There are some gamers out there that have bought and played all the AAA titles released across numerous consoles for decades. Then there are people who’ve bought and played every low-budget (sometimes feeling like no-budget) game released by independent distributors for years… I fall into the latter camp.
Ever since the PS2 era I have sought out the kinds of games that the “mainstream” tend to overlook, games put out here in the UK by the likes of 505 GameStreet, Essential Games (aka D3 Publisher) and Midas Interactive. Many of these games have, and still are, my favourite video games and the Earth Defense Force series counts among them.
Originally released alongside another of my favourite video game franchises, Onechanbara, as part of the Simple 2000 series in Japan, the Earth Defense Force games – aka Global Defense Force, aka The Chikyū Bōeigun – are at heart very simple. You assume the role of a soldier and fight giant insects and robots amongst other enemies in a third-person perspective. Wave, after wave, after wave, of enemies. That’s it.
That simplicity however hasn’t stopped the series becoming a multi-game franchise, with nine titles and counting, released since the very first game debuted in 2003. Now not all the games made it to the West, certainly not the US, and one wasn’t even developed in Japan (Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon) but I’ve still played, and indeed own, each and every game – be it on PS2, PS3, PSP or – today PSVita and PS4… Yes, the franchise has made the leap to current-gen consoles with Earth Defense Force 4.1: Shadow of New Despair on the Playstation 4 and Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space on the PSVita!
Now let’s get this out of the way first. Both of these “new” games are remakes. Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space is a remake of Earth Defense Force 2 Portable – released on the PSP, hence the “portable” in the title – which in turn was a remake of Global Defense Force on the PS2. Whilst Earth Defense Force 4.1: Shadow of New Despair is an expansion/redux of Earth Defense Force 2025, featuring (somewhat) enhanced graphics, new characters/tech and all-new online missions. below are just some of this games features:
- Take on almost 100 levels – solo, couch co-op, or online with up to three friends
- Use tanks, helicopters, jetpacks, bikes, armoured rail guns, and giant robots to take on the invading alien force
- Huge, open levels with fully destructible environments.
- Hundreds of weapons and gadgets from grenades, rifles, and airstrikes, to giant mecha
- Four different classes for unique play experiences. Soar over the battlefield as a Wing Diver, call the shots as an Air Raider, wade into the thick of it as a heavily armoured Fencer, or do it the old-fashioned way as a Ranger (my favourite)
Booting up the game for the first time, what struck me is that, graphically, Earth Defense Force 4.1 is acutally not that much of a move on from the existing PS3 iteration of the game, which itself was – in my opinion – superior to the Xbox 360 version. So… if you’ve only played Earth Defense Force 2025 on Microsoft’s console, you may (or will) see more of a difference in the presentation. There’s still the odd glitch in the renedering of the giant insects and the scenery; and yes, you can still walk “through” dead bugs a lot of the time – but that’s always been part of the franchises charm: it may not be the glossiest and most polished of series’ but Earth Defense Force – in all its incarnations – has always, always been a LOT of fun! And that’s still true here. Blasting wave after wave of huge insects, all storming towards you at speed is exhilarating and undoubtedly some of the most fun you’ll EVER have playing a purely action-based video game.
However, what did take away from my fun was the loading times… Granted, I obtained a digital copy of Earth Defense Force 4.1 for review, so this won’t apply to those buying the physical edition; but those who – like me – are embracing a digital future will have a hell of a wait between the first mission and the next as the game, on install, only downloads the first level of the game – which saves on initial download times (thankfully) and you can get playing straight away obviously; but complete that first mission, Reconvene, and you have to wait for the next missions (plural) to download – and on a crappy 17mb broadband service that takes a while. But in all fairness this is ONLY relevant to those a) buying the game digitally; and b) people who can’t – like us – get superfast/fibre broadband.
However don’t let that small snag deter you from picking up this superb shooter. Run and gun third person shooters are, unlike the last generation, a rear breed on consoles these days, so the return of the Earth Defense Force series is a VERY welcome one. Here’s hoping we get another entry in the series made specifically for this generation sometime soon!
Earth Defense Force 4.1: Shadow of New Despair is released on PS4 on February 12th, courtesy of PQube.