“Please just wait until I’m done reloading!!”
“Why did you sign up for this assignment?” “There’s no reason.”
“I DROPPED MY MAGAZINE.”
Is any of the above dialogue completely foreign to you? Hoo boy. You were clearly living under some sort of rock formation during the last console cycle. Long story short: there are GIANT INSECTS, and you, one of the trusty if butterfingered members of the Earth Defense Force, must eliminate them. Does this sound stupid? No, yeah, it is. The entire enterprise is gleefully deranged. Completely unhinged, and also one of the most purely joyful gaming experiences you will ever have the privilege of encountering.
EDF 4.1: Shadow of New Despair is more or less an EDF: 2025 redux. And by “redux” I mean it’s pretty much the same game. A few new levels? Sure. Frame rate issues resolved? Oh, most definitely. But let’s be real here - it’s just the new game plus version of 2025, yours for the full retail price of $49.99. Normally this would fill me with dork rage, but dammit EDF? I just can’t be mad at you.
How do I even explain this? How does one adequately describe the pure joy that is EDF? The on-paper description, while completely accurate, does nothing to convey the degree of dumb fun that awaits the player: “After selecting from one of four unique playable classes and customizing their weapons, players will lead NPC troops into city-wide battles against hordes of seemingly endless giant bugs, robots, and other colossal enemies.” By all normal measures, this game shouldn’t work - but it does.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why EDF does stupid gameplay so brilliantly. The graphics, while certainly an upgrade from the last game, are nothing to write home about, and I would definitely classify the weapons and armor as more “upgradable” than genuinely customizable on any meaningful level. The levels, while set in several possible locations and populated by varying combinations of the several enemy types, are more or less the same deal each time: shoot some bugs, move up, shoot more bugs, repeat ad nauseam. And yet. AND YET.
EDF has a number of things going for it that elevate the game into an absurd work of art, first and foremost being the sheer silliness of the premise. Giant bugs/robots/what have you invading the earth, hapless NPCs constantly shouting out non-sequiturs, winged heroes in rollerskates who make adorable yapping sounds as they scale buildings. There’s enough to entertain throughout a solo playthrough, but the heart of the experience lies in sharing it with others. Whether it’s local co-op and versus or four-player online co-op, the game is at it’s best when played with a squad of one’s own. Bringing several player classes together to figure out how best to tackle each mission while simultaneously having others to giggle with is what makes EDF an exceptionally fun and low-pressure multiplayer experience.
The main criticism of this game centers around the fact that it isn’t a whole new game, but rather a game-and-a-half. EDF 2025.5, if you will. 4.1 is essentially a remaster of the last game with improved framerates, upgraded graphics, a healthy number of new or revised missions, and slightly more control over NPC troops. The classes are the same: heavily armored Fencers, vehicle- and weapon-summoning Air Raiders, airborne Wing Divers, and adorably useless Rangers. Each has a few new moves like dodge-rolls and backflips, but on the whole no significant changes have been made to player characters. Additionally, the controls can be a bit sluggish (even for the faster classes) and navigating the cumbersome menus and game options remains a slightly frustrating experience.
There are a staggering number of weapons that each class can collect, with a few nifty new options to choose from. Unfortunately, while there are a plethora of weapons available for each class a large chunk of them are more or less useless, falling into either the “grossly underpowered” or “purely novelty” categories. While weapons can be leveled up, there are still no detailed customization options. Similarly, armor can be improved by leveling alone with the only real “customization” option being changing the color scheme. (Side note: I am deeply puzzled as to why they chose a muted palette for the new default color choices. “Subtle” is the last word I would use to describe EDF, please bring back the brights.)
Don’t get me wrong, the technical improvements that 4.1 has made in graphics, framerate, lighting, and sound make a surprisingly big difference in the quality of gameplay. If these improvements are important to you, then the 4.1 upgrade might be well worth the cost. However, frugal gamers who have already experienced EDF 2025 may want to hold off.
EDF 4.1 is fun as hell, and if you’ve never played, well, wtf are you doing with your life, procure this game immediately. But for those who have already played EDF 2025 I can’t in good conscience implore you to go out and pay full price for what is essentially a shiny new version of the same old game. The technical advancements noticeably improve the flow and serve to enhance the already fantastically fun gameplay; something to consider for those who found 2025’s lag issues to be game-breaking. However, seasoned EDF players who are broke and/or don’t particularly care about the game’s specs may want to wait this one out. But regardless of when you pick it up or which version you play, EDF is an essential gaming experience. Make no mistake, this is a big dumb shoot-fest, a celebration of the absurd that’s both deeply silly and unapologetically mindless in the best possible way.
Nicole T (street name: Barkspawn) lives in California and really hates the giant spider levels because EWW, REVOLTING. You can find her on Twitter @ser_barkspawn , contact her here, and read more of her articles here.
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