Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space is a third-person action shooter available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita with compatibility for PlayStation TV. Earth Defense Force originated from Japan in 2003 on a budget range called Simple 2000 Vol. 31 which released on a CD for PS2 and was later distributed in the PAL region under the name Monster Attack in 2004, a sequel titled Global Defense Force was released in July 2005 in Japan, finally making it to Europe almost two years later in June 2007. Amongst all of the other successful home console releases there was even a PSP release of Global Defense Force in April 2011, although the PSP version was only ever released in Japan followed by a further foray into portable releases as Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable released for Vita in Japan in September 2012 and in Europe and the US in January 2013; before an updated Vita version of Global Defense Force released in Japan in December 2014, the US in December 2015 and Europe in February 2016. Given all of the quality games released in the Earth Defense Force series; can Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space produce the best handheld experience within the Earth Defense Force series?
The story revolves around the establishment of the Earth Defense Force following extraterrestrial signals originating from outer space which despite hopes of peace; prove to be hostile. The Invaders lead the threat from June 2017 having planted nests of giant insects underground to create entire colonies of aggressive creatures to burrow up from the surface as the Invaders also attacked with devastating weaponry. Barely one year after EDF defeated the Invaders; they return to battle what remains of the human race in 2019, although a year is all that was needed for the Earth Defense Force to be as organised and prepared as possible for any potential returning threat with both sides having improved their offences in an attempt to win the battle.
Earth Defense Force 2 is effectively an enhanced version of Global Defense Force on PS2 and Earth Defense Force 2 Portable on PSP which have both never previously released outside of Japan, but with some technical improvements and additional content sprinkled throughout the game. The single player campaign includes 78 missions with every mission having a specific purpose as huge insects and a variety of enemies are invading a particular area which is detailed before selecting a mission and at the very beginning of the mission. There are three sets of medals with five medals per set including one medal for each difficulty level the mission has been completed on and the three sets of medals representing completing the mission with each character class.
Your chosen character starts out with only one weapon in two separate categories with the rest of the weaponry and improved weaponry levels being unlocked through collecting weapons crates which are produced by defeated enemies during missions. There are over 400 weapons to utilise in your fight against the giant insects and Invaders with a range of weapon categories including assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, missile launchers, grenades and special weapons such as impulse directional mines and even a bound gun which produces ricocheting bullets that can come in handy within dense environments albeit the bullets have the capability of ricocheting back into your character. Every weapon has their own unique attributes including capacity, ROF, damage, reload time, range, accuracy rating, zoom rating, homing rating and more besides as well as a specific category, a level reflecting the quality of the weapon and a full description of the history of the weapon such as when the latest model was developed and how it has improved over the previous version.
There are three character classes to choose from including the Infantry class which is the same as the Ranger class in Earth Defense Force 4.1 which is an infantry special forces unit that are experts in ground combat and are skilled with such weapons as assault rifles and rocket launchers, while the Pale Wing class is the same as the Wing Diver class as they are a female special forces unit equipped with jetpacks and armed with Invader weaponry, alongside the Air Raider class which is capable of calling in aerial attacks, infantry vehicle support and manning a range of vehicles including air bikes and tanks as well as unlockable vehicles such as helicopters. Characters have customisable colour schemes with 12 colours to choose from, armour that can be upgraded in strength by collecting armour crates during missions and a weapons loadout, while the ally characters reflect the potential customisation of your character in regards to their uniforms, armour and weapon loadouts.
Enemy design comprises of a large variety of giant insects which are also referred to as the Buggernauts that have their own unique attacks such as ants spitting acid, spiders spinning webs as traps to catch their prey and firing webbing to drag their prey directly to them and many more besides as well as mechanical enemies engineered by the Invaders such as flying drones which fire on sight, carrier ships which open up to unleash hundreds of giant insects, hectors that are huge robots reminiscent of those seen in Pacific Rim and even motherships. Enemies do look as scary as they are meant to be, especially when they flank you and get very close without you realising until you find yourself standing directly underneath a massive spider or ant as more giant insects swarm in from all directions.
