Earth Defense Force 5 is an over the top shooter pitting humans against a massive alien invasion. A love story to old school B-movies and early Japanese action games, Earth Defense Force 5 offers four classes, a wide variety of weapons, and a ton of targets to shoot.
The game’s writers are either the really talented or really awful. It’s 2022 and aliens are invading Earth. Like any good cheesy B-movie, Earth Defense Force 5’s plot is over the top and utterly ridiculous. It’s so bad, it’s funny. There’s no real character development in sight. Characters are caricatures of the standard action movie tropes. The dialogue has a weird, stilted pacing that almost perfectly imitates the old, poorly translated Japanese games from the PlayStation 1 and 2 eras. The whole package is simply so bad that you have to believe all of this was done for parody.
At its core, Earth Defense Force 5 is a pretty simple shooter. Players are thrown into levels filled with massive aliens. Most of the game’s challenge comes from good positioning and avoiding friendly fire, as most enemies are at least one story tall and hard to miss.
The game offers four classes with increasingly difficult playstyles. The Ranger is the easiest of the bunch, handling like a standard soldier from any old third person shooter. The remaining three classes are a bit more memorable. The Wing Diver is equipped with a jetpack and weapons that interact with the amount of jetpack energy. Their squishy, but quick nature make them great for hit and run attacks. The Air Raider is a support class with a few weapons for defense when things get dicey. They’re a bit slow, but they really shine online. The Fencer is the last class, capable of wielding two weapons using their exoskeleton. I disliked the Fencer the most as they are painfully slow in relation to the game’s large map sizes.
The level design is rather straight forward. Large maps give players a lot of freedom of movement, which is especially helpful for Wing Divers. The action is usually rather linear, with enemy spawns slowly prodding the player forward.
The real addicting thing about Earth Defense Force 5 is the item system. The game offers a ton of weapons and equipment that behave differently enough to warrant trying them out. A large number of items drop every mission, giving the game an almost MMORPG feel. The only catch with the item system is players need to pick up each item individually. Considering the large size of the maps and the constant need to move to survive, cleaning up all the items at the end of engagements feels more like a chore. Things only get worse when players are stuck with the slower Air Raider or Fencer classes.
The controls are decent. The infantry controls are excellent, even with difficult to handle classes like the Wing Diver. Vehicles are a little more cumbersome. A controller is highly recommended for fast moving vehicles like the bike.
The UX is decent. The in-game UI is excellent. While it’s not subtle, it is clear and easy to read. On the other hand, the menu is bloated. Anything relating to the item system is the worst culprit. The equipment menu has a very small window for the available equipment crammed into the top right corner of the screen, forcing players to scroll around a good bit. The recap at the end of the mission isn’t as bad, but it could compress all the stats for the new equipment into one screen instead of hurling them one after another.
The port quality is passable, but it’s not great. Being a third person shooter, the game translates well to keyboard and mouse controls. Key configuration is a bit messy. It works fine if the user sticks with or makes minor changes to the key binds. Completely changing the bindings allows keys to only be bound to infantry or vehicle key binds. The graphic configuration options are extremely sparse, only offering options for resolution, windowed mode, anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, and shadow rendering. To the annoyance of some, Earth Defense Force 5 is also locked to 60 FPS.
Earth Defense Force 5 is not the prettiest game in the world. The character design is very Japanese, with over the top mechs and a little splash of fan service thrown in. The visuals seem intentionally bad. The models and animations feel like they were torn out of a PlayStation 2 title and upgraded with the latest high-resolution textures. The levels look a little bland as the areas tend to look uniform.
The audio experience is grating. Much like the story and the visuals, the voice acting is straight out of a B movie or a poorly localized video game. While it’s hilarious for the first 30 minutes, it soon becomes obvious how aggressive the audio engine is. The same lines and screams get played repeatedly with almost no pause in between. NPC lines get shouted on top of each other and can get a bit difficult to hear. It makes for a grating experience after a while, and I think the game would have benefited from a slightly more subtle touch. The sound effects are passable. The music is decent, reminding me a lot of JRPG soundtracks.
While Earth Defense Force 5 isn’t a perfect PC port, itis a solid shooter that is perfect for the nostalgic gamer who grew up in the glory days of the PlayStation 2. It’s a near perfect recreation of those old shooters from Japan that were terribly localised, warts and all. Beyond it’s tacky, B-movie exterior, Earth Defense Force 5 is still a fun shooter with enough of a loot treadmill to keep things interesting.
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