There are only three letters you need to know if you want to play the best PS4 game this Christmas.

E. D. F.


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Translation:

Earth Defense Force (EDF) 4.1 is, as much as I hate to say it, yet another re-release for current-gen consoles – previously known as EDF 2025 in the previous generation. But this one instance of re-releasing needs to be forgiven, firstly because it’s a fucking amazing game, and secondly because there are a lot of substantial improvements from the 360/PS4 version.

For those of you that have never played an EDF game before, the premise is simple: the Earth is being invaded by aliens, who dump a variety of giant insects, skyscraper-sized robots and Godzilla-esque monsters on us. You play as a member of the EDF, and it’s your job to kill the invaders. That’s the entire plot. What makes these games so good is that you have literally hundreds of weapons at your disposal, at any given time there will probably be more enemies on your screen than there will be in an entire level of any other third person shooter and the entire map is completely destroyable. Collateral damage is not only acceptable but encouraged. Got a bunch of giant ants hiding behind a building? Blow it up, then snipe the buggers. Or hop in a tank and steamroll through the city, leaving a trail of destruction in your wake. Or call in airstrikes. Or team up with a few friends and drive a giant Mega-Zord type robot around. Whatever takes your fancy, really. Have you ever seen Starship Troopers? If not, go and watch it then come back to this review. If yes, this is what the actual Starship Troopers videogame should’ve been. If you’re thinking “I hated that movie” then fuck off.
 
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What sets EDF 2025/4.1 apart from its predecessors is the variety of classes. You’ve got the Ranger (the generic all-round soldier guy), the Wing Diver (the flying, mobile but vulnerable sniper/divebomber), the Fencer (a walking tank, literally) and the Air Raider (a support class that can spawn vehicles, call air strikes, make healing stations, lay mines and place automated turret guns). This was experimented with in the disappointing EDF: Insect Armageddon, which was made by a totally different studio, but it wasn’t until this latest iteration that the class system really got a chance to shine. And 4.1 improves massively upon 2025, since the Air Raider – who was previously unable to use any vehicles on any mission that takes you underground (and there are a lot of them), now has a great deal more toys at his disposal in different environments, and the Wing Diver (who was as good as dead if you happened to get shot out of the sky) has improved controls and some buffs to her mid-range weapons.

On top of that, 4.1 boasts an even bigger on-screen enemy count, a much needed improvement to its online mode and some great quality-of-life tweaks to improve the UI – even little things like summing up how much extra health you gained in the last mission make it much nicer. Oh yeah, so, unlocking weapons and gaining health. This is the core of the game, and it is a grind (of sorts).If you go into EDF playing on any difficulty level higher than ‘Normal’, you’re probably going to get your arse handed to you. ‘Hard’ is doable with a lot of effort, but the game suggests that you play on Normal for a reason. There are five difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Hard, Hardest and Inferno. No matter how good you think you are at video games, Hardest and Inferno are not playable when you first jump in. Each time you kill an enemy there is a chance that it’ll drop an item: Healing, Armour or Weapon. Healing restores a portion of the health you’ve lost in this current game (and there are big Healing drops that restore triple the amount) and the other two don’t take effect until you beat the mission. Armour will permanently add to your current character’s maximum health (the amount depends on your class), and weapons give you a chance of unlocking a new weapon (not guaranteed, it might be something you already have). The higher the difficulty and the higher the level, the more likely it is you’ll get a really sweet weapon. EDF makes you work for the cool toys, but they’re almost always totally worth it. Does a slow-moving missile that nukes a huge chunk of the city sound cool? No? How about a chainsaw where each link in the chain shoots lasers? Or shoulder mounted missile silos that fire dozens of heat-seeking projectiles?
 
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Seriously, though, play on Normal first. If you’re breezing through, try Hard. If you suck, play Easy. If you rush in and play on Hardest or Inferno you’re likely to toss your controller aside and curse this game as being unfair. Because it is. You need to level up your maximum health quite a lot in order to not get killed in a single shot on the harder difficulties.

EDF 4.1 also brings some new enemies, or rather, it brings enemies that were present in the earlier 2017 that were absent in 2025. And you’ll be high-fiving each other when you take down those bastards, I promise. On that note, yes: there is two player split-screen co-op. And this is the best way to play, by far. I’m a huge fan of local co-op in general, because I like playing games with actual people in the same room as me where we can drink beer together, and the EDF games are easily my most played local co-op games.

One of the hallmarks of the EDF series is its tendency to have single-digit frames-per-second whenever there’s a lot going on (which happens often, especially when you start getting block-levelling weapons). The PS4 version boasts a much better frame rate, hovering at a smooth-as-a-baby’s-butt 60fps when there’s not a lot happening and dropping to a low of 20 something when large chunks of the map are being wiped out while you fight fifty or so enemies at once.This was honestly kind of weird for me, because the stuttering had almost become part of the charm of the series; it was the only time I ever didn’t care that the frame rate was basically unplayable, because it was easy to write-off as there being too much awesomeness happening for one console to handle. Now I don’t know what to think, other than I’m hoping to cause so much destruction as to make the PS4 struggle.
 
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And all of this glowing praise overshadows a few simple facts: this game has bad graphics, bad music, bad sound effects, bad (but hilarious) physics, bad plot, bad controls and bad voice acting. Literally everything about this game is bad apart from the gameplay itself, which is pure, unadulterated fun. I’m not going to be moved emotionally like in Journey or Life is Strange, I’m not going to experience the incredible story or depth of The Witcher 3, or the challenging skill requirement of Rocket League. But I am going to have a really goddamn good time wrecking the shit out of legions of goddamn aliens for no reason other than it’s the most enjoyable gaming experience I’ve ever had.