Environment design is technically open-world as it is rather vast outside of the battle which you are contained within as environments contain large cityscapes, tall skyscrapers, streets, parks and more besides, while the environments are destructible to an impressive scale such as posts, fences, billboards, trees, cars and even buildings, structures and bridges are destructible given enough bullets or rockets are fired upon them.
There are multiple downloadable content packs available comprising of weapon packs such as a Sting Shot which is a shotgun designed to penetrate thickly layered enemies for the Infantry character class, Floating Mines for the Air Raider character class, a Spark Lancer which pierces through enemies with lightning bolts for the Pale Wing character class, Monster-Zero is an experimental yet powerful laser sniper rifle for the Pale Wing character class and more besides for £1.69 per weapon pack, while there are also two decoy packs which are weapons that fire decoy balloons to distract enemies with their respective appearances themed on Anju for the Air Raider character class and Chiri for the Infantry character class from D3 Publisher’s game Dream C Club for £1.69 per decoy pack.
The controls are well mapped to the Vita including two separate control schemes with the technical control scheme consisting of pressing R to fire; pressing L to jump or holding L to fly when using the Pale Wing character class; pressing triangle to zoom in or out with a scoped weapon or activate certain weapons; pressing O to switch weapons; pressing square to reload; pressing select to enter or exit a vehicle or rescue a team member; pressing up or right on the d-pad to open the communication choices and pressing up, down, left or right to navigate through them and select one at any given moment during multiplayer; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to the left or right and pressing L to perform an evasive roll; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to adjust your aim; and pressing start to display the pause menu. Touch screen and rear touch pad implementation can be customised to manoeuvre the camera freely, positioning the crosshairs for precision aiming or zooming in and out with a scoped weapon and activating weapons. The control scheme is partly customisable beyond the touch screen and rear touch pad as there is also an alternative referred to as the normal control scheme which makes a variety of changes such as firing moving from R to square, while L and R become strafing to the left and right respectively and more besides, although unlike the customisable control scheme in Earth Defense Force 4.1; you cannot re-map the controls button by button.
Graphically, Earth Defense Force 2 has certainly retained the quality of the portable console releases in the series as the graphics have some nice touches such as great smoke and deformation from the destructible environments, exceptional animations on characters, enemies and vehicles and more besides. The performance is also impressive running in Vita native resolution at a steady frame-rate with exceptional physics that see animations of cars and enemies fly into the air at a variety of angles and even much faster loading times in comparison to some of the home console releases, despite the battles having a much larger scale to them, although there are a couple of areas which require improvement such as occurrences of pop-in on far distant buildings and objects and the missions set at night time are sometimes too dark to a point that giant insects could be fairly hard to see until they are quite close.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, game mode menus, class and weaponry menus, multiplayer menus, settings menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick, touch screen and rear touch pad. The title screen showcases all three character classes as they prepare to attack the incoming enemies with the stylised title logo looking as though it is straight out of a classic sci-fi film is situated in the top left of the screen, while the background of the menu screens consists of a map of the world with a variety of icons representing each facet of the game.
There are many voice-overs including scared civilians screaming for help as they run for their lives, the allies on your team, a sergeant providing mission objectives and news reporters reporting on the insect invasion on a global scale which certainly adds to the atmosphere, while the sound effects include weaponry being fired at the giant insects, ricocheting of bullets off nearby objects and surfaces, vehicles being driven or piloted, the screams and howls of the insects and the destruction of the nearby surroundings as they are caught in the crossfire, alongside climactic and battle driven music during gameplay and space age music during menus.
