Cheesy B-movie horror flicks typically never win any awards, but they can provide a campy good time if you're in the mood for mindless amusement. The same applies to Earth Defense Force 2025, the third-person shooter that pits you against legions of giant insects and skyscraper-sized robots. Repetitive gameplay and strange design decisions hold it back, but when you just want to blast the guts out of ants the size of buses, EDF 2025 definitely delivers.
As with previous entries in the EDF franchise, 2025 has a decidedly budget feel that's made up for by a charming earnestness and some truly ridiculous dialogue. As a member of the Earth Defense Force, you're charged with squashing an alien invasion across an absurd number of missions--nearly 100, each of which can last up to 10 or 15 minutes. Factor in the five difficulty levels on each mission, plus four classes to choose from, and the sheer duration of gameplay 2025 provides for completionists is borderline everlasting.
But it's not likely that you'll feel compelled to take on such an exhaustive task, because each mission boils down to the same basic experience: Encounter hundreds of giant enemies, then kill them all. You'll get a few shorter missions in between the massive undertakings (like invading an ant hive or defending a beach front from mortar-blasting 'bots), so the pacing helps prevent some burnout. And despite the formulaic structure, 2025 does manage to provide a modicum of level variety, thanks to different combinations of sprawling environments and monster types--and just when you think you've seen everything, a new species of alien attacks.
The four class types--Ranger, Wing Diver, Air Raider, and Fencer--have such dissimilar playstyles that swapping between them makes you feel like you're playing a whole different game. Let me stress this: Playing as a Wing Diver is some of the most fun I've had in a video game in recent memory. Her jetpack lets you swoop in and out of combat, or take to the skies and just bounce from rooftop to rooftop across the virtual metropolis. Moving between objectives as a Wing Diver is, in a word, magical. But if you prefer straight run-'n'-gun, vehicle support, or tanky artillery to the Wing Diver's CQC tactics, one of the other classes should suit you just fine.
Everything about 2025's presentation feels pleasantly tongue-in-cheek, with some laughably bad (and therefore good) voice acting depicting humanity's disbelief at these antennaed terrors. Chatter from your command HQ is on par with the dialogue in your average straight-to-DVD movie, and the gutsy banter between your AI squadmates is hilariously corny. Their brave shouts, battle songs, and terrified screams can get repetitive, but somehow, they never stop being so darn endearing.
For how over-the-top the premise is, there are some genuinely terrifying moments in the war against the invaders. Humongous ants, spiders, and wasps all move with horrifyingly erratic skitters, and thanks to the impressive draw-distances, you can actually see (and quiver in fear at) a mass of red ants or an armada of colossal robots on the horizon. There's a great sense of scale to enemies and environments alike; watching a quadrupedal robot walker crush a city block is actually pretty awe-inspiring, even with 2025's plastic-looking textures. On the technical side of things, 2025 is a mixed bag: there's no pop-in on buildings or bugs, but the framerate starts dive-bombing whenever extraterrestrial vermin fill up the screen.
With multiple classes to choose from and up to four players in co-op, you'd think that this EDF would be a blast to play with friends. Sadly, 2025 seems to resist your attempts at enjoying it in a group. The permanent friendly fire is already annoying in single-player (especially because missions don't have checkpoints)--but in multiplayer, you'll accidentally gun down your buddies on a regular basis. Reviving one another costs health, and when you're dead, the camera simply locks in on your ragdolled corpse, no spectating allowed.
Even the online infrastructure is wonky. Want to enlist some pals to help beat a particularly tough mission? Too bad, because your solo progress doesn't carry over online. I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to create private slots in a match, so random soldiers kept popping into my squad. And of those randoms, half of them seemed to have hacked the game; I'm no expert, but something about their 930,524,672 points of armor to my 284 just didn't seem quite right. Offline options include split-screen play and a versus mode, which are fun distractions but won't keep you entertained for long.
As a series, Earth Defense Force has always worn its goofiness on its sleeve, making the most out of simple gameplay by infusing the run-of-the-mill shooting with (not-so) serious character. And while 2025's various classes do a lot to keep the action fresh, you may find yourself getting fatigued long before the end credits. In short bursts, it's plenty of dumb fun--but just like B-horror movies, your mileage will vary based on your tolerance for formulaic entertainment.
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.