Aliens have invaded again. Earth Defense Force 5 is sending people back into the field either alone, locally with a friend, or online with up to four people. Why? Because giant bugs are back. This is a game in a series that as an idea of what people want and will do its best to try and deliver. For the most part, it is good at what it does and keeps maintaining the status quo. But, while some things have changes and deliver more than usual, there are also some areas where elements could have used a little altering.
The best thing about Earth Defense Force 5 is that it is the sort of game where you need no previous knowledge of the series to go in, have a sense of what will happen, and enjoy it. Yet, at the same time, it does not feel like people who are returning are being forced to play the same game again. There are over 100 missions (I have only been through just over a third of them). We have new and old enemies. Sure, there is an invasion again, but by framing it as our character being a civilian who ends up taking part in repelling the aliens and their minions, it feels a bit different. Your fellow troops may repeat the same sorts of tired lines ad nauseam and keep reminding you of the same sorts of objectives, but it can fall in line with the B-movie motif the game and series has going for it. It is over the top, giant carcasses and buildings will collapse on you, and people who are aware of what to expect probably wouldn’t want it any other way. (Some might wish there were more opportunities to capture photo-quality moments like the one seen in the official screenshot above.)
I also appreciated how Earth Defense Force 5 remembers how important loot and improving your favorite classes can be to players and handles it in a way that rewards people for their performances. Let’s use the Wing Diver (the evolution of the Pale Wing) as an example. You can get different cores for her by playing. This can give her more energy, making it easier for her to remain mobile and use her different energy weapons. I like playing as her when I can, due to the ability to get out of situations quickly or find good places to perch for attacks. But, this particular installment realizes that people might not stick with one class. For the times when I do want to be an Air Raider or Ranger, I can still earn weapons and armor for those other roles. Given how liberal the game is with drops, it can be easy to have a foundation for yourself with other classes without spending a lot of time grinding. So it keeps the rewarding elements from past Earth Defense Force games, but makes it more universal.
But, sometimes staying the course is not always a good thing. As I mentioned before, there are over 100 missions and people who enjoy playing Earth Defense Force will appreciate that! It is an incredible amount and achievement. The thing is, the online and offline progression each remain separate. It is just so disappointing. I felt like the game was forcing me to choose between one or the other, when I shouldn’t have to make that choice. Not on in a game where, tutorial mission aside, all missions are identical. The only difference is, the difficulty is scaled for more players in a multiplayer mission.
There are also the same sorts of frame rate issues, though they are not as bad as usual. I was playing on a standard PlayStation 4 and whenever Earth Defense Force 5 really started getting going with multiple players and lots of monsters, pylons, UFOs, and vehicles, the frame rate could dip and slow to a crawl at times. It did feel a bit more stable and reliable than Earth Defense Force 4.1 on the PlayStation 4, which is good. I also would say it never gets unplayable. Just people who enjoy Earth Defense Force should know going in that this remains an issue.
Earth Defense Force 5 is one of those games that does not try to mislead people. What you see is what you get. That means the Air Raider, Fencer, Ranger, and Wing Diver are back, aliens still are dropping off giant versions of creatures ants, bees, frogs, and spiders, and going through similar sorts of missions destroying every enemy in sight in the hopes of collecting gear and saving the day is your responsibility. It still keeps some of the issues we remember from past entries, like separate progression and frame rate issues. But for those who have grown up with or love the series, they will have the same sort of campiness and bug busting that they remember.
Earth Defense Force 5 is available for the PlayStation 4.