Earth Defense Force as a series never ceases to amaze me. How a series with seemingly low production values, and one that takes such grace in its parodies of past films and modern action games could accumulate a cult following as large as it has would be a surprise to the naked eye. Take a closer look into the EDF series, and truly play them, you realize how much of a gem, and how welcome, each addition to the series is. Being a rerelease of 2025, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair further polishes the mind-numbing action and synthesizes a much more enjoyable console EDF experience. The decision to release Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space on the Vita around the same time was an interesting decision by XSEED, seeing as these games are really more of the same and can easily get tiring; and yet, I’ve only become more enamored.
Eight years have passed since the Ravagers were thought to have been finally exterminated from the face of the Earth back in 2017. Fast forward to 2025, and the onslaught begins once again. Giant ants that spew gas from their thorax, leaping tarantulas with webs that can completely pass through a building unhindered, giant robots capable of shooting at their feet without self-destructing, motherships that seemingly engulf the sky — the list goes on! Who is up to the task of saving Earth? Check the title, it’s the Earth Defense Force!
Their soldiers’ bodies trained to the point where they could destroy a car just by rolling into them, technology and weapons so advanced that they could only have been harvested from the aliens, acid in water guns, you’d think a special task force created on Earth would be absolutely archaic when compared to the alien menace; but you’d be wrong to make such an assumption. The Earth Defense Force is the best, and even the soldiers know it — chanting their own name whenever they have the chance. Do you have the metal to be part of the legend? Are you ready to go out there and save Earth?
With each proceeding addition to the Earth Defense Force franchise, it seems like there’s been more of a push for a story. Like the other games, you’ll be given most of the context about the situation at hand from the mission debriefing in the mission select, EDF4.1 (or 2025) has gone out of its way to offer more dialogue in the form of your allies on the battlefield and through the radio. There seems to be a lot going on around the world, as heard from the radio transmissions, and should you be patient and interested enough to lower the volume of the sound effects and music, there’s some nice flavor text and dialogue to be had. The ‘story’ is meant to be ridiculous, and lighthearted homage to B-movies. If you’re coming into EDF expecting something serious, I’d recommend you stay away from the series if you were already wincing at footage of the gameplay. But like any other EDF game, you don’t have to pay attention to the story–just have fun with the game.
Upon the first mission in the game, I was met with a fabulous spectacle – chaos. With the inclusion of ally soldiers that march onto the front alongside you, brings absolute destruction and mayhem to your screen. Explosions everywhere, your allies singing the EDF anthem and screaming “EDF! EDF!” as they bury bullets into the insects’ and robots’ shells, civilians running away from the urban carnage, hundreds of giant insects and robots taking up your screen, there’s so much going on that it feels like an actual war with an alien race dead set on destroying every human. What’s even more amazing about this, new to the EDF franchise, the game now runs at 60 FPS (with occasional drops in the later, more chaotic missions), despite everything that’s going on. It’s certainly the best looking and best playing EDF game to date, and it feels at home on the PS4.
Aside from the new content, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair is just more EDF. The core gameplay and action is more of the same, the real difference being the mission structure. It’s more third-person shooter action where you are told to shoot at big things and you do. It may sound like a tiring task, but it’s just as fun as it ever was so long as you take it in moderation (but that applies to any game).
However, new to the game is the Fencer class. Introduced in 2025, the fencer allows you to dual-wield multiple weapons at the same time with reinforced armor, while at the cost of your movement speed. This new class can lead to some major destruction and is an absolute powerhouse and blast to play as. Coupled with the wide array of weapons, this new class further adds to the replayability of the series, and with it the series has taken a step towards preventing the game from becoming too repetitive, and I look forward to any future, wacky additions to the roster.
From what I’ve gathered, there aren’t too many songs in the OST. All you’ll really hear from the game is the title screen and HQ music, whereas the audio mixing prevents the tracks that play during missions from being noticeable, even when the options are adjusted. It’s a shame, but what there is fits the tone of the action. I wouldn’t give it any awards, though.
Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair is a fantastic game, one that’s criminally underrated and will go unnoticed or berated for its ‘awful’ visuals and gameplay. Whatever they may say, the game is a blast to play, and helped alleviate the tedium of the recent releases. Not every game has to have an amazing story, they just have to be a good and fun game.
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