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Friday
Mar212014

Earth Defence Force 2025 Review

"Charm" is a commodity that's hard to measure. Some games have it, most games don't and no game can survive on charm alone, but some games can get by on charm a lot further than others. The Earth Defence Force series has always been one that relies heavily on charm to detract from the glaring performance issues and lack of graphical fidelity and 2025 is no exception. Fortunately, EDF 2025 has charm in spades, and that goes a long way to making you look past its flaws.

The game is set 8 years after its predecessor (EDF 2017) and The 4 classes give you a lot of variety.the dreaded Ravagers (a race of aliens we know little about) have returned, bringing with them countless giant insects and robots to exterminate the human race. The plot doesn't get much deeper than that, nor does it need to. Any attempt at a narrative only serves to set up a new level with new giant things to destroy, so if you're expecting a deep, thought-provoking story... You'll be disappointed.

...If, on the other hand, you come into the game expecting nothing but action and the feeling of a £1 bargain bucket B-Movie that you've never heard of, then I doubt you'll regret throwing your hard-earned money at this. The crux of the game is shooting. Shooting giant ants, shooting giant robots, shooting giant spaceships. Each of the games 4 classes has many, MANY different ways of shooting things, and strategies that can be employed in order to shoot things more effectively. There really is something for every play style. My main method was to go with the default class, the Trooper, and go for as much damage as possible. The Trooper is very bare-bones, only being able to jump and roll, but to make up for it he packs a lot of health and a lot of heavy weaponry. My co-op partner stuck to the Wing Diver, a class that can fly using energy, but reloads its weapons using that same energy, meaning combat with the Wing Diver is a delicate balance of staying maneuverable whilst also juggling your energy so you can reload. The Air Raider is a support class that has low damage, but a very versatile set of equipment. He can heal, protect and buff teammates in a number of ways and he's also the only class that can call in vehicles (though, to be honest, you don't need to call in vehicles). The final class is the Fencer. The Fencer is the heavy class, being able to equip 2 weapons at once but is super slow and unwieldy. There's a lot of variety in how you want to play, but you'll more than likely fall into a role early on and feel a good bond to it.

The game's never short on action!Each class gets their own separate set of weapons, which you get as random drops from killing enemies. The weapons always drop as the same green boxes and you don't get to find out what was in the boxes until you complete the level. The list of things you've picked up at the end of the level is super satisfying, telling you immediately if any of the weapons you've picked up are new, delivering a strong sense of excitement particularly if you've not come across that weapon type before, which is likely, because the game contains an immense amount if weaponry. Each class has several different types of weapon they can unlock, with well over a hundred weapons to unlock overall for each class. The feel and performance of each weapon is unique, and that's good because the whole game hinges on how good the weapons feel. As the Trooper my weapons were relatively standard (Assault Rifles, Rocket Launchers, Shotguns etc.) but the team over at Sandlot know how to take a simple missile launcher and make it into something truly unique and special. Take for example, the Air Tortoise, a class of missile launcher that fires a huge, super powerful missile... Which travels ridiculously slowly to its target. Hilarious the first time you use it but satisfying when you, seemingly impossibly, use it effectively for the first time. Even the most initially ridiculous weapon has its uses, and the game is balanced in such a way that these niche weapons may even make certain situations easier. I must admit though, I did feel a pang of jealousy when my co-op partner would whip out his futuristic lightning shotguns and laser chainsaws, if only for a moment.

One advantage to the Trooper class was that some of its best weapons are explosives, and explosives in EDF games are always super fun, mostly because basically every building you can see in any level is destructible. From the tallest skyscraper, to the smallest bungalow, everything is ripe for the destroying. The damage models have been hugely improved for 2025 over 2017, making tearing down buildings way more satisfying than it ever has been before. They will crumble and fall apart dynamically before finally toppling over in epic fashion. There's nothing quite like shooting aYep, that enemy's as big as it looks. rocket at a giant robot, missing, then seeing the building behind it shatter into a million pieces. The frame rate takes a huge hit when it happens, but it's worth it. There's an example of that "charm" we talked about earlier, the frame rate in the game is all over the place, rarely running at 60 or even 30 FPS due to the sheer amount of carnage on screen, but you don't mind because you're too busy nuking an entire city block whilst also dodging the projectile webs of a spider the size of a bus.

Graphically the game is nothing special. The textures aren't great, there aren't really any lighting effects to speak of and the whole game has barely evolved visually from EDF 2017, but the thing the game does better than any other, is scale. No other game can get away with what an EDF game can get away with. There are times you literally won't know how far away something is from you because it's so impossibly big that your brain can't accept that it's just THAT big but far away. There was one example that stuck out: A huge alien ship was flying above me and I was shooting at it. My gun's range was quite far but my shots weren't reaching the ship. I looked at my radar (which depicts the area a couple of hundred metres around you) and the giant spaceship wasn't anywhere close to me. it was so big that I thought it was right above me and fairly close, but it was so huge that it was actually hundreds of metres away horizontally. Therein lies the charm that lets you see past the graphical shortcomings of the game. Sure it may not be the prettiest, it may not come close to showing off the graphical power of your Xbox or Playstation but it's hard to care or even notice when you're staring at a robot the height of the Empire State Building, firing plasma cannons at you from a kilometer away.

Unfortunately there's ALWAYS a bigger spider...On the surface the game may seem to be nothing more than a quirky distraction, but underneath there's a surprisingly tight, mechanically interesting experience. There are 5 difficulty levels and the games are renowned for their difficulty, but they're not impossible. Your weapons will always do a set amount of damage, and enemies will always have a set amount of health, so with some experimentation you can always find the exact combination of ordinance you'll need. On the harder difficulties this is extremely important, as you'll need to concoct the correct strategy to even stand a chance. An enemy drop ship may take exactly 6 shots from a certain Sniper Rifle, so you can start to figure out what other weapons you have can measure up with that firepower but may be more versatile or appropriate for the other enemies on that stage. The whole thing is a pretty cool balancing act that, in co-op especially, leads to a lot of in-depth discussion and planning with your buddy. That the game is much more complex and deep than it would lead you to believe is just another one of its many charms.

When you play a game like Earth Defence Force 2025, it's hard to think about it critically. In places it's so rough whilst simultaneously being so wonderful that it's almost impossible to look at objectively. I personally have a big love for this series, and have already played the game for 30+ hours so obviously I'm a little bit in love with it, but taking a step back it's easy to see how someone more cynical with less joy in their life might only see a laggy, ugly mess of Japan-ness. I can't do that though, I love it too much. It's not a perfect game by any means, but it's more fun than most and one of the best co-op experiences on the market, so if you've got a buddy you can sit next to on a couch you'll have the time of your lives. The charm of the game makes up for a lot of its rough edges, but not all of them. The frame rate gets a little tiresome after 30 hours, and the Air Raider and Fencer classes are pretty bad, but ultimately the charm wins the day. It always does.

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Earth Defence Force 2025 is out now on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360

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