Earth Defense Force 2025 review: I like big bugs

2007's Earth Defense Force 2017 ranks as one of my favorite multiplayer experiences on the Xbox 360. Pitting an army of tiny (but heavily armed) humans against massive waves of gigantic insects, the EDF games have a uniquely charming appeal, despite their low-rent aesthetics. Co-op play in EDF 2017 required frantic communication with an experienced teammate in order to survive its screen-filling enemy swarms, and few games released in the years since matched its impressive sense of scale and array of powerful explosive weaponry. It wasn't perfect, though – its missions followed a simple and repetitive structure, and the lack of online multiplayer stung.

The recent spinoff game Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon promised a glorious return for the series, but ended up being a crushing disappointment instead. Insect Armageddon's inexperienced development team misunderstood the series' appeal, replacing EDF's defining elements with puny weapons, boring objectives, and straightforward enemy encounters.

Now, Earth Defense Force 2025 puts the series back on track, returning development duties to franchise creator Sandlot and delivering the goofiest bug-blasting action this side of Starship Troopers. While much of EDF 2025's content treads familiar terrain, it has enough new features and improvements to make it a worthy successor to one of this generation's greatest cult classics.
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Earth Defense Force 2025 (2/11/14)

EDF's premise is simple enough: Giant bugs have invaded Earth, and we, as a species, have banded together to forcefully evict the humongous ants, spiders, and bipedal robots that have infested our business districts. What follows is a series of arcade-style shooting levels that emphasize quick reflexes and capable weaponry over strategy.

At its core, though, EDF is about more than pure shooting mechanics. It's about catching you off-guard with a staggering sense of scale. It's about surviving seemingly insurmountable odds through smart equipment choices. It's about pushing your skills to the limit to earn greater rewards, with the end goal of transforming from a itty-bitty, defenseless human to an unstoppable, death-dealing juggernaut.


EDF 2025's gameplay is driven by its expansive arsenal, which gradually unlocks as you progress through its campaign. You begin with a standard supply of rifles, shotguns, and grenades, but by the time you've finished the campaign, you'll be plowing through insect swarms with armor-shredding plasma cannons, skyscraper-razing rocket launchers, and guns that shoot lightning. EDF 2025's weapons deliver both a satisfying sense of progression and immense empowerment.

EDF 2025's loot system is equally brilliant, encouraging you to increase the difficulty to earn more powerful weapon drops. It's fun to test the limits of your arsenal by attempting tougher levels, and if the challenge becomes overwhelming, you can always dial back the difficulty and crush weaker enemies with your overpowered weaponry. By putting the player in direct control of difficulty for each individual level, the campaign never feels too challenging or too easy. No matter your skill level, you'll find a satisfying degree of challenge.

Earth Defense Force 2025 is very similar to the last Sandlot-developed entry in the series, though it introduces an array of needed improvements. Controls are tighter, characters have greater maneuverability, and enemy bugs are fiercer and less prone to becoming stuck inside level geometry. In addition to split-screen co-op for two players, an online multiplayer mode for up to four players has been added. EDF 2025 also features three new classes originally introduced in Insect Armageddon, greatly expanding the campaign's scope beyond EDF 2017's default Ranger class.

Of the four playable classes, my favorite is the Wing Diver, a jetpack-equipped aerial unit recently featured in Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable. Compared to the other classes, the Wing Diver is a glass cannon, equipped with an arsenal of ridiculously powerful weaponry at the expense of low physical strength, which encourages a more thoughtful style of play. Often, the best way to play as a Wing Diver is to float along the fringes of the insect hordes and unleash thunderous death upon the stragglers. In multiplayer sessions, the Wing Diver can effectively kite enemies away from the less maneuverable classes, giving them a chance to reload and recover.

While the other classes add new layers of strategy to EDF 2025's multiplayer mode, neither the Air Raider nor the Fencer class are particularly effective in single-player mode. The charge times for the Air Raider's weapons are so extreme that they make combat feel like a game of hide-and-seek, and the slow Fencer class better serves in a cleanup role alongside more agile characters. Multiplayer is practically a necessity to bring out the full potential of these classes, as leveling them up solo is a drawn-out, boring process.

While blasting bugs into orbit with high-caliber weaponry seldom gets old, repetition occasionally weighs down the campaign. Having played through Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable recently, I noticed that there was very little in EDF 2025's first half that hadn't already been seen in the series. Some level objectives are ripped directly from EDF 2017; the initial ant invasion levels, multiple underground sequences, and a beachfront battle against an army of red ants all play very similarly to specific levels featured in earlier EDF games.

EDF 2025's bestiary will also seem familiar at first, with the web-spinning Retiarius spiders and the defensive Shield Bearers serving as the only new additions until around level 40 (of 85 total), when more interesting enemy types are introduced. Their appearance pays off in a big way, however, requiring you to adopt new tactics and dive for cover from swarming hornets and terrifying, octopus-like robots that can stride across wide expanses of terrain in an instant. It's strange that EDF 2025's strongest elements are locked away until you've put several hours into the campaign, but once you've cleared the initial set of levels, your patience is rewarded with unique and interesting challenges until the end.

Presentation issues are standard for the EDF series, but some are more noticeable in EDF 2025 than in previous games. You can expect extreme framerate dips when the action gets frantic, especially in the split-screen co-op mode. Long load times also hinder the experience. In the PlayStation 3 version of EDF 2025, I waited more than 30 seconds before each level began, adding up to several minutes of dead air throughout an average play session.

Despite its lingering quirks, Earth Defense Force 2025 is every bit as fun as Earth Defense Force 2017 was, and it's a great improvement over Insect Armageddon. Though its rehashed content disappoints initially, EDF 2025 emerges as the best in the series in its latter half, delivering freakish new enemies, over-the-top weaponry and a solid and expansive multiplayer experience.


This review is based on a retail copy of the PlayStation 3 version of Earth Defense Force 2025, provided by D3Publisher. Images: D3Publisher.

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