Earth Defense Force 4.1 The Shadow of New Despair is a simple game, one that at times can be frustrating, unfair and without guide. For all of its flaws EDF 4.1 makes up for them with a wonderful core concept – shooting things is fun. In the case of this game its giant insects and later alien robots that you get to shoot, the spectacle from which occurs being an unending delight.
A first glance at EDF 4.1 might make it appear to be a sparse game, perhaps even a bad one. But dig deeper and you’ll find a title that offers solid and fun gameplay, a host of classes, options and unlockables that make for a highly replayable game. The title is swarmed in a B-movie like quality, much like the films of Mega Piranha and Sharknado, the exception here being that this product is actually worth your time.
EDF 4.1 The Shadow of New Despair tasks you with defending the Earth from giant insects and aliens. Missions will usually have you taking out a number of targets but occasionally you must take down a giant enemy such as a queen ant or a gargantuan robot. The missions take place throughout a variety of environments, ranging from dense cities, dark underground tunnels, green valleys and sandy beach shores. There are a staggering number of missions to complete (over 80 for the single-player campaign and more online) and whilst plentiful content is by no means a bad thing, environments can get recycled, leading to stagnation amongst the variety.
The gameplay is simple and only really demands a basic grasp of aiming and shooting from players. Or at least it does at its most fundamental level. EDF 4.1 keeps things fresh by allowing players to choose from one of four classes. There’s the everyday Ranger class, a classic foot-soldier with middling defence. The Wing Diver lets players soar through the air and is host to some great advanced weaponry, but the speed and power is handicapped by the class’s weak armour. Also many of the wing diver’s weapons are tied to its jetpack fuel so players must take into consideration the use of both if they don’t want to leave themselves immobile and without ammo. There’s also the Air Raider class who specialises in supporting troops and can call in aerial bombardments and vehicles to use, such as tanks and transports. It’s by far the most challenging class and is recommended for intermediate players, or co-op play. Lastly you have the Fencer class, a powerhouse of a player who can wield multiple weapons and has a high armour rating. Fencers are definitely the tank class of the game, but their strength comes with the expense of speed. Each class allows for a different approach to missions. Whereas you have to be careful when playing as the ranger, a fencer can draw more enemy fire and not have to worry about losing too much health.
The range of classes offer a lot of replay value, but so too does the game’s vast array of weaponry and unlockables. You can attain new items through drops during missions, unlocking weapons and increasing your armour rating, giving you better chances to complete missions on harder difficulty levels. Weapons range from standard automatic rifles, laser weapons, rocket launchers, shotguns, snipers and more. Each weapon handles differently and the choice of arsenal can determine your success in grim situations. Where a shotgun was useful in close quarters, a rocket launcher would only serve to deal more damage to you and your troops.
Complementing the weapons are a number of enemy types that helps keep the gameplay fresh and engaging. Standard enemy types such as ants and spiders are generally easy enough to handle. But stronger variants of these enemies will challenge you, simply because of the number of hits it takes to kill them. The alien enemy types are some of the most interesting, with flying drones attacking from the sky and transport ships that drop insects down onto the battlefield. One type of enemy is a moveable tank that generates a shield, meaning foot soldiers must pass the shield to take down the enemy. The varying enemy types means that some missions will revolve around certain foes, which thankfully, due to the amount, keeps the game interesting.
EDF 4.1 works best when there are a seemingly insurmountable number of enemies attacking you from all angles. Whilst the game’s graphics are nothing to shout home about, the scope of enemy numbers, and the engagement between your allies makes scenarios appear grand and large-scale. It’s a shame then that the game has a number of flaws that devalue the experience. For instance buildings and enemy ships when shot down simply disappear into the ground. Also the tunnel missions can often devolve into a slow and tedious slog through enemy bodies. Since the game throws so many bugs at you in these missions, the close environment means that pathways soon get blocked for short amounts of time by enemy bodies. Apart from this textures pop-in during the beginning of missions and the framerate can take a hit during a particularly busy battle. There’s also no guide on the map to tell you where to go. This isn’t usually an issue but it can make finding enemies an occasionally tedious task.
These flaws though don’t detract too much from the fun experience that EDF 4.1 offers. Battling enemy saucers in the sky as a wingdiver is thrilling, as is trying to hold your ground whilst ants, spiders and robots attack you from all angles. The game will keep you occupied for well over 30 hours, and online, co-op and versus modes all add to the longevity of the title. If you’re looking for a fun shooter that places spectacle over depth then Earth Defense Force 4.1 The Shadow of New Despair is definitely for you.
Earth Defense Force 4.1 - The Shadow of New Despair (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
A great shooter that offers a surprising amount of variety and content. The mechanics may be simple but EDF 4.1 showcases spectacle above all else and it always proves to be thrilling.