Earth Defense Force 5 is a third-person action shooter game 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. Earth Defense Force 2025 launched in July 2013 in Japan followed by Europe and the US in February 2014, while an enhanced port released on PS4 titled Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair in Japan in April 2015, the US in December 2015 and Europe in February 2016. 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 titled Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space 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 series; can Earth Defense Force 5 deliver the best entry into the Earth Defense Force franchise?

The story revolves around a guard that works in a base that contains the arsenal that would be utilised by the Earth Defense Force; if another alien invasion were to occur. The civilian guard believes it will be a straightforward day until a hostile alien invasion takes place within the base and on the planet’s surface.

The opening mission of the story is essentially a tutorial located at a base where all of the Earth Defense Force’s weaponry is stored in case of another alien invasion. The tutorial teaches the player how to move, aim and jump before engaging in target practice with two weapons, alongside switching weapons and reloading. The single player campaign Mission Mode includes over 100 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. As with previous Earth Defense Force games; 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.

The four character classes from Earth Defense Force 4.1 are retained for the player to choose from including the Ranger class that 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 lightweight energy weaponry, alongside the Air Raider class that 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 that utilises a powered exoskeleton 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 is mostly retained from previous Earth Defense Force games, although there a new enemy is introduced to the Earth Defense Force franchise in the form of ruthless humanoid aliens. There is a large variety of Earth Defense Force’s trademark giant insects that have their own unique attacks such as ants spitting acid, spiders spinning webs as traps to catch and drag their prey directly to them and many more besides, alongside mechanical enemies such as flying drones that fire on sight and pylons that are dropped within cities by motherships to unleash hundreds of giant insects. Enemies have as much impact as anticipated from an Earth Defense Force game as they remain rather scary, especially when they flank your position and sneak up very close without you realising until you find yourself standing directly under a massive spider or ant as more giant insects swarm in from all directions.

Your chosen character begins with multiple weapons in two or three separate categories depending on the character class, while the rest of the weaponry and improved weaponry levels are unlocked through collecting weapons crates that are produced by defeated enemies during missions. As was previously the case in Earth Defense Force games; there are hundreds of weapons to utilise in your fight against the giant insects and enemies with a range of weapon categories including the Ranger class’ assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, missile launchers, grenades and special weapons; the Wing Diver class’ short-range, mid-range kinetic, mid-range energy, mid-range pulse, long-range, ranged and homing; the Air Raider class’ numerous units and vehicles that can be requested for deployment; and the Fencer class’ piercers, autocannons, cannons and more besides. Every weapon has their own unique attributes including capacity, ROF, damage, reload time, range, speed, accuracy rating, if it has a zoom or a laser sighting 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.

Environment design is quite reminiscent to previous Earth Defense Force games as the player battles against enemies in large cities, streets, parks, countryside and more besides that is technically open-world due to how vast the environments are outside of the core battle. Meanwhile, destructible environments are as impressive as ever 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 two mission packs at a price of £5.79 each, alongside numerous vehicles, weapons and items for £1.49 each. Earth Defense Force 5’s Deluxe Edition includes two mission packs, bonus content such as a theme and a couple of items and 12 variations of additional weapons at a cost of £61.99.

Earth Defense Force 5 will not be receiving a Vita port, although Earth Defense Force fans that prefer to play their Earth Defense Force games portably can find excellent Earth Defense Force games on PSP and Vita including Global Defense Force on PSP, alongside Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable and Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space on Vita. Earth Defense Force 5’s remote play performance retains the graphics, audio and general performance in comparison to the PS4 version. There are only minimal remote play control scheme optimisations resulting in firing being mapped to the top right of the touch screen, while jumping moves to the top left of the touch screen and sprint dashing being remapped to the bottom left of the touch screen. However, as the controls are fully customisable; Earth Defense Force 5’s best remote play experience can be attained by remapping the controls including pressing R to fire; pressing X to jump; pressing triangle to switch weapons; and tapping the top right of the touch screen to call for a vehicle, therefore providing a much more comfortable remote play control scheme that is quite suitable to portable Earth Defense Force games.

The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the default control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to fire; pressing R1 to switch weapons; pressing L2 to jump; pressing L1 to zoom or activate; pressing square to reload; pressing X to call for a vehicle; 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; holding L3 to sprint dash; 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 “Watch out for the ranged attack!”, “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 to reflect the recoil of the weapon your character is firing at enemies or when being attacked by an enemy, although the light bar is not utilised that could have produced colours to represent the current status of health, armour or ammo.

