Destroying stuff is fun. Several games in the past have taken advantage of this fact. Games like Just Cause, Mercenaries, and Red Faction have shown that destroying stuff is so much fun you can make an entire series of games based solely on that one mechanic. All of these games made some sacrifices along the way, but despite their flaws they were still a blast to play. Earth Defense Force 2025 is much the same. If you’re looking for an in depth story, excellent voice acting, realistic sound quality, and state-of-the-art graphics, look elsewhere, you won’t find those here. Earth Defense Force 2025 is a 3rd person shooter about protecting the Earth from aliens, but these aren’t your run of the mill green aliens, these are massive insects the size of buildings, huge robots, and all manner of UFOs.
Why are you blowing up aliens? Do you even need a reason? Just go blow them up! Okay, there is a bit of a story here, but don’t try to read too much into it. The back story is that aliens attacked the earth in 2017, (the setting for the previous game) and many countries joined together to create an Earth Defense Force (EDF). EDF fought the aliens and won, or at least they thought so. Little did they know, the aliens were just waiting for a second chance to destroy humanity using giant mutant insects, UFOs and huge robots. The story is delivered in short cut scenes and voice overs during missions, and can largely be ignored. It exists only to make this already crazy game even crazier.
Earth Defense Force 2025 shares many aspects with games of the PS2 Xbox 360 era. When the game is started, it presents you with 4 save game slots. Once one is chosen, there are three options, Mission Mode, Online Mission Mode, and Versus Mode. Mission Mode is the main campaign, which can be played in co-op with one other player using split screen. Online Mission Mode is online co-op for up to 4 people. Versus mode is a split screen mode where two players fight each other. Once selecting Mission Mode, you are given the option to play single player or with one other player. If you wish to add a player while in 1 player mode, the game forces you to quit to the menu screen, and go through the process of selecting a save game and game mode all over again.
Once you select 1 player mode, the game allows you to adjust your equipment and class before selecting a mission. This is one of the areas where the game really shines. There are four classes of EDF soldiers, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Ranger is the default class and the one suggested for most players on most missions. Rangers are just typical soldiers with an average level of armor and access to most weapons in the game.
The other classes include Wing Divers, Air Raiders, and Fencers. Wing Divers are females that have jet packs which allow them to fly, but very little armor. Air Raiders designate targets for air support and can use vehicles like tanks and helicopters. Fencers are the biggest class with tons of armor. Fencers can hold up to four weapons at a time and move very slowly, but also have a small jetpack that allows them to make huge jumps and boost forward. Fencers can also fire more than one weapon at a time, making them a formidable class, however the controls for Fencers are more difficult to get a hang of.
Certain classes work better for certain missions, and the game hints at which class works best in the mission descriptions. If you pick a class or weapon loadout that does not allow you to win a mission, you’re forced to retreat and replay the mission with the correct setup. This can get annoying, especially if you jump into a game without reading the mission description. Earth Defense Force 2025 does a great job of making the different classes feel different though. The classes that can jump and fly make the world feel much bigger, and really add a sense of verticality to the game that is not present when playing as a Ranger.
Once you select your class, you can change the weapons they use. Weapons are picked up in missions from defeated enemies. Earth Defense Force 2025 includes hundreds of weapons, some of which are exclusive to certain classes. The Class/Equipment screen also allows you to change the colors of your character’s armor and adjust the level of armor your character uses. Adjusting the level of armor helps even out matches where one player has much higher armor, but that is only really useful in versus mode. Changing your character’s colors is useful in online co-op so you can see who is who.
Once your character is set up the way you want them, you can select the mission. Earth Defense Force 2025 has over 100 missions; however these are made up of only 16 actual maps and 6 weather/time of day settings. That said, the maps are truly massive, and the game changes things up by throwing different enemies at you and starting you in different areas of maps. After the mission is selected, the game gives you 5 difficulty settings: Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest, and Inferno. These mostly seem to change how effective your weapons are against enemies. This is not a difficult game on Normal mode, but unlike many other games, the game is still insanely fun on Easy mode because of how strong your weapons are against enemies and buildings. Sometimes it’s just fun to blow up your environment and ignore the enemies.
