6 years ago my friend Jack and I started on a quest to complete the latest (at the time) Earth Defence Force game on the PlayStation 3. We got about halfway through playing on and off before in 2016 they released an upgraded version with extra missions (now up to 98) for the PlayStation 4. We both dropped the ps3 version and bought EDF 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (as it was named) on day of release and started afresh to fight the seemingly endless battle against the alien hordes attacking our fragile planet. We knew as members of the EDF it was our time to stand up and save the world from the invaders. So four years ago Jack and I restarted our battle and finally at 22.37 on 11th April 2020 we won the fight.
For those unaware, the EDF games have a long heritage and ate a massive thing in Japan. In other parts of the world, they have become somewhat a cult hit for their silly yet addictive gameplay. Each game puts you in the shoes of a member of the Earth Defence Force who are tasked at defending the world from threats. Over the course of the game, players fight everything from giant insects, to spaceships, to giant robots. The game loop could be repetitive to some but no more so than a lot of games. The plot and crazy action really help make the game stand out from pretty much everything else around and help provide an experience you can’t get elsewhere.
The game features four different classes of soldier who each play very differently. You have the ranger who is the infantry basic grunt; the Fencers who are essentially mini mech suits covered in guns; the air raiders who act as support, call in vehicles and drop airstrikes; and the Wing Divers who are kind of flying snipers. Jack and I each, of course, decided we would only use the basic grunt and nothing else. It seemed a good idea at the time and really did make each mission intense and buttock-clenching. The way the levels progress, there is clearly the idea that players test out the other classes as some missions would definitely benefit from a different angle as doing some with just the ranger was brutal.
The action on screen is insane and intense with creatures attacking from all angles and explosions aplenty everywhere. One mission towards the end saw both Jack and I die in less then 30 seconds becomes of incoming lasers and explosions. It would have been frustrating if it hadn’t been so mind-blowingly crazy. More often than not you are facing hundreds of creatures at a time and trying to survive is a bit like horde modes in other games just a lot sillier and harder. It is similar to a lot of games in the structure being that where the game throws more and more of the harder enemies at you towards the end of the game. Mission 96 was a true sticking point for us as the game suddenly went from difficult to impossible. The game also starts throwing what are essentially previously bosses at you all at the same time which proves a real challenge but ri
diculous amounts of fun at the same time. The number of times we would fail, just to give it one more try. A few missions would lead us to wait a couple of days before revisiting and somehow completing them first time out.
The bosses are unbelievable at times and are out a scale beyond that of almost any other game. For those who think Shadow of Colossus has big bosses, this game dwarfs them many times over. You literally fight a death star-like mothership that fills the sky.
Whereas in a lot of games these kinds of fights are relegated to a cutscene or quick tome events. In EDF you fight all of them yourself in third person, slowly chipping away with rifles and rockets. It’s exhilarating and feels like a true achievement when you finally take them down. Most early missions last anywhere from 10- 20 minutes but some of these later battles can take hours. The above mothership quickly took Jack out of the battle and I spent over an hour dodging lasers and taking on the mothership. More often then not it would be me who died in levels only for me to see Jacks character rolling over the horizon towards me to revive me. Unfortunately on the above occasion, I was in no position and he told me to fight on in his name. It felt insane and crazy.
Just when you think the game has gotten crazy enough and that you be seen everything the game throws dragons at you and giant Godzilla sized creatures. Each one has pretty much the same tactic to kill it; shoot it a lot and if it has glowing red bits, aim for them. Shoot anything enough it will eventually die. Sometimes it started to feel a chore as they took so much damage before dying such as the giant Black dragon which can kill you in seconds, but the scenario you are witnessing would generally outweigh this feeling. By the end of the 98 missions, we each had certain enemies we personally hated facing and ones that became our nemesis’. For me, it was giant wasps and the black dragons, for Jack it was long stilt-legged robots.
The technical side of the game is on one hand incredibly impressive and on the other laughably bad. It’s glitchy, with some terrible animation and some really bad frame rate drops. The dialogue is terrible and the story is pretty much non-existent. But all of these things add to how amazing the game is. It’s like playing the ultimate b-movie. The other soldiers often start talking amongst themselves, they start singing the EDF moto (which after playing the game for so long is now engrained into my brain), discussing the people who are waiting for them at home and how the battles have taken their toll. The graphics aren’t the best but do a perfectly fine job and allow for the sheer amount of action to take place on-screen at the same time. The fact that almost every building is destructible means it is a pretty amazing feat what the developers have achieved. If it were a truly polished and shine game if just wouldn’t be the same. The colours and tone add to the almost playfulness of the game.
Considering the time and effort we have put in, the game tells us we are at 5%game completion. This is a massive massive game if you want to do and get everything. The weapon drops in the game are entirely random and can vary from player to player. There are numerous weapons that Jack has that I don’t and vice versa. If you were to do and get everything you would easily be looking at hundreds and hundreds of hours of gameplay. It feels we didn’t even touch the surface.
Each fight was a blast even if we were struggling and it’s definitely up there with the very best co-op experiences that I’ve had in gaming. Even after 4 years, the game is still a lot of fun and one that I don’t think will ever get tiring while playing in co-op. Personally I would put it in my top 3 games ever in terms of fun and the overall experience the game provided. There aren’t many linear games that you can play on and off for so many years and still want to go back for more. Jack and my time with it has been hilarious with numerous memorable moments that we will remember for a long while. While not a perfect game in the usual sense, it is for me a perfect game in what it does and provides an unforgettable experience unlike anything else you can get in gaming. It’s a game I’d urge anyone and everyone to try, especially if you have friends who are up for dedicating time to it also.