"EDF! EDF! EDF!"
No-one can resist the call to arms. Eight long years have passed since the brave lads and lasses of the Earth Defense Force kicked the Ravagers off the planet in a deliciously silly battle royale, but now the ravening aliens are back for another round with some new toys, a massive fleet and more genetically modified killer insects the size of Transit vans. It's time we locked, loaded and deployed back into the fight to make a right royal mess of things.
Like the superlative Earth Defense Force 2017, Sandlot's long-awaited sequel is technically a terrible game. Sporting graphics that wouldn't overly tax a PS2, primitive animations, shuddering frame rates, clumsy controls and B-Movie production values, there's a case to be made that Earth Defense Force 2025 is truly awful, or at best, "so bad, it's good."
Not so, because even the best part of a decade on, it's hard to find a game that does a better job of making you feel like you're in the middle of a massive alien invasion... and your own personal creature feature.
Once again, we find ourselves leading small squads of enthusiastic soldiers against an implacable alien menace. The Ravagers field titanic hordes of oversized insects and mechanical walkers dropped from looming transport saucers, joined by a fresh new contingent of spiders, aerial drones and an emergent threat that literally blocks out the sky. Once battle is joined, you'll scream the old war cry at the top of your lungs, pull the trigger, dodge roll like a madman and only relax your index finger once the last bug bites the dirt.
It's simple, somewhat clumsy, highly repetitive shooting fare, but once again EDF 2025 does a fantastic job of creating a low-budget B-Movie atmosphere that's still exciting and engaging to play. Enormous insects and massive robots, all of which resemble plasticky film props, attack in overwhelming numbers, forcing you to constantly fall back through the expansive cityscapes as buildings crumble around you and teetering battle droids loom over the horizon. The breathtaking scale of each battle puts any number of competing shooters to shame.
The Earth Defense Force series also does a fantastic job of engendering real camaraderie and emotional attachment to our fellow troopers. Many levels feature allied EDF squads who'll join your cause with a quick salute, bantering all the while with some utterly hilarious localised dialogue. They've always got something wonderfully silly to say, whether insane nonsensical conversations ("Are you happy?" "That's a good question!" "Yeeeeeeearrrgh!") , battle cries and even lengthy songs that lift your spirits in the middle of a tough fight. Though tongue-in-cheek and hammy to the extreme, it's hard not to care about your new brothers in arms, despite full friendly fire often making you more dangerous than the Ravager hordes.
However, there's a case to be made that you can have too much of a good thing. EDF 2025's 80+ levels lead to incredibly sluggish pacing, sandwiching its more memorable missions and new enemies between a stodgy bulk of recycled stages that only feature a single species of beastie to kill. Worse still, those who played EDF 2017 will be dismayed to note that a large number of stages have been lifted straight out of the original game, right down to the level design, enemy waves and challenges.
Remember Crimson? Yes, you'll go back to that beach and exterminate a bajillion red ants all over again - even the name is the same! Except now the ants can pick you up and knock you down for several seconds, which is even less fun than it sounds. There are plenty of new enemies to face down, highlights including outrageous dragons and glittering battleships, but you'll have to fight through lots of copy-pasted padding in the interim.
Blue Hectors? Really? After eight years, longtime fans might be a little disappointed seeing so many familiar faces, especially since the first half of the game is effectively a blow-by-blow retread of old ground.
That said, franchise fans will also know that long-term appeal is derived from grinding against the five different difficulty settings, all while unlocking an insane amount of ridiculously overpowered weaponry from randomised drops. Trying out new boomsticks and persistently levelling up your maximum HP is always fiercely compelling, multiplied fourfold now that there are four classes to choose from with completely unique gear and play styles.
The traditional gunslinging ranger is still your go-to third-person shooter class (Storm Team for life!), but the jetpack-equipped Wing Diver is a welcome breath of fresh air. As we discovered in EDF 2017 Portable, this ferocious female fighter uses the vertical levels to full advantage, hopping between rooftops and boosting into engagement range to bring her close-quarters weaponry to bear. She makes it feel like a completely different game - arguably a better one.
Sadly, the other two classes aren't really worth bothering with. Mech-suited Fencers look appropriately menacing, but are too slow to bring their withering firepower to where it's really needed, and struggle to secure anywhere near enough pickups to be viable in the long term. The cooperative-centric Air Raiders are also a lovely idea on paper, but their deployable air strikes, laser designators and vehicle drops are never as efficient or useful as just having another Ranger along for the ride. As ever, vehicles are fragile, cumbersome and completely useless - and Raiders are the only way of actually using them in the first place. Good riddance, frankly.
At least we now have the freedom to mix and match classes in online multiplayer. Gunning alongside friends or like-minded players is utterly fantastic, despite some wild frame rate dips, and is easily the best way to indulge yourself in this guilty pleasure. Just be careful where you aim, because friendly fire is fickle and ruinous. 2-player local splitscreen is also available, though the frame rate plummets into slideshow territory at times.
Which brings us neatly to the caveat we mentioned at the very start of the review: EDF 2025 is terrible. It's hideous, repetitive and unpolished to the extreme, and that absolutely shouldn't worry you one jot if you're got your priorities right. However, it's slightly galling that Namco Bandai have set a £39.99 price tag on what is very much a budget game, especially since EDF 2017 went straight in at the £20-£30 mark all those years ago on the Xbox 360.
If you love the idea and have yet to play an Earth Defense Force title, the sheer number of missions and bombastic fun factor make it more than decent value. But if you're a longtime fan, be sure to curb your expectations and get stuck into the online multiplayer to avoid paying good money for eight year old rope. Thankfully there's no better way to work out any frustrations than shooting enormous robots square in the faceplate!
- Epic battles on an enormous scale, fantastic co-op
- Delightfully hammy dialogue and B-Movie 'kaiju' atmosphere
- Compelling levelling, unlockable weaponry and alternate Wing Diver class
- Impressive raw value
- Overlong and undeniably repetitive campaign...
- ...bulked out with recycled enemies, entire levels and content from EDF 2017
- Technically awful budget performance, polish, controls and visuals (but without a budget price tag?)
The Short Version: As hectic shooters go, Earth Defense Force 2025 does the business and brings the rain. It's an absolute blast, hammy and satisfying beyond words, and offers a huge amount of raw value for money... even much of it is recycled wholesale from EDF 2017. If you're happy to trade technical prowess and competent production values for massive battles and shlocky fun by the bucketload, it's high time you enlisted in Storm Team. Your planet needs you!
If you're on the fence, though, Earth can probably wait until the unapologetically budget experience is matched by a budget deal.