Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter is a vertical and horizontal action shoot ‘em up available 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. Earth Defense Force 5 continued the progression of the main series of the franchise that released in Japan in December 2017 before releasing everywhere else in December 2018, while Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain was developed by Yuke’s as an Americanised spin-off with differing gameplay elements that released worldwide in April 2019. Given all of the quality games released in the series; can Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter deliver an amazing spin-off within the Earth Defense Force franchise?

The story revolves around the experimental introduction of the Wing Diver fleet when the Ravagers return on the planet’s surface, underground and in orbit above the planet’s surface; as what is seemingly the last hope of humankind from the hostile alien invasion.

There are half a dozen missions that feature a beginning, middle and final segment culminating in an end level boss with the player being able to choose from any of the three segments after having completed the respective segment of the mission. As with previous Earth Defense Force games; there are five medals representing completing the mission on each difficulty level, although there are not multiple sets of medals due to there only being the Wing Diver character class. Each mission has a high-score that can be attained by consecutively defeating enemies to form a combo, although the combo will end after not having defeated an enemy for a particular period of time resulting in being rewarded with a score bonus that reflects the length of the combo; however the score bonus increases as the player’s combo reaches over 100, 500 or 1,000. The best opportunity for a combo and score bonus is during shoot up time that occurs when a huge quantity of enemies are simultaneously spawned, although the score bonus will increase when playing on higher difficulty levels.

Unlike other Earth Defense Force games; Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter focuses on a singular character class of the Wing Diver squadron rather than a multitude of character classes. There are a few balanced gameplay elements to consider such as the boost function that temporarily provides faster movement with a simultaneous shield that prevents damage being inflicted by enemies. Meanwhile, boosting or using non-Ixion weapons consumes energy, although using Ixion weapons will not use any of the Wing Diver’s energy; however not using any weaponry allows your energy to recharge quite rapidly. If your Wing Diver’s energy is fully drained then movement speed will be reduced, while not being able to use weapons or boost until energy is completely recharged. Wing Diver’s 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 Earth Defense Force’s trademark giant insects that have their own unique attacks such as acid spitting grey and red ants, giant spiders spinning webs as traps to catch and drag their prey directly to them, huge bees, flying drones and many more besides including at least one end level boss at the end of each mission.

Your Wing Diver character begins with two weapons, 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 many weapons to utilise in your fight against the giant insects and enemies with a range of weapon categories including particle cannon, short-range, homing, electroshock, laser and ranged. Every weapon has their own unique attributes including fire rate, energy consumption, damage, range, 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 how the prototype development phases progressed, how efficient it is and more besides. The red gauge during gameplay signifies the charge of your chosen weapon, although it can only be fired upon having a fully charged gauge.

Environment design is not open-world as previous Earth Defense Force games have been due to the camera moving forward or from side to side, therefore providing a very limited period of time to defeat the nearby enemies. Environments are based upon areas from previous Earth Defense Force games such as giant insects rampaging through city streets, underground subway and caves, countryside, nests and more besides; however the environments are not in any shape or form destructible, despite the quality of the destructible environments in previous Earth Defense Force games.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter has a free downloadable content pack titled Training Mode containing 60 new missions, new enemies and weapons, although at the time of publishing; Training Mode is only available on the PC version of Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter 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 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter’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 rear touch pad, while boosting moves to the top left of the rear touch pad. However, as the controls are fully customisable; Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter’s best remote play experience can be attained by remapping the controls including pressing R to fire; pressing X to boost; and pressing triangle to switch weapons, 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 boost; changing the direction of the left analogue stick or pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to move your character; 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 boosting or triangle to switch weapons. Whereas Earth Defense Force 4.1 and 5 involved gently tapping the touch pad to choose a phrase for your character to say; Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter has no such gameplay feature and nothing can be mapped to the touch pad in the custom control scheme. There is no vibration that in previous Earth Defense Force games had been used to reflect the recoil of the character’s weapon being fired at enemies or enemies hitting the player’s character, while 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 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter is impressive in its character, enemy and enemy boss animations, alongside some detailed environments and weapon effects from the Wing Diver, enemies and enemy bosses; however there is no destructible environments and instances of frame rate slowdown.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter’s presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, mission selection menus, equipment menus, ranking 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 backgrounds consist of a digitised map of the world, while your character stands prepared to battle incoming enemies to the right of the screen.

There are many voice-overs including the allies on your team, a sergeant providing mission objectives and scientists commenting on the behavioural patterns and sizes of end level bosses. Sound effects include collecting health, armour and weapon items, weaponry being fired at the giant insects and other various enemies, the screams and howls of the insects, 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 54 trophies with 37 bronze trophies, 15 silver trophies, 1 gold trophy and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include half a dozen bronze trophies for completing each mission on easy difficulty. Harder trophies include the Aerial Ace silver trophy for completing every mission on inferno difficulty without failing a mission; the Combo Expert silver trophy for earning a 2,000 combo; and the Weapon Master silver trophy for obtaining 100% of all weapons. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list.

There are five difficulty levels including easy, normal, hard, hardest and inferno, although the hardest and inferno difficulty levels are unlocked upon completing on the hard difficulty level. The major differences between each difficulty level are that the player can progress through each mission on easy difficulty without needing to use anything but the standard equipped Wing Diver weapons or perfecting the timing of utilising the boost. However, from the normal difficulty upwards; there is a noticeable increase in the damage inflicted by each enemy and the quantity of health that each enemy has. Enemies become more aggressive in their behaviour with each step up in difficulty, although there are incentives for choosing higher difficulty levels such as earning better weaponry and armour.

Rather unexpectedly for a game within the Earth Defense Force franchise; there is no same screen or split-screen competitive or co-operative multiplayer. For instance, competitive multiplayer could have seen the second player controlling the otherwise A.I. controlled giant insects in an attempt to destroy the Wing Diver squadron. Meanwhile, online leaderboards focus on the top 100, your personal ranking and your friends’ ranking for each difficulty level on the individual half a dozen missions and the total score.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter’s replayability is reduced by only having half a dozen missions that could potentially be completed within 45 minutes on easy difficulty and no local or competitive multiplayer, although the free Training Mode downloadable content improves replay value, albeit only for the PC version. However, five difficulty levels, unlockable weapons and armour upgrades, local high-score comparisons during gameplay and online leaderboards that will collectively bring the player back for many hours.

Analysis
• Title: Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter
• Developer: Clouds Inc./Giga-Rensya
• Publisher: D3 Publisher
• System: PS4
• Format: PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1 (Online Leaderboards)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 1.61GB

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Storyline
80 %
Gameplay
90 %
Graphics & Sound
84 %
Controls
90 %
Difficulty
80 %
Replayability
80 %
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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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