On the face of it, there are a lot of similarities between Earth Defense Force 2025 and our own English Defence League. It’s violent, stuck in the past, filled with idiotic characters and repeatedly yells incoherent nonsense at you. Yet here the comparisons end, as EDF takes a leaf - or, more truthfully, several handfuls of pages - out of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and takes aim at Giant Insects which are plotting to take over the world. Yes, Giant Insects. You’ll hear that a lot in EDF, as it seems a spectacular lack of creativity in the naming department appears to have escalated it to a proper noun, even if some of the Insects are in fact arachnids, or other things containing more than six legs. But let’s gloss over that.
“We thought we were getting rid of them...but they were increasing.”
These Giant Insects have lain dormant beneath the Earth’s surface for some time - seven years, in fact. You know it’s been seven years because every character in the first five chapters will tell you so. Every. Ten. Seconds. Given that the previous title in this series is entitled Earth Defense Force 2017, you also have to wonder at the mathematical ability of our heroes. Then again, who needs simple subtraction when you can smash a Giant Insect in the Mandibles with a Laser Cannon? HOOAH!
Taking on the role of Ranger, Fencer, Wing Diver or Air Raider, your goal is to fight your way through eighty-five levels of bug-blatting mayhem, destroying anything bigger than you are, and ignoring any semblance of plot or exposition hurled at you over your radio. Rangers and Fencers are infantry classes, with Rangers being general all-round grunts and Fencers in a slower tank role, having the option of dual-wielding or using a shield. The other two classes are airborne: Wing Divers get into the thick of combat but are a lot weaker, whilst Air Raiders are more remote fighters, calling down missile attacks and vehicles, as well as healing units for your comrades.
“Earth will become a Giant Insect planet! Go home, bugs!”
Ammunition is unlimited, and your loadout consists of two weapons picked from an arsenal accumulated during missions. These start out as low-level machine guns, electro-guns and similar, but you’ll soon be unleashing hell via plasma cannons and missile launchers. Collectibles other than weaponry are restricted to health packs, bigger health packs, and armour. The armour increase isn’t provided immediately, but rather tacked onto your current stat at the end of the mission, ready for the next battle. The number of weapons available is impressive, giving you ample ways to eviscerate Giant Insects; the majority start out at level zero, and gradually improve in power as you progress. You can revisit any of the levels you’ve completed previously and use your stash to make short work of easier areas - or you can bump up the difficulty level and increase the chances of more valuable drops appearing. There’s no penalty for doing so - each level asks you to choose a difficulty, but you’re not tied into that for subsequent playthroughs. It’s a neat touch which adds to the replay value as you improve in both power and skill.
For the majority of its significant playing time, EDF is so Nineties it hurts. From the Advance Wars / Starfox mash-up in the music department through to the graphics that would look at right at home on a PS2, you’ll be cringing as you plough through the missions. Bland environment follows bland environment, whether that’s within an identikit city or a brown-smeared cavern. The city buildings are all destroyable, but it’s completely superficial - the rubble simply vanishes to the same mystery location as the corpses of the foes you slay. The sheer size of some of the enemies may cause an eyebrow to be raised in admiration, until you get up close and the entire game slows to a crawl. Whilst it’s happy to fill the screen with Giant Insects, flying drones, bipedal mecha-monsters sporting huge laser cannons and gargantuan walking fortresses, EDF simply cannot cope with the task of animating them all fluidly. Framerate drops render the game almost unplayable at times, particularly after you’ve been blasted in an explosion and had your character hurled across the screen which happens more frequently than you might expect.
“It’s time to hunt. Where’s our prey?”
Bugs abound as well, and not of the Giant Insect kind. You’ll find yourself getting stuck in bridges and walls, or maybe teleported through the floor completely whilst watching Giant Insects crawl all over you. Huge spiders will fire threads to drag you up to their webs, but if there are buildings in the way then you’ll be stuck, unable to kill the creature slowly sapping your life without first reducing everything around you to dust and trying not to kill yourself with the backlash from your laser cannon. Friendly AI will often try and shoot enemies through walls too, particularly in the underground levels, and cutscene transitions are almost laughable in their juddery execution.
Despite its many flaws though, there’s something weirdly compelling about exploding swarms of Giant Insects in a spray of blood and chitinous shell. There’s not actually much involved in the combat other than aiming the crosshair at the relevant enemy and holding the trigger. With some homing weapons such as the MRLA, you just aim in the general direction of some bugs, wait for the lock-on, and let go of the trigger - ten missiles fly off and do the hard work for you whilst you stay back feeling smug. Area-effect weapons are equally fun, especially as you can fire massive plasma balls into huge mounds of ants and watch their limbs go flying (at the cost of significant slowdown). It’s hard to get too angry at a game that keeps its tongue so firmly in its cheek, especially when you’re picking up weapons such as an “air tortoise”.
“Wing Divers! Exterminate the Giant Insects!”
Essentially, each level is identical: look at minimap, head to red dots, destroy all red dots, repeat until the “Mission Completed” title flashes up. As for the plot, forget it. A scientist provides you with his Giant Insect-related musings around the size and shape of the Insects you’re fighting - useful for those moments during play when you lose the ability to use your eyes - but otherwise you’re better off turning down the sound in order to avoid the horrific, unending screams of the NPCs fleeing each area, stuck on perma-loop alongside the ten different snippets of conversation your team-mates will have amongst themselves. Fun fact: every quote in this review is actual dialogue from the game.
Multiplayer options are generous, with local split-screen co-op as well as online four-player co-op. Each online mission must be completed before the next one unlocks, even if you’ve completed it in single-player mode. This seems to be an odd decision as it essentially forces you to play through the entire game again in order to have access to the more fun levels online. Net play is fairly enjoyable, allowing you to nail a specific level on the hardest difficulty with some human assistance and having the option of being revived by your comrades, should you be overcome by Giant Insects. It’s certainly better than offline play, but only the most ardent diehards will find it worth sticking around for.
“Getting rid of this many bugs is going to make my wife proud.”
EDF has a fiercely loyal following, and fans are likely to be happy embracing this latest title, bugs and all. For everyone else though, EDF 2025 is the gaming equivalent of Sharktopus: a bargain basement, low-budget cheesefest of the highest order, mildly amusing for a short time, filled with awful lines, and completely forgettable.