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Earth Defense Force 2025 review

Earth Defense Force 2025 screenshot 11
Earth Defense Force 2025
“The Sandlot is back with more bug-squashing action, and Earth Defense Force 2025 is the best realization yet of the developer's vision.”
Pros
  • Trashy arcade fun
  • Soldier classes bring along complementary abilities
  • So-bad-it's-good in the best possible way
Cons
  • Vehicle controls continue to be a nightmare
  • Certain soldier class weaknesses difficult to contend with
  • At the most basic level, this is not a polished game (but that's okay, it's EDF)

Asking too many questions is the only way to really lose when you’re playing Earth Defense Force 2025. We’re in an era of games now where there’s an emphasis on making the player sit back and think. About life. About humanity and the nature of free will. About things that, frankly, you might need a degree in quantum mechanics to really understand. There’s something absolutely refreshing, then, in the deft (and daft) way that EDF 2025 punishes you for exploring your thoughts. Ponder too long and things stop making sense, at which point the carefully stacked house of cards comes tumbling down like so many skyscrapers demolished by your misfired rockets.

Asking too many questions is the only way to really lose when you’re playing Earth Defense Force 2025.

The first thing to know about EDF 2025 is that it’s a game about shooting bugs. Giant bugs. From outer space. UFOs too. And giant robots. Take all of the trashy ‘50s sci-fi flicks that Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes fun of, mash them all together into one, lengthy disaster epic, and you’re getting close to the level of destructive absurdity – and narrative incomprehensibility – that this game embraces. This is a game that drops your third-person perspective on a puny human into a completely open sandbox with terrible amounts of firepower in hand that you use to wreak havoc. It’s delightful.

EDF 2025 doesn’t hold your hand in any obvious way. The game itself is marvelously simple, but there’s no dedicated tutorial there to teach you any of the more esoteric concepts. It feels like an import game in that way; there are no literal language barriers, but there is a lot of fumbling through menus and general experimentation. Take connecting to an online game. There’s nothing in the menus that really communicates you’ve got to wait in the lobby for a mission to finish before you can join in on the next one. You just sort of get there. By accident. And then fun happens.

It’s a credit to The Sandlot’s talents as a developer that, despite all of this, the learning curve remains gentle. EDF 2025’s difficulty ramps up very slowly through the early missions, introducing new enemies and concepts gradually. There’s nothing as formalized as pop-up help text or anything like that. This is education-by-osmosis in its purest form. The simple joy of demolishing armies of giant bugs and collecting the pickups that they drop carries you along, from one functional realization to the next.

The success of EDF 2025 lies in its arcade stylings. From the chintzy music and sound effects playing behind the menus to the gratuitously explosive action, every inch of the game feels like a coin-op classic that’s been re-thought for a living room-friendly time investment. The hooks are miles long, just like they were in Xbox 360 launch-era title, EDF 2017. Each of the five difficulty settings carries the promise of more powerful weapon drops. You’re compelled to keep playing simply to see how much of a badass you can become.

The game might lack significant amounts of polish, but that’s part of its charm. The herky-jerky movements of the bugs and the way they occasionally clip through bits of the environment is somehow pleasing. The joy comes, in equal measures, as a product of both the arcade parlor nostalgia the game summons up and the raw thrill of watching your puny human blow up these massive invaders.

In many ways, the experience of playing EDF 2025 is identical to that of playing EDF 2017, though The Sandlot does pull in a few fresh ideas. Some of these, such as the addition of multiple soldier classes, feel inspired by the contents of 2011’s Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon, which was inexplicably handed to Vicious Cycle Software. The Sandlot’s four classes aren’t perfect, but the differences setting them apart resonate more than they did in Vicious Cycle’s effort.

You’re compelled to keep playing simply to see how much of a badass you can become.

The Ranger is the same standard grunt that you’ve always played as, with two weapons to swap between, and average on-foot movement speed. The Air Raider is more of a support class, able to drop health regen units, summon vehicles, and call in airstrikes. The Fencer is a slow-moving armored behemoth that is able to equip four weapons, two per hand. Finally, the Wing Diver – actually introduced in the PS Vita port of EDF 2017 – is an airborne unit that relies heavily on lasers and plasma weapons.

The classes play very well alongside one another, especially in an online co-op multiplayer match with up to three others (yet another improvement over EDF 2017’s local-only play), but they still suffer from the same lack of polish plaguing the rest of the game. Driving a vehicle continues to be a miserable, nightmare-inducing experience. Trying to keep up with squadmates when you’re a Fencer is basically a waste of time. The classes complement each other on a purely functional level, but it feels like little thought was given to having each one’s strengths prop up the other’s weaknesses.

There’s still a feeling of freshness, however. Using the Wing Diver to lure 100+ bugs onto a skyscraper, then leaping off and bringing the whole thing crashing down, is eminently satisfying. Nailing an Air Raider’s artillery strike in just the right spot and then watching a field of scurrying space bugs disintegrate makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. For all of EDF 2025’s warts and hiccups, it’s a game made up of cackle-worthy moments.

Earth Defense Force 2025 screenshot 6
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The set dressing is what completes the package. EDF 2025’s environments are more elaborate and varied than those of its predecessor. Maybe not to the level of a Los Santos or even a Steelport, but the improvements are noticeable. The incidental dialogue is similarly satisfying, with screaming citizens and radio transmissions from HQ both giving a sense of the larger war and teasing what’s to come. You never quite escape the impression you’re playing a game that could easily have existed 5-10 years ago, but once again, a nod to MST3K feels apt. It’s trashiness realized in the best possible way.

If you’ve read this far and you still have questions or concerns about EDF 2025, then it probably isn’t the game for you. Thinking will only work against you. For all of the layered grime evident in the absent polish, this is a fantastic thing to pick up and play around with when you just want to stop thinking and shoot the mother-loving crap out of some space bugs. An EDF game requires fast and reflexive action, and EDF 2025 is the best realization yet of that simple, satisfying vision.

Highs

  • Trashy arcade fun
  • Soldier classes bring along complementary abilities
  • So-bad-it’s-good in the best possible way

Lows

  • Vehicle controls continue to be a nightmare
  • Certain soldier class weaknesses difficult to contend with
  • At the most basic level, this is not a polished game (but that’s okay, it’s EDF)

This game was reviewed on an Xbox 360 using a copy provided by D3Publisher.

Adam Rosenberg
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Previously, Adam worked in the games press as a freelance writer and critic for a range of outlets, including Digital Trends…
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