Modern shooters take themselves far too seriously. Sure, they might deal with mature themes like the brutality of war, or discovering the darkness lying in the hearts of all mankind, but they don’t have an ounce of humor at all. They resemble accountants in suits who feel uncomfortable when a client starts smiling. Earth Defense Force 2025, however, is a man who rides in on a unicycle wearing a jetpack and juggling water balloons full of shaving cream. Of course he doesn’t know how to ride the unicycle, so he ends up falling on his face and breaking his nose and all of the balloons burst on his head and cover him in foam. But dang it if he doesn’t hop to his feet and try it again. Oh, he’ll keep falling, but you might have a fun time watching him do it.
Earth Defense Force 2025 is a third person class-based shooter where you defend the planet from giant insects and their robot friends. Team up with three additional allies, gather loot from your fallen enemies, and complete a slew of different missions. One could make the argument that it is a horde mode with character progression, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. While some missions do have minor objectives, it really always comes down to killing everything that wasn’t born on this planet.
Set eight years after Earth Defense Force 2017, the giant bug alien monsters have returned from deep within the earth’s core, where they were busy making more giant bug alien monsters and also evolving. Plowing to the surface, they seek to drain the sweet bodily fluids of all humans and take over the earth. As a member of the Earth Defense Force, you and your allies must repel the alien onslaught and save humanity from being dinner for some intergalactic insects. The story is told mostly through radio transmissions and a few cutscenes, though cutscenes between levels don’t have any narrative aside from showing some terrified civilians being devoured by bugs or the like.
The premise and the voice acting harken back to every low budget sci-fi movie ever, which somehow makes it all the more charming. Everything about it, from the mediocre graphics, to the ragdolling giant bugs, to the terrified cries of the two models of civilian clones running around, screams, “we made a B-movie! All of the jankiness you are experiencing in the actual game is entirely intentional, and if you think otherwise then you are a rube.” That is the only rationale I can think of, because the game is chock to the brim with jank. Let me expand on the exact amount of jank in a bit.
This game was designed for co-op. End of story. There’s a versus mode that isn’t fun at all, and you can run around the truly massive cityscapes by yourself and the help of your AI grunts if you really wanted to, but you’d probably get bored extremely quickly. Given that the levels, even the fastest ones, are exceptionally large, you’d have ants and wasps and robots tearing up downtown while you slogged your way cross country to meet them head on. There are some attacks, such as web tendrils shot by spiders, which grab and drag you towards the bad guys, rapidly sapping your health. If you didn’t have someone to blast that eight-legged beast, you’re probably dead meat. And, even if you are dead meat, buddies can still revive you by giving up half of their current health. If you want to play this game, make sure you have at least one friend who is down to squash the insect menace.
EDF’s strongest suit is the diversity between the four classes. There is definitely no mistaking one for the other, and they work so differently it’s almost like you’re playing four different games with their own bizarre control schemes. There’s the Ranger, who makes you feel like one of those unfortunate grunts from the Starship Troopers movie. The Air Raider is a support class with very few damaging weapons, but he can call in artillery assaults, health drops, and even vehicles and mechs. The Fencer is a walking tank built for taking damage and can also deal out his own destruction. All that firepower is heavy, however, and he’s by far the slowest class in the game. The Wing Diver (my personal favorite) is a lightly-armored girl with a jetpack and energy weapons.
One of my favorite moments from the game involved enemy ships which would carpet bomb the city with ants. When it was releasing the giant bugs, the belly opened to reveal the weak spot in its otherwise impenetrable hull. I flew my Wing Diver up to the top, riding around on the vessel while my allies dealt with their new six-legged friends. The next time it opened to release more insects, I flew up under it and blasted it with electric bombs until the spacecraft began to fall. I lit my jetpack girl atop a skyscraper, and watched as the silvery ship plummeted into the city, destroying an entire neighborhood and a noodle shop.