By: Jeff Cater
Earth Defense Force 2025 is the latest in the long-running franchise developed by SANDLOT and published by D3Publisher. Odds are you’ve heard about the EDF series, and the strange success the bug hunt has had, but does the latest installment do its lineage justice?
What has usually been the strongest feature of the series is one of the weak points here. While the basic controls are rudimentary, the addition of three new warrior classes muck things up considerably. Each character class handles differently and has different bindings for their controls. Going from series staple The Ranger, who handles like any common third-person shooter character, to a new addition like The Fencer (a large, hulking suit of armor that can use tank weapons) is extremely confusing.
Each weapon you assign to your character will be bound by one of the shoulder buttons, but the only way to figure out controls is to check the options menu for that character after selecting them. There is no in-game “help” pop-ups that let you know that R1 is going to send you rocketing into the air. After a few matches, you’ll find comfort in the confusion, but the first few attempts at a character class can be pretty frustrating.
Along with the different control schemes per character, each class feels unique in movement and abilities; The Ranger has some snappy accuracy, whereas The Fencer will sluggishly trail the crosshair behind your intended mark to simulate the weight of his armor. So, while the controls are initially cumbersome, after a while they feel appropriate.
The EDF series has never been a looker, and this game is no exception. Part of the charm of the previous games was that while it did look pretty crappy compared to other titles of the time (or even titles years before) the frame rate was generally consistent and provided a slick, fast-paced experience.
Unfortunately that is not the case with EDF 2025. Although the title looks as though it was developed for a PlayStation 2, for reasons unbeknownst to me, the frame rate chugs along terribly. In most cases, the game seems to be running at around 20fps consistently, with dips and jolts (like when you look straight up at the sky).
Onto the sound. This department had their work cut out for them, shouting lines like “The bugs that haven’t been seen in seven years are here again, after seven years!” and “I lost my magazine!” So, the hilarious charm is there, even if the lines are over-performed. Sadly, the sound effects for most weapons sound pretty weak save for a few of The Fencer’s artillery cannons. The soundtrack is well done.
Textures feature a lot of grey concrete, and lots and lots of flat grass. Character models are bearable; the insects look pretty good and akin to their smaller, real-life counterparts, and the models used for the players’ characters are well done. Unfortunately, frames of animation seem to be missing: everything jerks across the landscape, completely changing orientation when stepping over small objects. For example, a Giant Ant crawling across a park will turn upright 180 degrees if the engine detects that the ant is crawling over a two-foot high rock. Of course, things like that have been in the series since Day 1.
This has always been the heart of the series; tapping into everyone’s secret desire to slay gigantic waves of plus-sized insects in order to save humanity. While the visual or aural flair may be lacking for games of this generation, the fun is still completely there. Experimenting with the new character classes is great fun, as you may pick from a list now:
1) The Ranger; the original EDF star. Jack-of-all trades, master of being eaten by Wasps.
2) The Fencer; a hulking dude able to carry four weapons at the cost of moving 1 mph with a tail-wind.
3) The Wing Diver; a sexy chick with a jetpack that allows for aerial assault and has armor that’d make any MMO Elf Chick blush.
4) The Air Raider; whose sole responsibility is to support other players via artillery support and vehicular slaughter. He also wears some kind of welding helmet.
During your play, you’ll find that each mission quickly becomes the same thing: find bugs, kill bugs, find more bugs, kill them, find some more bugs, kill them, and so on. Fortunately, it really doesn’t get stale. Every now and then you’ll have to repel massive ships that drop ants all over the place, which is intense as you’re largely locked to the streets and alleys of the city.
EDF 2025 also features more than 50 missions and hundreds of weapons to unlock and grind for, so you’ll never be at a lack of things to do. You are also able to invite a friend to complete the campaign with you either via split-screen or online co-op, which, as you’d suspect, doesn’t really help the frame rate issues.
Earth Defense Force 2025, and the series in general, has definite room for improvement, primarily the graphics and sound, because the gameplay is just as good, fun, and silly as it ever has been. With the addition of new character classes, the only way for this series to go is up, so let’s just hope that someday they give us a new graphics engine for bug shooty time. My 15-year-old self gets all sorts of giddy playing with the images of a truly next-gen EDF title, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Please, Sandlot, show us you want our money!