Posted by Pip
D'awww! The Sins aren't heartless monsters! They're just semi-heartful monsters! That's the kind of caring service the new brand of deities can get for you.
Our review this week is for EDF 4.1 and if you give me a jet suit, I will wear it. Skirts and heels be damned!
Quick Critique: Earth Defense Force 4.1
I reviewed one of the earlier EDF games before and you can probably just cut and paste most of that review, because the games are pretty much all the same. Big. Dumb. Explosive. Cheesy B Movie Sci-Fi Fun. Although, 4.1 is laid out a lot better than the previous game. It has much better early missions and objectives and no ant hole demolition bombings (which made me despise the PS3 game), so it's a lot more enjoyable and lot quicker to get to the fun. It's oddly great at setting up a progression in the story, which is not something you'd think EDF would do better than games with some budget. There are multiple "boss" style creatures that you encounter across missions who you can't beat when you meet them. Your first encounter is usually running away while picking off small enemy forces, then you meet the boss again in smaller skirmishes where you may be able to pick off small pieces or stun it, and then when you finally get to meet the boss for the real showdown, it feels fantastic and lends an even greater sense of accomplishment to taking down a monster the size of a skyscraper, which is already an inherently accomplishing event.
The biggest problems with EDF still come mostly down to quality of life issues. You have to pick items off the ground one by one (and stages usually drop dozens of them). There needs to be a way to suck in nearby boxes or just collect all of the armor and weapon boxes at the end of the level (that way you couldn't suck in health boxes). Dead enemies count as objects you can't walk through so you spend a lot of time waiting for enemies to despawn so you can pick up the items they drop (but vehicles and debris don't count as obstructions so they already have the solution to the annoyance if they'd just use that). You need to set your max armor after every level by entering and exiting a menu (this may have been a bug because it stopped happening after a while). Beating a harder stage doesn't automatically check off the same stage at a lower difficulty, so you'd have to beat all 89 stages of the game 5 times each with each character to unlock everything. That's 1780 stages and while I enjoy EDF, I do not enjoy 1780 much of EDF. There needs to be a better way to do upgrades than just random drops. Many of the weapons are just slightly better versions of earlier weapons, so it would make sense to turn it into an upgrade rather than a completely separate weapon that's just going to sit in your inventory cluttering it up. I want to be able to research weapons or upgrade them through use, Ratchet and Clank style. This would encourage you to try different weapons and not rely on your allies to fight for you. The bosses could drop base weapons and aliens could drop upgrade materials instead of loot crates with random weapons that don't even scale to your difficulty (enemies on Hardest still drop the level 0 weapons from Easy). Ultimately, this is what sapped my desire to do anything more than go through the game with just the Wing Diver. Spending all that time walking around collecting items, only to die at the very end of the mission because the brain-dead AI characters walked in front of me as I was firing my gun causing me to take the entire shot myself and dying in a single hit, which then causes you to lose every item you picked up is horrifically frustrating. The dozenth or so time that happened, I just ignored everything and went right to finishing levels to be done with the game. And unless you do all that tedious armor farming, the harder difficulties are just one hit kills from anything. Other characters have more health and different weapons than the Divers' electroshock explosives, but every other class is paaainfully slow (and not sexy anime jet ladies). All of this is capped off by one of the absolute worst final bosses to ever show up in a video game. It can infinitely spawn enemies, has multiple forms, can hit you where you can't hit it, stun locks you on damage, knocks you down on damage, changes the color of your screen on damage, is in a crowded arena with lots of knee high obstructions that get in your way, every piece of it has absolutely obscene health, it's far away so all your normal weapons don't work, and if you die, there's no checkpoint between its forms. It's not fun, it's not challenging in an intelligent way, it's just poorly designed. The boss is more of a gate on how much time you spent farming armor drops and your luck on getting a good sniper rifle to spawn from a loot crate than a real boss.
Despite its many, many self-inflicted problems, egads this game is still fun to play and a constant rush of dumb animal satisfaction. I ran around inflicting massive amounts of friendly fire with a giant reflective laser beam, cackling like an idiot. There's a mission fairly early in the game that it's easy to cheese, so you can set the game to the highest difficulty and pull in a bunch of level 50+ weapons when the game is normally giving you items at less than 5, so you wind up playing that level dozens and dozens of times to get decent weapons. It became adorable to hear the generic soldiers talk about protecting me as they fired on the giant ants with their machine guns before I busted out an alien gun capable of firing 30 bolts of glowing neon red explosive lighting and single-handedly saved the planet from destruction. I still thanked him for being there, for I am a benevolent future valkyrie of doom.
The EDF franchise is made of bad games, but they're bad games that I support existing. I'm glad somebody can go out there and make a low budget B movie game. It feels like every EDF game has the same budget but as time goes by, it just buys more as technology or engines or plug-ins get cheaper. The series just needs some competent designers that will take care of the annoyance of item collection, enemies firing through walls, or your AI companions killing you. The ways to fix EDF aren't costly or against its low budget, it just needs people with some sense calling the shots. You should never pay more than $20 for an EDF game, but once they hit that sweet spot on price, it's some of the most fun you'll get out of $20 well wasted.