- Format: PS4
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Pqube
- Developer: Sandlot
- Players: 1-2 (offline), 2-4 (online)
- Site: http://www.pqube.co.uk
- Game code provided by the publisher
If Earth Defence Force 2 on the Vita is a sumptuous cream cake that’s started to go stale, then Earth Defence Force 4.1 on PS4 is a sumptuous cream cake that looks a bit stale, but tastes better than any other cake you’ve had for months. Where we’re going with this sugar-laced metaphor is… er, look, it’s really good, okay?
If you’re not familiar with the EDF series, then check out our review of the Vita game which released alongside this and you’ll (hopefully) get a pretty good idea. Giant insects, robots, and a handful of other enormous villains have appeared all over Earth. They are bad. You, as part of EDF’s Storm Team, are good. Your mission, should you choose to accept it and you don’t really have much of a choice, is to go kill everything. That, really, is gameplay in the proverbial nutshell.
The series’ “conservative” budget shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, and even this PS4 release (itself a remake of a last-gen title) seems to have been made for little more than you might spend on sweets across an average year. Unless you’re us. We love sweets, and our annual sweet budget is approximately 3% of GDP. Anyway, the point is that there’s no AAA bankrolling here and, as usual, Sandlot celebrate this fact with glee.
The dialogue and acting are lovingly crafted from the most delectable cheese. Unlike other EDF games there’s a very strong sense of taking part in a larger battle here, as you’ll more often than not be fighting alongside AI teams (who, incidentally, do actually take some enemies down) in cities and other open areas. They come out with some classic lines, such as “I’ll shoot you dead!”, or start chanting “E-D-F! E-D-F!” in a wonderfully out-of-sync manner. Writers and actors both clearly had a great time making the game, and that helps you have a great time playing it.
Basic gameplay really is just ‘shoot everything’, but there’s a depth to it that simply watching somebody else play would never suggest. For one thing, which of the four classes you play as makes an enormous difference. You have the standard soldier, who starts off with decent health and the sorts of weapons action game fans will be familiar with. The Air Raider can call in some mighty support vehicles and attacks, but is the weakest at self-defence, making him best suited to multiplayer. Then you have the two extremes of the Wing Diver and the Fencer.
We’re not ashamed to say that we almost exclusively played as the Wing Diver. This female soldier, despite being kitted out in an armour design of dubious practicality, is brilliant. She’s kitted out with a jetpack (which seems to drain energy slower than in the Vita game), and she can unlock some pretty tasty weapons. The two main drawbacks are that she starts out with the lowest health, and most weapons drain the same gauge as the jetpack. The Fencer is slow, grounded (though with a boost pack for brief lift-off), but also very tough and significantly different from even the Soldier and Air Raider. Perhaps the biggest draw for EDF veterans looking for a different experience from early games, the Fencer can carry two two-weapon loadouts at once – including a shield in one or both.
As in other EDF games, maximum health and your arsenal of weapons are built up by collecting pickups in each stage. The higher the difficulty you play, the better the weapons you can find. Despite the huge range of weapons on offer, the majority act and ‘feel’ impressively different, and you’ll sometimes have to choose which to take into the next stage carefully (especially as a Fencer, who can get overwhelmed quickly if you’re not careful). Despite the fact that basic enemies will rush toward you en masse, it’s sometimes possible – even desirable – to indulge in a bit of sniping. This ties in with the fact that you’ll need to prioritise targets, usually under pressure, more often than you’d expect. But, yeah, generally you’re keeping your finger on the trigger and hoping that everything else dies before you do.
There are a few annoyances. For one, it’s a real shame that the power of the PS4 wasn’t harnessed for a smooth frame rate; this would be a sight to behold at 60fps. More directly affecting gameplay are those flippin’ Retiarius spiders. These huge things (shaped like the one on the Spider Man logo) can ensnare you in a web from great distances, and even through objects. It will then slowly drag you towards it, sapping health all the while, and the only way to free yourself is to kill this thing which you might not even have a clear shot at yet. They’re thankfully only in a handful of levels and, if you’re careful (and lucky), you can avoid this.
These minor annoyances are offset by the sheer joy that play brings. After all, there’s little that beats the satisfaction of sending a huge transport ship tumbling to the ground, or sending bolts of electricity coursing through a horde of giant ants, spiders, wasps, etc. Heck, there are even two stages where you get to walk around in a giant robot! Harvesting pickups to increase your health and to find new weapons is also strangely alluring in a way that, for our money, Destiny never managed.
It took us about 25 hours to finish all 89 stages on Normal difficulty, but we’re far from finished with the game. We’re starting to spend some more quality time with the Fencer, and we even had a go at Inferno difficulty (that didn’t end well). Then there’s the ever-fun online co-op which, despite limits on maximum health and weapon level, is brilliant. Kudos too for including offline multiplayer.
To summarise: E-D-F! E-D-F!