Originally released in Japan in late 2017, Earth Defense Force 5 (yes, with an "s" not a "c") is now available in the West exclusively on PlayStation 4. The long-running series might be infamous for its shortcomings, but it has developed a cult following over the years thanks to its copious amounts of bug-blasting action and cheesy B-movie dialogue. EDF5 takes what made previous instalments so enjoyable and adds a few extra bits and pieces to form what is certainly the highlight of the series so far.
As far as story goes, there isn't much to it. Your character is a regular civilian who just happens to be visiting an army base when the aliens attack. Swept along for the ride, you will eventually become a fully-fledged soldier in the battle to save earth from the invading monstrosities. Gigantic ants, spiders and wasps (always referred to as “monsters”, never “insects”), flying attack drones, 10-storey tall frogmen (“aliens” who definitely don't “look just like us”), Godzilla-like kaiju, skyscraper-sized mechs, city-destroying motherships...
Across more than 100 story missions, your task is to wipe out literally thousands of monsters and aliens en route to saving earth from this intergalactic menace. It often feels like you're taking on hundreds of enemies at once, with monsters filling the screen as far as the eye can see, munching their way through buildings and terrorising defenceless citizens. Explosions, panicked screams of innocent people, and the barked orders of your fellow soldiers really give you the feeling that you're genuinely fighting to save humanity in a full-on war for survival.
Four classes are available, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses. The Ranger is the standard soldier, Wing Divers are an all-female troop who utilise jetpacks and energy weapons, Air Raiders command bombers and gunships, and Fencers are able to dual-wield hugely powerful weapons. Each class is useful in different situations, and changing your playstyle for various missions keeps things from feeling overly stale. Online co-op supports up to four players, and there's also split-screen two-player local co-op, giving plenty of chances to try out the various classes and abilities outside of the main campaign.
Many enemies drop weapon and armour crates, and collecting these grants additional bonuses to your character at the end of each mission. You'll soon amass a fearsome arsenal of immensely destructive weaponry, and the option is always there to swap your loadout at the beginning of each mission so you can try out some new tactics if anything's giving you too much trouble.
As usual for an EDF game, the graphics aren't especially amazing, the gameplay definitely isn't particularly polished, and the script and voice acting are unbelievably corny. In any other game, these factors would probably be seen as detrimental, but it's what we've come to expect from Earth Defense Force and we honestly wouldn't want it any other way. Having to trek halfway across a level because a monster has got stuck, being forced to restart because something has spawned in an inaccessible area, and insane physics that send monsters ricocheting around the city for no reason are all part and parcel of the series, and they all add to the overall craziness.
If you're of a less serious persuasion and enjoy a bit of wonderfully nonsensical mindless monster-mashing in your life now and again, you definitely won't be disappointed with EDF5. It's easily the finest instalment of the best B-movie videogame series so far, and with so many missions to play through it'll easily keep you going for 50 hours plus.
EARTH DEFENSE FORCE 5 / DEVELOPER: SANDLOT / PUBLISHER: D3 / PLATFORM: PLAYSTATION 4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW