Earth Defense Force 2025 released for the Xbox 360 and was a fan favorite title, but serious frame rate issues kept the bug-killing frenzy is a third person shooter from reaching its peak potential. Now, with new hardware comes new capabilities, D3 Publisher and XSEED’s new PS4-exclusive release of Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair brings us EDF 2025 with new content, 1080p resolution, and 60 frames per second glory. The war for Earth rages on, and wow, is it a blast.
Like the other EDF title released simultaneously, Earth Defense Force 2: It Came From Planet Space, this title is all about blowing up hordes of enemies with an ever-increasing arsenal of weaponry. EDF 4.1 however, ratchets up the gameplay by offering an additional playable class. The Ranger, Pale Wing, and Air Raider reprise their roles as ground assault, air assault and vehicle support respectively, but the Fencer adds a lumbering, heavily-armed mech into the mix. With combat maneuvers attached to all four triggers, the Fencer is a powerful ally in the fight against the oncoming bug/alien menace. Correctly assemble a force of these four classes, and there’s no stopping you.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Earth Defense Force is a third person shooter that plays feels like part Diablo, part low-budget Mass Effect (and only in the combat sense; there’s no story or character development of note). In each of the game’s almost 100 missions, you’ll battle against oversized bugs, robots, alien spaceships, and more with your ever-growing roster of weaponry. Each mission will drop multiple items including increased health and new guns to bring future missions. Like Diablo, there are multiple difficulties for each mission, and the higher the difficulty you tackle, the sweeter the loot. Normal mode is pretty approachable from the onset, but it’s critical to have strong weapons and plenty of armor to take on threats in later levels. It’s also helpful to bring some friends along for the ride, and multiplayer is where EDF 4.1 really shines.
The EDF franchise maintains its cult classic status because even though it plays like a B-movie, the cooperative multiplayer is ridiculously fun. Up to four players can take on each of the game’s missions together using the PlayStation Network, or two people can go split-screen for some couch-co-op. This is where the diversity of classes really shines: Air Raiders can drop support to heal allies while the Pale Wings handle enemies up high, and Fencers and Rangers mow down land-based opposition.
Sure, you can experience this in single player as well: there are plenty of NPCs to assist you when you need it. But The Shadow of New Despair is made for multiplayer, including a huge, diverse set of emotes and quick access chat commands so you can communicate with people you don’t have a party with. There are even multiple verses of “The EDF Deploys,” a funny tune set to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It’s a game that revels in its own campiness, and if you’re looking for something that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still offers quite a challenge, EDF 4.1 is up your alley.
The missteps that The Shadow of New Despair takes are minor, though they can be frustrating at times. Online multiplayer is definitely the optimal way to play, but there’s no way to join a mission once it’s already in progress, nor can you see if the mission has begun without actually entering the lobby. This requires jumping in and out of multiple lobbies until you finally find a game you can join. Also, though there’s a large list of canned comments to use, I’d like to see a way to make some of those comments my favorites, giving quick access to them without going through large sets of menus repetitively. When it comes to the gameplay itself though, I found that I just had a really good time playing it, and I encountered few glitches, bugs, or drops in frame rate that interfered with the war.
It may be a cult classic right now, but with the tight gameplay, fluid multiplayer, and replay value that Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair offers, it may not stay that way. If you don’t have problems with giant bugs and spiders, pick up a controller and deploy with the EDF in this great example of a remaster done right.