The hideous, untold secret to EDF is that while it sets up the facade of this dumb fun experience, it’s actually trying really hard not to destroy whatever console it is currently punishing. It’s time to talk about all the jank I mentioned before, and what eventually broke me on the game.
The game’s mediocre graphics are fine. There’s nothing wrong with a game not having the most sparkling visuals of the day so long as the gameplay is solid. But even with such dated graphics, the PS3 just couldn’t keep up. EDF’s core concept is about fighting massive amounts of enemies on screen at once in an enormous destructible environment. But when things got heated and more than a few enemies were on screen at once, or heavens forbid, a large building was destroyed and fell to the earth in a thousand pieces, the frame rate would drop to single digits, or in more than one instance, just freeze until it caught its breath. Not only is it immersion breaking, but it’s also crippling to gameplay. And remember when I said this game was made for co-op? Don’t even think about playing on one console. Split screen co-op wasn’t even a viable option. From the moment we started a mission, the frame rate took a dive and didn’t recover until there were maybe two enemies left. It was a travesty. Online play fared better, but the game had a terrible time keeping up. To rub salt in the wound, the load times between each mission are catastrophic; some of the longest loads I’ve seen in this generation. Sometimes it took a full minute to load a 20 second cutscene, then over another full minute to load into the mission. Even with these loads, the frame rate just couldn’t cut it. I would be a little more forgiving if this was a budget title, but coming in at $50, that’s just unacceptable.
The matchmaking lobby is not great. If someone has made a game, they can start the match at any time. If you join the lobby (which only says x/4 people on) and the match is already in session, you are treated to sitting in the lobby, where the names of the other players merely say “PLAYING.” Then you must wait for an eternity until their mission ends. Servers dropped me during the load times more often than not, and if the host leaves the game at any time, everybody goes back to the main menu, no matter how far through the mission you were.
Technical problems aren’t the only downsides. Here are a few of the basics:
The Fencer, even with his rocket lunges, is just entirely too slow. That’s not me being nitpicky, this is coming from someone who on multiple occasions attempted to trudge towards the action and get my spear on, only to find that when I’d gotten there the entire enemy force was dead. This problem was so pronounced that my entire time with the game I saw perhaps four people playing as a Fencer.
The vehicles control like garbage. There is no other word for it. It reminds me of how the original Resident Evil controlled, except instead of Chris Redfield you’re a colossal tank. This is in sharp contrast to the Wing Diver, who not only flies, but is incredibly easy to control. Sure, it’s cool to have a Mech drop in from the sky and climb into one and hose down ants with dual flamethrowers, but actually controlling the thing will test the limits of your patience.
My biggest gripe with game design is the much touted “over 700 weapons to collect.” Enemies have chances to drop fat green crates which, if picked up, grant you a new weapon to the class you are currently using at the end of the mission. These pickups are random, and also rely on the difficulty you are playing on. You only start with two weapons (four if you are the Fencer), and they aren’t very fun. I ended up unlocking an electric crossbow for the Wing Diver which was totally rad, but only after four missions using a terrible pistol that wasn’t any fun at all. All of the classes are like this, requiring that you play with the stupid, unfun weapons before you unlock anything that lets you have a good time. And since you only gain weapons for the class you are currently playing, you have to use those characters to unlock the new weapons. I would have had a much better time if they’d doled out the weakest version of every weapon from the get-go and then unlocked more powerful versions of each as you played the game.
Despite all of these issues, of which there are many, I kept finding glimmers of enjoyment in my time with Earth Defense Force 2025. Flying atop a skyscraper and raining down laser death on a crowd of spiders, or blasting encroaching robots with an energy cannon was all good and fun, if terribly marred by the framerate issues. The feel is reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors, where you and some friends fight a ludicrous amount of bad guys, only here the angry peasants are replaced by man eating insects.
There is an excellent game hidden away in Earth Defense Force 2025, though its buried far too deep behind technical glitches and repetitive mission designs. If they had more time to work on it, iron out some of the kinks, improve the framerate, get those load times down, add more variety to the level structure, and make the vehicles actually control with any kind of fidelity, this one would have been hard to put down. The highs of EDF are pretty high, and the lows are soul-crushingly low.
The Co-Optimus review of Earth Defense Force 2025 is based on the PS3 version of the game. A review copy was provided by the publisher for evaluation.
The Co-Op Experience: Crush the Ravager menace with friends via two player local co-op, four player online co-op, or combo co-op.
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