Thank you D3 Publisher for sending us this game to review!
My love affair with EDF started when the previous publisher of the series, XSEED Games, sent us both the PS4 and Vita versions to review back-to-back. (To be fair, had I known these games existed earlier, I probably would have squeed then, too.) Once I started playing them, I quickly realized that these were just what I was missing in my life: any reason at all to shoot lots of powerful weapons at lots and lots of giant insects without any regard for the collateral damage. Neat!
If this sounds like a bad B-movie, that is quite intentional. As a matter of fact, the voice actors are likely told to do just that - overact and make it sound as ridiculous as possible. And they do a wonderful job doing just that, which adds so much to the charm of this game. I am so glad a humorous cheese-fest crosses cultural boundaries as well as it does.
My experience with this series only goes as far as those two other entries (and the PC version of 4.1). So I can't speak to the much older ones, or the PS3/Xbox 360 releases in the past. But what I can say is that EDF 5 is a solid evolution of the series, but also just that - an evolution. If you have played recent previous entries, you pretty much know what to expect. If not, then you could easily read my EDF 4.1 review (here!) and, after reading it, virtually everything that review says about that game also applies here. I'm not sure I'd call that a bad thing, as the previous games are great, but it's something to be aware of. If you are sick of EDF 4.1, or if you didn't enjoy those, then this game is not different enough to change your mind.
With all of that said, what is Earth Defense Force? Well, it's a third-person shooter where you (and potentially, up to one other buddy locally, or three others online) work to save the human race from alien invasion. The invaders take many different forms, including giant insects, toads (new!), flying saucers, and who knows what else, while you blow them to smithereens. You get to do this as one of four different classes: the Ranger, Wing Diver, Air Raider, and Fencer, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The Ranger is your standard soldier who carries a couple of different, high-powered weapons with him. He shoots, things go boom. One change new to this game is support equipment. Rangers have one slot for this. These include things like improved stats via armor, or vehicles like tanks, helicopters, or bikes.
Wing Divers are your female characters, and they specialize in mobility. They have always been my favorite, because I don't care what you look like if you can fly. Their weapons and flight/movement are all reliant upon energy. Once that drains, you are more or less a sitting duck. New to this game are upgradeable plasma cores, which can allow you to have a larger pool, recharge more quickly, fly faster, and likely quite a bit more that I haven't discovered yet.
Air Raiders are the support class in EDF. They can be incredibly powerful, but they have very few (if any) direct-fire weapons. But, they can call in air strikes. What more needs to be said? They can also heal, bring in vehicles, and quite a bit more. I am not a very good Air Raider (I need my pew pew), but a good one can be a fantastic asset to any team.
Fencers are a unique class, in that they have more weapon slots than any other class, but are also strange to maneuver. They are actually a heavily-armored soldier, wearing what is essentially power armor. They can be really cool, but take a bit more practice and skill than your everyday Ranger. Recommended for advanced players. They also have support equipment, which is new to EDF 5.
Other than just the various classes, wacky enemies, and frantic action, the other main draw to keep you coming back is the many varied drops, especially weapons. Armor drops increase your max hit points; it goes up based on how many you pick up on each level. Weapon drops, however, are the real hook. Depending on your map and difficulty level, drops can vary in power significantly. There are tons of different weapon types, as well as levels for the weapons themselves. Each class also has to be powered up individually. So, if you make a very powerful Ranger class, but want to level up an Air Raider, be prepared to go back to much earlier levels to do so until you are buffed up on both weapons and armor to be able to handle later levels.
Thankfully, one of the mitigating factors to this, which is new in EDF 5, is that armor drops are shared now, and a small number of weapons will always go to a class other than the one you are using. While most still go your primary active class at that moment, now, when you want to try a new class, you are not completely starting from scratch. This is more than a small tweak to EDF 4.1's formula.
Another significant quality-of-life improvement is that they made most classes faster with dashes or runs, and pickups can be grabbed from a larger radius. Typically, the Wing Divers always grab everything, which is fine, but now, every class is much more useful in collecting loot. Another huge annoyance from before was that if you lost the level, no matter how far along you were, you got nothing from all of your efforts. No armor, new weapons, or any of it. Now, in EDF 5, you get to keep a fraction of what you earned before death. It's great, because you don't feel like you wasted your time any longer.
Technically, the game runs pretty well on PS4 Pro, but I was surprised to see that it clearly is not running at a 4k resolution. It may be 1080p, or something in between, but it's not 4k. Nevertheless, the frame rates are great, which is far more important in a game like this. I will say, though, that I have been absolutely spoiled by the PC version of EDF 4.1. That port is fantastic, and runs and looks so great in action, with a perfect frame rate at 4k (with a powerful enough PC) that I wait with bated breath for an announcement of EDF 5 for PC. Let's hope it happens.
During your time blowing things up, you often hear voices and announcements over the intercom, which are sometimes quite humorous. You also occasionally may hear the Infantry units shouting "EDF! EDF! EDF!" The voices will sometimes say other things less appropriate, including words like 'd*mn', 'h*ll', and 'sh*t'. This, along with the music and sound effects, keeps tensions high as you try to wipe out the invading force with prejudice. There is enemy blood, but mostly in the form of purple splashes. When humans get hit, blood also splatters. If it wasn't obvious, there is plenty of violence, especially weaponized (guns, cannons, etc.) as you blow the baddies to bits. The Wing Diver's uniform also reveals their midriff, and they have really tiny and tight shorts.
Earth Defense Force 5 is an excellent sequel, and tons of fun, just like its predecessor. If you have a gaming PC, just get 4.1 for now (or wait for 5), as the price is great, and it's so much better than the console versions. If you are a console owner, then there is no reason not to get this game if you like crazy, over-the-top action - if it sounds like it will be fun to you, it probably will be. By showing this game to my friends and family, I personally have been the cause of at least a half-dozen sales for the PC version of EDF 4.1. These games really are that much fun. If the appropriateness issues don't unsettle you, then I highly recommend a good look at Earth Defense Force 5. The EDF deploys!