Once playing, the goal is simple: kill the enemies. There’s no time limit, no score, no alternate goals, and no penalties for killing friendly EDF soldiers or leveling entire blocks of the city. It’s just you versus hundreds of giant insects, robots, and UFOs. You usually start out with a squad of EDF soldiers, who try to help out, and walking near other EDF soldiers causes them to follow you around and shoot at enemies, but they don’t really help that much.
After killing enemies, they sometimes drop packages. There are armor packages, health packages, and weapon packages. For each armor package you pick up, your armor rating for the class you are using goes up by 1. Health packages replenish health and weapon packages unlock weapons for your class. Many weapon packages contain weapons you already have, and you can’t tell what weapon you picked up until the end of the game when it lists all of the pickups acquired, so it’s worth hunting around the map to pick up all of the weapon and armor packages before killing the final enemy.
The graphics in this game are extremely poor. They look slightly better than PSP or PS2 level graphics, with muddy textures, mostly static environments, plenty of texture pop in, and very little detail in environments. The sound design is also poor, with monotonous sound of soldiers’ boots on pavement constantly following you around. The songs in the game are catchy though, and fit the feel of the game well, but it would have been nice to have more songs included. After 20+ hours of hearing the same songs, they can get old. The controls are not very precise either, with controls for the Fencer class being quite difficult to handle. The menus for this game look very outdated looking as well.
Fortunately, none of the things in that previous paragraph matter that much. This is essentially a 2000’s era arcade game on your console, and it’s a ridiculous amount of fun. Something about being thrown into a level with hundreds of angry giant insects and an over-the-top missile launcher than destroys everything is a blast. The environments may look bland and have poor textures, but they are destructible, which adds a lot of fun to this already amazing game. Not all levels are well designed though; the underground levels look especially poor and have almost nothing that can be destroyed. There are also levels in the middle of a huge field or on a beach with little to provide cover and nothing to destroy. Earth Defense Force 2025 is at its best when you are in the middle of a Japanese city blowing up entire city blocks and killing off hordes of insects in the process. The only strategy you need is to back up when being overrun by enemies.
Versus mode is underwhelming. You can pick from 16 different maps and 6 different weather and time of day options, but the game is over after one kill, and the controls don’t lend themselves to aiming at small things like people accurately. It’s much more fun to fight alongside your friends rather than against them.
Online co-op is also a blast, although team killing is on, so be careful where you aim that rocket launcher. The game lets you revive dead teammates, which makes most co-op levels much easier than their single player counterparts. The controls in the online menu are a bit confusing, since you must use the DualShock 3’s analog stick to navigate rather than the directional pad, as the directional pad controls the chat menu. The chat menu includes many options to communicate with team members.
Speaking of controls, there is no tutorial for this game, the only help you get is from loading screens, which show a random tip. Starting out, you’re simply thrown into the world with no instructions other than to protect the earth from giant insects. It would have been nice to see a screen that shows what certain buttons do, especially when playing as a new class which has different abilities.
Another issue this game has is performance on the PS3. Earth Defense Force 2025’s frame rate can drop dramatically during the more intense battles, and sometimes dips so low that the game is more of a slideshow than videogame. There’s really no reason for this to happen, as several other games have had just as much destruction going on at one time, yet manage to run much smoother on the PS3. Turning off the “Screen Vibration” setting helps the game look a little smoother, but not enough to fix the frame rate issue. Turning off “Camera Effects” may help a bit too, but it’s not noticeable. Only one game-breaking glitch came up during my play through, which froze the PS3 when an online co-op partner quit while the game was loading a mission. Speaking of which, loading times are rather long, even within the menu of the game.
Despite the slow frame rate, poor graphics and sound design, and slow loading, this game is still a blast to play. For fans of Mercenaries, Red Faction, Katamari Damacy, and Just Cause games, this game is a must-buy. If you’re looking for a compelling story, excellent sound design, next-gen graphics, or a game that requires a lot of strategy, this is not the game for you, but who can say no to so much mindless fun? The price of this game may be a little high for what it offers, but this is the kind of game you will keep coming back to after sinking 50 hours into, just because it’s so darn fun.