On the surface, Earth Defense Force 2025 bears many signs that would normally be red flags to seasoned gamers. The premise, aliens using giant insects to invade Earth, sounds like something from a scraped ‘50s B-movie. Graphically, it fails to impress. The writing is some of the most laughable I’ve ever encountered in a game. However, Earth Defense Force 2025 accomplishes the impossible by blending all of these elements into a game that I found to be a thoroughly enjoyable third-person shooter.
Developed by Sandlot, Earth Defense Force 2025 is a sequel to 2007’s Earth Defense Force 2017. The story of the series is that an alien race came to Earth in 2017 and were promptly dubbed the Ravagers before they had even ravaged anything. The aliens soon unleashed swarms of giant insects to decimate the world’s population. Luckily, the titular Earth Defense Force had one very competent soldier who almost single-handedly took down the alien threat… Or so the world thought! 2025 picks up a few years later and more giant bugs are coming out of the ground and the aliens are back and it is the player’s job to single-handedly take down the alien thre-wait… if the plot summary of 2025 seems oddly familiar, that is because EDF 2025 is pretty much a retelling of 2017. This isn’t really a problem since story was never the strong suit of the series, but it is still a bit strange for a game so off the rails to be stepping to such a similar beat as its predecessor.
Graphically, there have been numerous tweaks and updates between 2017 and 2025. This is most noticeable in the steady frame rate which is much appreciated when the action gets thick and entire cities are busy exploding and collapsing. Lighting effects are also greatly improved and make everything, especially the explosions, look much nicer. Everything related to the enemy models, explosions, and player characters looks fine. However, much less attention was paid to the environments and smaller details. Civilians look like place-holder animations that were never finished. Buildings have very little detail because almost every structure in the game is designed to be blown up and destroyed with one or two rocket attacks. When everything is exploding these imperfections aren’t such a big deal, but they do provide unintended entertainment during cutscenes which are made using in-game assets. Load times for these cutscenes can range anywhere from 20-40 seconds, which is a real drag if you encounter a particularly difficult mission that requires multiple attempts. Thankfully, there is an option to disable cutscenes.
The meat and potatoes gameplay of EDF 2025 consists of shooting large amounts of ridiculous enemies that consist of giant ants, giant spiders, giant robots, giant dragons, giant hornets, and giant flying saucers. If you couldn’t tell from the previous sentence, Earth Defense Force rarely does anything on a small scale. The weapons you choose to take with you prior to level select have infinite ammo, meaning players that aren’t shooting everything that moves as fast as they are able are doing it wrong. As players move through levels, enemies will drop health packs, armor (which slightly increases total health), and bright green crates that unlock new weapons. Co-op is built into the experience and players have the option of either playing online four-player co-op or locally in split-screen mode with a friend. Earth Defense Force 2025 feels like a ridiculous arcade game that snuck onto consoles. It gives off the vibe of the kind of arcade game you’d only encounter once in an obscure, back-alley arcade and then never find again, but you’d remember for a long time afterward for its insanity.
Since level after level of shooting waves of bizarre enemies with infinite ammo guns might slip into repetitive territory after a while, EDF 2025 infuses some variety into the gameplay through the implementation of four different soldier classes. The basic Ranger class is well rounded, can drive vehicles, and does little dodge rolls to get out of tight spots. Air Raiders were built specifically as a support class for co-op. They are the only class capable of calling in air strikes, tank, helicopter, and mech drops, and the only other class that can operate said vehicles. The Fencer is the heavy duty combatant of the bunch, able to equip up to four weapons and make use of heavy-hitting melee attacks. By far my favorite class was the Wing Diver, which sacrifices HP for a jet pack and plasma weapons. The addition of the jet pack makes it much easier to avoid enemies and use the vertical elements of the various levels to get an advantage. Furthermore, there is an enjoyable element of managing your resources with the Wing Diver. The jet pack and weapons use the same energy source, meaning that going a bit too nuts with your guns or flying too long will overload your systems. In order to avoid a systems failure at an inopportune moment, players have to balance their need for fight and flight.
On the first run through the game, any difficulty other than normal or easy will be virtually impossible. Higher difficulties require much more powerful weapons, which are only unlocked by playing later missions on normal or easy. Higher difficulties unlock even better weapons, but right off the bat enemies will overwhelm and crush players attempting anything more difficult than normal.
The voice-over work in the Earth Defense Force series has never been that great, but in 2025 it reaches new levels of cheese and silliness. While there is always something amazing about a serious-sounding narrator pleading with the player to save the world from giant robots and insects, what really shines is the ambient dialogue between soldiers controlled by the AI. These nameless members of the EDF follow the player around and will talk with each other as missions progress. They enthusiastically shout out phrases like, “The next battle is going to be violent!” and, “Did you eat lunch?” There are also cases of strange and silly translations from Japanese to English. For example, when a new enemy type appears that makes use of an energy shield, the narrator constantly refers to the force field as a “shield screen.”
While I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Earth Defense Force 2025, I also realize that it isn’t for everyone. The game has numerous technical flaws that could distract players from the core experience. Some people will be put off by the lack of visual polish, while others might find the gameplay repetitive. However, EDF 2025 has all the signs of becoming a cult classic. People who can look past Earth Defense Force 2025’s missteps or even embrace them as a cheesy part of the EDF experience will find a game that is fun, unintentionally hilarious, and strangely endearing.