 brings in more impro­ve­ments to game­play and a mas­si­ve amount of con­tent, lea­ding to the best ent­ry in the series yet.

All EDF games fol­low the same stan­dard sto­ry­line, whe­re ali­ens inva­de the Earth and our aptly named heroes, the Earth Defen­se Force, must stop them. EDF5 fol­lows this tra­di­ti­on, star­ting with yet ano­t­her inva­si­on by ali­ens, though the Earth of this sto­ry is not the same as any of the pre­vious games. The same brand of goofy sto­ry­tel­ling and chee­sy dia­lo­gue is pre­sent here, offe­ring up an enjoy­a­ble B-movie set­ting for you to start blas­ting ali­ens in. The­re are a lot of memo­r­able lines and cha­rac­ters, main­ly due to how over­ly dra­ma­tic most of the nameless cast is, and it has a lot more charm than that more recent­ly deve­lo­ped EDF: Iron Rain. If the­re was one main issue with the dia­lo­gue, it’s that cha­rac­ters will often repeat what each other has said with only minor varia­ti­ons, though in some ways this only adds to the type of atmo­s­phe­re the wri­ters were going for.

EDF5 fol­lows a tra­di­ti­on mis­si­on-based struc­tu­re, whe­re you kit out your cha­rac­ter befo­re selec­ting a mis­si­on and dif­fi­cul­ty levels. You have a choice of 4 fami­li­ar clas­ses, though they have all seen some chan­ges from the last few EDF games. The Ran­ger is the most gene­ric of the bunch, spor­ting a new sprint to get across the battle­field and a hand­ful of vehi­cles. This class is the easiest to play over­all sin­ce the­re aren’t any spe­cial mecha­nics to it, but the impro­ved shot­guns are gre­at to use and vehi­cles help to increa­se your mobi­li­ty. Air Rai­der can call in airstrikes and the most power­ful vehi­cles in the game, making it a fun class if you want to cau­se some may­hem. Tar­ge­ting air strikes has also been made much more user fri­end­ly, zoo­m­ing the came­ra out so you can actual­ly see whe­re it’ll strike. Wing Diver can fly and has access to many uni­que ener­gy wea­pons, many of which can rel­oad them­sel­ves while not equip­ped. Stran­ge­ly enough, even with their abi­li­ty to fly the wing divers lose in mobi­li­ty to Fen­cers. While loo­king like a slow class to begin with due to their hea­vy armour, the Fen­cer can boost around the map with cer­tain wea­pon types. This makes them not only power­ful when it comes to offence and defence, but also incredi­b­ly mobi­le in the right hands.

While the mis­si­ons them­sel­ves most­ly have the same objec­tives (kill ali­ens), the dif­fe­rent ene­my types keep the action from beco­m­ing sta­le. Most wea­pons are satis­fy­ing to use as well, espe­ci­al­ly the har­der hit­ting explo­si­ves and Fencer’s uni­que melee opti­ons. No mat­ter what class you choo­se, mowing down lar­ge waves of enemies while the NPCs are shou­ting goofy one-liners is a ton of fun, even more so in EDF5 thanks to the impro­ved visu­als. Pie­ces of bugs go fly after a strong hit, and the new flog-like ali­ens have lim­bs blown off in a show­er of vibrant pur­ple blood. This real­ly gives even the wea­ker wea­pons more of an impact, sin­ce it’s easier to tell that you’re doing dama­ge com­pa­red to the less flas­hy effec­ts from the rest of the series (and even the afo­re­men­tio­ned Iron Rain).

As you com­ple­te mis­si­ons, more wea­pons and upgrades are unlo­cked. An unfor­tu­n­a­te car­ry-over from pre­vious games is the need to pick up wea­pon and armour boxes that enemies drop. It’s still tedious, and EDF5 would be bet­ter off if they were just auto­ma­ti­cal­ly collec­ted. At least it’s now pos­si­ble to gain wea­pons and armour for clas­ses you’re not using, albeit at a redu­ced rate. Wea­pon drops are now more fre­quent, with the tra­de-off being that you need to pick up mul­ti­ples of the same wea­pon to level up their stats. It does lead to a bet­ter sen­se of pro­gres­si­on, sin­ce you’ll near­ly always be get­ting new wea­pons even if they still need to be upgraded. A new equip­ment slot for each class increa­ses cus­to­mi­sa­ti­on fur­ther, by offe­ring spe­cial enhan­ce­ments to dif­fe­rent func­tions of the class. Air Rai­ders now have their vehi­cles tied to this new slot, mea­ning that they’re now able to car­ry two wea­pons wit­hout having to give up vehi­cles. Mean­while, Fen­cers can gain access to even more boosts and jumps, giving them even more mobi­li­ty and in turn the hig­hest skill cei­ling in the game.

Once con­stant for all of the con­so­le ver­si­ons of EDF is their often-abysmal per­for­mance, and the PS4 ver­si­on of EDF5 is no dif­fe­rent. When lar­ger swarms of enemies are kil­led, buil­dings des­troy­ed or even just a few explo­si­ons hap­pen at the same time, the frame­ra­te takes a big hit. It’s never feels qui­te as bad as the ear­lier EDF games, but going through a mis­si­on wit­hout per­for­mance issu­es is a rari­ty. The PC ver­si­on is the rever­se of this, offe­ring a con­stant 60 fps most of the time with only the occa­sio­nal dip out­si­de of the cra­zi­est mis­si­ons. The opti­ons menu is very bare though, only offe­ring a small amount of insi­gni­fi­cant gra­phics set­tings with litt­le way to impro­ve per­for­mance for lower end sys­tems. Aiming with cer­tain vehi­cles and wea­pons while using a mou­se is also cum­ber­so­me, due to them being desi­gned with a con­trol­ler in mind.

Conclusion

If you have even the sligh­test inte­rest in the series, Earth Defen­se Force 5 is an easy recom­men­da­ti­on. The qua­li­ty of life chan­ges remo­ve some of the annoyan­ces from pre­vious ent­ries, and each class offers its own uni­que way to play. The­re are still a few minor pro­blems, like having to manu­al­ly pick up wea­pon and armour boxes manu­al­ly, but the over­all game­play is by far the stron­gest it has ever been.

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