The trophy list includes 63 trophies with 58 bronze trophies, 3 silver trophies, 1 gold trophy and 1 platinum trophy. There are some easier trophies that consist of destroying a certain amount of a specific enemy type, destroying enemies with particular vehicle types and collecting 15 weapon crates and 30 armour crates. However, trophy list is certainly one of the hardest challenges when it comes to attempting to earn a platinum trophy as you have to complete the three character classes of Infantryman, Pale Wing and Air Raider on easy, normal, hard, hardest and inferno difficulty levels, therefore requiring a total of up to 15 playthroughs for the entire game which massively inflates the duration on the journey towards earning the platinum. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take over 100 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are five difficulty levels including easy, normal, hard, hardest and inferno with the major differences being that each step up increases the challenge such as the easy difficulty having enemies which will fall with minimum effort required, while normal difficulty will see enemies putting up more of a fight with the enemies becoming noticeably more aggressive and direct in their attacking with each step up in difficulty such as ants picking up a member of EDF and smashing him into the ground repeatedly or spitting more acid at members of the EDF team. There are incentives for choosing higher difficulty levels such as earning better weaponry, although it really is advised that your chosen character class should have improved weaponry and armour by playing in the easy or normal difficulty level in an attempt to be prepared to cope with the increased aggressiveness of enemies throughout the hard, harder and inferno difficulty levels. However, even the inferno difficulty level pales into insignificance in comparison to the carnage of the impossible difficulty level which is unlocked by collecting every medal for completing every mission on each of the five difficulty levels by utilising all three character classes.
There is ad-hoc for players within a close proximity and online multiplayer comprising of a Rumble Mode which is effectively an online adaptation of Earth Defense Force 4.1’s split-screen Versus Mode for two to four players to compete as any of the three character classes on large scale maps such as urban areas during daytime or night, mountains, ruins, coastal areas, residential areas, London city, caves and more besides, although unlike Earth Defense Force 4.1’s Versus Mode you cannot choose the conditions between clear, sunny, cloudy, dusk or sunset skies. As multiple players can choose the same character class it results in the capability of players choosing the Air Ranger class, calling for a tank to be deployed and having an epic tank battle in the middle of a destructible environment which proves to be as entertaining as Return Fire on 3DO. However, the Rumble Mode still has room for improvement such as the fact that only one kill is required to defeat your opponent, rather than having the choice of the most kills within a certain period of time or a specific amount of kills and there are no alternative methods of playing competitively, while a competitive mode itself could easily lead people to believe that it is at least one member of the EDF against at least one giant insect or enemy, but that is not the case and there is no form of team vs. team play either in which multiple A.I. could have made it more interesting.
Ad-hoc and online multiplayer also includes a co-operative multiplayer component for two to four players to play the entire set of single player campaign missions which must be unlocked by playing through them online while fighting alongside each other in any of the three character classes on the same team against the Invaders and Buggernauts. The performance is as consistent as the excellent single player experience as there is usually no slowdown in frame-rate or any form of lag unless everything becomes incredibly chaotic and the game host has the ability to begin playing a level online instead of having to wait for other players to join the lobby room, although rather frustratingly if the game host leaves the lobby room, then the game returns to the lobby room instead of changing the game host during the online session. There is a full quota of options for game hosts to customise the online multiplayer experience such as difficulty level, a weapon level limit, armour limit as well as set phrases and comments to describe the game for players to view within the lobby or searching that are looking for specific contents and settings.
Given the general scope and scale of every environment; it is rather impressive that there is no defined mission area that would have otherwise restricted a player from being able to venture in completely the opposite direction in competitive or co-operative multiplayer which really provides a sense of complete freedom to destroy the tallest building or structure upon the horizon of the scenery or to just generally do whatever you want within many sandbox environments.
There are no online leaderboards which is surprising as they could have featured the quickest times from every player who had completed each level and the entire game in single player or co-operatively within each character class and combination of character classes with further online leaderboards for the total amount of enemies killed and the amount of enemies killed within each enemy category.
Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space’s replayability is vast as there are 78 missions, three character classes with their own unique abilities, over 400 unlockable weapons, destructible environments, five difficulty levels to choose from initially and an unlockable sixth difficulty level as a reward for completing all 78 missions with all three character classes on all five difficulty levels totalling to completing each mission 15 times over and best of all ad-hoc and online multiplayer for two to four players in a competitive Rumble Mode and co-operative missions which will collectively keep players coming back for quite some time while retaining a freshness to the gameplay.
- Title: Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space
- Developer: Sandlot
- Publisher: PQube (Europe)/XSEED Games (USA)/D3 Publisher (Japan)
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PS Vita Card/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Ad-Hoc and Online Co-operative and Competitive Multiplayer)
- Memory Card Space Required: 267MB