Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair is a third-person action shooter available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. 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 and was successful enough to earn a turn-based strategy spin-off game called Global Defense Force: Tactics which released in Japan in July 2006 and June 2007 in Europe. The series continued with Earth Defense Force 2017 in December 2006 in Japan and seen the first US release of the series which launched in the same month as Europe in March 2007, followed by the first simultaneous launch of the series as Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon received a worldwide launch in July 2011 and Earth Defense Force 2025 launched in July 2013 in Japan followed by Europe and the US in February 2014. There have also been forays into portable entries into the series including Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable for Vita in Japan in September 2012 and in Europe and the US in January 2013, while there was even a PSP release of Global Defense Force in April 2011, although the PSP version was only ever released in Japan before an updated Vita version 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 the series’ debut on PS4 in Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair better than what has gone before it, while improving upon the original Earth Defense Force 2025?
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 Ravagers 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 Ravagers also attacked with devastating weaponry. The Ravagers had to retreat following EDF’s victory of destroying the mothership and survivors were united in world peace realising how close humanity had came to total extinction, although the sirens unexpectedly rang out once again on June 28th 2025 as a new worldwide threat was born from underground resulting in the Earth Defense Force returning to battle to protect what remains of the human race.
Earth Defense Force 4.1 is effectively an enhanced version of Earth Defense Force 2025, but with a lot of technical improvements and additional content sprinkled throughout the game. The single player campaign Mission Mode includes 89 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 four sets of medals with five medals per set including one medal for each difficulty level the mission has been completed on and the four 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 hundreds of weapons to utilise in your fight against the giant insects and Ravagers with a range of weapon categories including assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, missile launchers, grenades and special weapons such as a gas torch and a proto reverser. Every weapon has their own unique attributes including capacity, ROF, damage, reload time, range, accuracy 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 four character classes to choose from including the Ranger class which is an infantry special forces unit that are experts in ground combat, while the Wing Diver class is a female special forces unit equipped with jetpacks and armed with Ravager weaponry, alongside the Air Raider class which is capable of calling in aerial attacks, infantry vehicle support and manning a range of vehicles including tanks, ground vehicles and unlockable vehicles such as helicopters, mechs and robots and more besides as well as the Fencer class which utilises a power frame to enable the carrying of heavy weapons in both hands. Characters have customisable colour schemes with two sets of 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 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 Ravagers 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 mission packs such as Mission Pack 1: Time of the Mutants and Mission Pack 2: Extreme Battle including 26 and 23 additional missions respectively at a price of £7.99 each, weapon packs such as the Reflectron Laser which provides a special cannon that emits a reflective laser for the Wing Diver character class for £1.69 per weapon pack and vehicle packs such as the Gigantus tank with themed decals for £1.99 per vehicle pack which is plenty of downloadable content, but that does not detract from the plethora of content found in the game anyway as it simply provides the choice of expansions to keep on enjoying the game.
The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the default control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to fire; pressing L2 to jump; pressing L1 to zoom or activate; pressing R1 to switch weapons; pressing square to reload; pressing O to enter vehicle or rescue a person; 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; 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 L2 to perform an evasive roll; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to adjust your aim; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. The control scheme is customisable, so you can just as easily assign X for jumping, L2 for zooming or even firing with a tap of the touch pad.
Touch pad implementation involves gently tapping the touch pad and gently swiping across the surface of the touch pad to select a line of dialogue to appropriately communicate or issue a command to your allies such as “To save our mother Earth from alien attack”, “Watch out for the air strikes!”, “EDF!” or another from the available selection and a harder tap of the touch pad will plant a spot beacon. The DualShock 4 controller vibrates when being attacked by an enemy such as you’re your character has been caught in a web or when your character is shooting at the giant insects, although the light bar is not utilised at all which is surprising as it could have displayed the current status of health, armour or ammo.
Graphically, Earth Defense Force 4.1 has certainly improved over previous home console entries in the series as the graphics have some nice touches such as great lighting in underground areas, water effects, smoke and deformation from the destructible environments, exceptional animations on characters, enemies and vehicles and more besides. The performance is also impressive running in 1080p at a steady 60 frames per second 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, despite the battles having a much larger scale to them, although the only minor criticism would be occurrences of texture pop-in on distant buildings and objects.
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 equipment menus, multiplayer menus, options 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 and touch pad. The background of the menu screens consists of a digitised map of the world, while your chosen character stands prepared to battle incoming enemies to the right of the screen.
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 a doctor providing analysis of the giant insects, 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. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is surprising as it could have produced the character voice-overs, sound effects or music.
The trophy list includes 52 trophies with 36 bronze trophies, 14 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, while the 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 four character classes of Ranger, Wing Diver, Air Raider and Fencer on normal, hard, hardest and inferno difficulty levels, therefore requiring a total of 16 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 between 400 to 500 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 10% of normal damage which increases to 25% for normal, 50% for hard, 75% for hardest and 100% for inferno and allies only being able to be knocked down by your friendly fire on hardest and inferno. The enemies become 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, although there are incentives for choosing higher difficulty levels such as earning better weaponry.
Local multiplayer comprises of a split-screen Versus Mode for two players to compete as any of the four character classes on large scale maps such as a riverside town, coastal zone, high-rise district, water park city, mountains, underground areas, craters, caves, beehives and more besides which are gradually unlockable as you play through the missions or Versus Mode and can be played under clear, sunny, cloudy, dusk or sunset skies. As both players can choose the same character class it results in the capability of both 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 Versus 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 the name of the 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.
Local multiplayer also includes a split-screen co-operative mode which allows two players to play the entire set of campaign missions fighting alongside each other in any of the four character classes on the same team against the Ravagers and giant insects. 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 in split-screen 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.
Online multiplayer does not include competitive multiplayer, although it includes a co-operative multiplayer component for two to four players for all of the single player campaign missions which must be unlocked by playing through them online. The performance is as consistent as the excellent single player and split-screen multiplayer experience as there is no slowdown in frame-rate or any form of lag 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.
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 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair’s replayability is vast as there are 89 missions, four character classes with their own unique abilities, hundreds of unlockable weapons, destructible environments, five difficulty levels and best of all two player local competitive and local co-operative multiplayer and even four player online co-operative multiplayer which will collectively keep players coming back for quite some time while retaining a freshness to the gameplay.
- Title: Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair
- Developer: Sandlot
- Publisher: PQube (Europe)/XSEED Games (USA)/D3 Publisher (Japan)
- System: PS4
- Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-2 (Local Competitive/Co-operative Multiplayer)/2-4 (Online Co-operative Multiplayer)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 6.1GB (Version 1.01)