Earth Defence Force is one of those franchises that you love to play, but don’t want anyone to know you play them. What started out as a simple title on the PlayStation 2, dubbed ‘Global Defence Force,’ saw players defending the Earth from invading alien insects. Throughout the years the franchise evolved into Earth Defence Force, and as it grew it began to introduce plenty of different enemies like giant robots and new classes like the Wing Divers; slowly transforming the franchise into the kind of cheesy Japanese monster movie that we loved to watch when we were kids.
Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair is an updated version of last year’s Earth Defense Force 2025. The Shadow of New Despair fixes plenty of issues that players had with EDF 2025 but also comes packaged with some new missions, monsters, and vehicles.
For those who have never played and EDF game, its premise is simple. In 2017, giant alien insects called Ravagers invade earth sparking a global war. After defeating the alien invaders in 2018 the human race begins the rebuilding process and establishes the Earth Defence Force; a special military faction created for the sole purpose of defending the earth from alien invaders. After seven peaceful years the Ravagers have returned and it’s up to the EDF to once again save mankind.
Players are instantly thrown into the fray to defend the earth from the initial wave of giant ants.
Each mission takes you to a different location. Mountain hill tops, subway tunnels, and giant city scapes are just some of the locations you visit. Most of the environments are boring and empty to explore, especially when controlling slower moving characters, due to their vast open environments. Thankfully the city missions are the most exciting ones. Civilians run for their lives screaming for aid, and insects crawl around buildings and skyscrapers. You really feel like the city is under attack throughout most of the game. Heavy weapons level buildings all around you, and when the hundred foot robots appear they wreak havoc on the city, instantly reminding you of movies like Pacific Rim and old 70’s and 80’s monster and science fiction flicks. One mission in particular saw me taking control of a giant mech robot, fighting the closest imitation of Godzilla one can create without breaking copyright laws.
Players are able to choose one of four different classes across the seventy plus missions, but some classes suit certain missions better than others. Each class comes packed with its own unique weapons and play styles. The Ranger is your standard grunt. He comes packaged with two standard weapons and mostly travels on foot. The Wing Diver comes packed with a jetpack allowing them to maneuver around the map with ease and carry plasma weapons that drain energy from the jetpack. The Air Raider is able to summon air strikes by throwing down flairs and summon heavy vehicles such as tanks that they can take control of. The Fencer looks like it was ripped out of the Warhammer 40,000 universe with its massive power armor. It is able to carry heavy weapons such as gatling guns and tower shields to deflect attacks. It’s also the only class with melee weapons such as hammers and spears.
Each class earns their own weapons and armor upgrades. Insects drop random weapon and armor crates as they are defeated. The weapons are randomly generated with plenty of variety from sniper rifles, grenades, rocket launchers, so on and so forth. There are over a hundred weapons for each class to unlock, but most are updated versions of older weapons with small tweaks like faster rate of fire, better damage, and larger clips of ammo. The armor crates when picked up are added up after each mission and added to your total armor defence, which acts as your health. If you pick up ten armor crates you will get ten points added to your total armor.
As much fun as I had with EDF 4.1 that fun was constantly replaced with frustration. The Shadow of New Despair quite easily has the most insane difficulty spikes I have ever experienced. One mission sees you destroying insect tunnels without so much as taking a single point of damage, while the next mission sees you take on ten giant robots, about a hundred insects, two transport ships that constantly spawn more insects, and for good measure you are left to do this all on your own. Some missions are so freaking hard that after failing multiple times I was forced to change the difficulty to easy and still ended up having problems. What’s worse is that the game doesn’t feature any sort of checkpoint system during these brutal missions which leaves you starting over each time you fail.
It also doesn’t help that mission objectives aren’t really clear. For example one mission will have you taking on a giant walking battle tank. Your commander will tell you to destroy this walking giant walking battle tank to complete the mission. What he really means is destroy all the other enemies that spawn in the mission. It’s easy to think that the giant walking battle tank is your objective as you are constantly being told to avoid other enemies and focus on the walking battle tank only to find out your weapons do no damage to it.
What makes this EDF truly fun is the co-op mode. Allowing you to play split-screen multiplayer is a blast and you can also take the game online and play online specific missions separate from the main story. The game also features a versus mode which I wasn’t able to try out due to having a pre-release copy with nobody really playing.
Graphically, the game hasn’t been changed much. It still looks like a PS3 game but that allows it to put massive amounts of enemies on screen with crazy explosions without seeing a single dip in framerate. EDF 4.1 also has some great sound design. Guns sound powerful when shot, insects give out a terrifying screech , and giant robots explode to some great effects that would make even the masters of sound at DICE proud.
Earth Defence Force 4.1: A Shadow of New Despair isn’t a game for everybody, but it’s modeled after some of the best monster/sci-fi flicks of the 70s and 80s, and that puts a smile on my face.The seventy plus levels tend to stretch the game a bit too long, while some of the crazy difficulty spikes make Dark Souls look like a cake walk, but overall EDF is a pure guilty pleasure action game: simple, fun, and you get to fight a Godzilla-like monster with a giant robot!