Graphically, Earth Defense Force 5 is mostly the same in comparison to Earth Defense Force 4.1 that had improved over previous home console entries in the series. There are some nice visual touches such as great lighting in underground areas, explosions from enemy pylons being destroyed, water effects, smoke and deformation from the destructible environments, good character, enemy and vehicle animations and more besides. Earth Defense Force 5’s performance is as impressive as Earth Defense Force 4.1 with the same consistency; running in 1080p and 60 frames per second with great physics that see animations of cars and enemies fly into the air at a variety of angles and fast loading times. However, there is some room for improvement including reducing occurrences of texture pop-in on distant buildings, foliage and objects, alongside focusing on anti-aliasing and support for 4K resolution, HDR and perhaps even virtual reality.

Earth Defense Force 5’s presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, game mode menus, class and equipment menus, multiplayer menus, settings menus 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. 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 news reporters informing the world about the size and severity of the alien invasion. Sound effects include weaponry being fired at the giant insects and other various enemies, explosions such as when enemy pylons are destroyed, ricocheting of bullets off nearby objects and surfaces, vehicles being driven or piloted, the screams and howls of the insects, the destruction of the nearby surroundings as they are caught in the crossfire and ambience such as rain falling, water flowing in a lake or being splashed as soldiers run through it, alongside climactic and battle driven music. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation that could have produced character voice-overs, sound effects or music.

The trophy list includes 40 trophies with 26 bronze trophies, 9 silver trophies, 4 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Earth Defense Force 5’s trophy list is much easier in comparison to that of Earth Defense Force 4.1’s trophy list as 32 trophies involve naturally progressing through the story, while there are a total of 4 trophies for reaching a particular quantity of health with each character class, alongside a silver and a gold trophy for rescuing 5 and 50 other players in co-operative multiplayer in addition to a gold trophy for healing a player in co-operative multiplayer. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 40 to 50 hours to platinum the trophy list.

Earth Defense Force 4.1’s difficulty levels and their incremental differences between each difficulty are retained in Earth Defense Force 5. 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 that 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, although there are incentives for choosing higher difficulty levels such as earning better weaponry.

Local co-operative multiplayer 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 enemies. 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 from the other player that really provides a sense of complete freedom to destroy buildings or structures upon the horizon of the scenery. However, there is no horizontal split-screen option; only providing vertical split-screen, while there is the rather odd omission of the extremely entertaining split-screen competitive multiplayer that was previously featured in Earth Defense Force 4.1.

Online Mission Mode includes online co-operative multiplayer for two to four players for all of the single player campaign missions that 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. 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 settings.

Earth Defense Force 5’s replayability stems from over 100 missions, four character classes with their own unique abilities, hundreds of unlockable weapons, destructible environments, five difficulty levels, local co-operative multiplayer and four player online co-operative multiplayer that will collectively keep players coming back for quite some time. However, the lack of local competitive multiplayer reduces the replay value in comparison to Earth Defense Force 4.1.

Analysis
• Title: Earth Defense Force 5
• Developer: Sandlot
• Publisher: D3 Publisher
• System: PS4
• Format: Blu-Ray Disc (Exclusively in Japan)/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-2 (Local Co-operative Multiplayer)/2-4 (Online Co-operative Multiplayer)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 18.81GB

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Jason
Jason plays all genres of games and enjoys all different kinds of experiences that the games industry has to offer. Jason’s favourite PlayStation exclusive franchises throughout various eras include: Crash Bandicoot, God of War, Gran Turismo, inFamous, Killzone, Little Big Planet, MotorStorm, Resistance, Spyro the Dragon, Uncharted, Wipeout and various games that never became big name franchises. A special mention goes to Black Rock’s superb Split Second: Velocity as it is rather unbelievable that it will never receive a sequel. Jason now mainly plays modern PlayStation games on home console and portably, but occasionally returns to the old retro classics on the 3DO, PS1 and PS2 such as discovering Cool Spot Goes to Hollywood 20 years after its original release on PS1. Jason is happy to see gaming coming full circle with updates for retro classics such as Alien Breed, Superfrog and Crash Bandicoot.

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