Not every game has to be about thinking, you know, no matter how bad we’d like games to be considered art. No, sometimes what we need is a video game that completely disregards the idea that video games are anything but loud, stupid fun. Sunset Overdrive is a great example of that, as was the DOOM reboot, and now we’ve got a Steam release of Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair to continue the blowing-stuff-up legacy.
Earth Defense Force’s premise should be immediately familiar if you’ve ever seen any of the classic science fiction B-movies of the 50s and 60s (or were lucky enough to play last year’s PS4 version). You take control of a soldier in the titular military group tasked with defending the planet against alien incursion. Most of said incursion takes the form of giant insects, while most of said defense involves blowing the giant insects the hell up with the heaviest available ordinance. Later, more impressive alien forces show up like giant mecha and Godzilla clones, so you’ll need even bigger guns to deal with those.
I’m serious about the size of those guns, by the way. Earth Defense Force’s calling card is the degree of destruction you’re able to dole out, and The Shadow of New Despair is no exception to the rule. You can choose one of four character classes – the Ranger, Wing Diver, Air Raider and Fencer – and each has access to a wide variety of heavy ordinance designed to leave the surrounding zip code a giant smoldering crater. There are few things more delightful than unleashing hundreds of rockets from a giant missile launcher onto a group of giant insects, sending them flying miles into the air and tearing down an entire city block’s worth of skyscrapers.
That’s actually the majority of what you’ll be doing in the game; EDF isn’t really about cerebral exercises, so instead you’ll go in, blow up everything until you’re told to stop, pick up whatever loot the enemies drop and repeat until you’re done. There’s no shortage of this sort of content available, at least, with dozens of missions offered for your destructive needs as well as multiple difficulty settings. You can also get friends together for online multiplayer via Steam, which generally works pretty well. 4.1, as an expansion of the original Earth Defense Force 2025, largely just adds more of this; more missions, more aliens to fight and, perhaps most importantly, more weapons with which to do it. Air Raiders even get access to a skyscraper-sized mech that makes tearing up entire cities a snap.
Aside from the enormous explosions that define the game, EDF’s presentation isn’t going to wow anyone. That makes sense given the game’s low-budget inspiration so it’s unlikely anyone’s going to be too bothered by it. There’s also hilariously bad voice acting that accompanies most of the game, further tying it to the B-movies it’s aping; “what sharp pincers!” cries a soldier as they’re carried off by a giant ant. Don’t take it too seriously and you’ll be fine. I didn’t notice any performance issues with this Steam release, though the game does have trouble dealing with high-DPI text settings in Windows, so you might want to adjust those settings if they’re not at 100% before you play.
It’s a simple game with simple aspirations, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair. Instead, it just makes for a straightforward bombastic shooter that’s great to play with friends. If you can get a few people together with the right sense of humor, you’re going to have an awesome time showing the giant insects who’s boss.