Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair Review

By Shawn Collier on January 4, 2016

The Earth Defense Force series is an interesting one, to say the least. While there's dime a dozen games out there that allow you to shoot up stuff in dudebro-like fashion, there's something entirely else about playing a game that lets you blow up giant insects and robots until they explode or level entire cities building-by-building, all while encompassed in the cheesiest B-movie inspired tropes you can imagine. You know going into it that there's going to be cheese "” and tons of it in fact, and some technical issues, but for fans of the series, it's the entire package that has had them coming back time and time again.

So when XSEED announced they would be bringing over Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair to North America, fans were interested to hear what was new in the latest PS4 entry in the franchise. Outside of being the first entry on the PS4, it's an enhanced version of Earth Defense Force 2025 (known as Earth Defense Force 4 in Japan), featuring new content and gameplay alongside 1080p/60fps visuals. So is this enough for veterans of 2025 to purchase this new entry, or are they better off sticking with original?

Visually, while it's not going to be a looker compared to most other games on the PS4 currently, it's easily the best-looking Earth Defense Force entry thus far in the series and at least didn't regress compared to prior entries in the series. However, unlike the Vita port of EDF2 released alongside EDF 4.1 this Winter in North America, I managed to run into quite a bit more frame rate drops when too many enemies appeared next to my character or when enough buildings started to fall apart around me at one time. Series veterans might jokingly chalk this up to being an intended inclusion, but considering the PlayStation Vita reimagining of EDF2 nearly eliminated this problem brings that into question. That said, the PS4 version does have significantly improved load times over 2025, so taking into consideration the nearly 200 single and multiplayer combined levels that adds up quickly.

If you've played EDF2, you'll have a pretty good idea of how the gameplay works in EDF 4.1. Like in that game, you pick from one of four classes, taking on giant insects, robots, spaceships and other monstrosities either in an attempt to take them all down or survive as long as possible, in the case where the game doesn't allow you to win against the enemy just yet. You have your average Ranger class that's good with classic military tactical weaponry, the Wing Diver class that lets you fly into the sky, the Air Raider class that lets you work with other classes to coordinate attacks and lastly the Fencer class which has the speciality of dual-wielding (which was in the original EDF2 but removed in the enhanced Vita reimagining).

You can play the game alone in single-player, but ideally EDF 4.1 wants you to try out the multiplayer functionality either via offline or online co-op as the classes are designed to compliment each other, or in the case of specific classes like the Air Raider are meant specifically for multiplayer. Also another neat touch of the PS4 controller in EDF 4.1 in multiplayer is the ability to place markers on specific locations, including enemies and buildings, using the controller's touchpad, making for a nice way to set beacons for other players when things get chaotic during hectic matches.

One major improvement from a complaint I had in my EDF2 review is that vehicles have essentially been fixed in this iteration of the series. The vehicle controls are markedly improved to the point where I generally felt like I had control over the vehicle at any given time. Vehicles now also have laser sights for aiming weapons, so no longer will you have to waste ammo because you couldn't figure out if you had the right angle for the shot. Those two improvements alone opened up new opportunities in gameplay as I generally tried to ignore vehicles in EDF2 due to their controls whenever possible.

Considering the type of gameplay involved, one would expect that the sound design in this type of game would be two parts cheesy mixed with one part chaotic. Since this is a game inspired and modeled after the cheesiest of B-movies, there's tons of random screams from bystanders as they're being torn apart or running from the giant monsters or the random quips fired off by you and your fellow EDF companions.

And while XSEED Games did a masterful job at making it all as hokey as it could possibly be, I did run into issues occasionally where the lines all seemed to fire off near the same sound level to the point where it became impossible to tell who was speaking. And in some instances, the game would even prematurely cut off a person's line before they were finished. I didn't run into this issue while playing through EDF2 on the PlayStation Vita, so I don't think this was the intended effect by the developers. It should be noted, though, that the developers added in the ability to trigger specially defined sayings using the PS4's touchpad at-will. There's something about
having a group of units fire off a tune and start dancing as they're surrounded by a swarm of enemy units that's just absurdly silly in a good way.

Final Thoughts

Like a good B-movie, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair is the type of game that knows is target audience and market. The graphics aren't great, there's frame rate issues aplenty at times, there's sound mixing issues, the gameplay essentially consists of blowing things up to kingdom come "” but somehow all of that comes together into an absurdly delicious package that's superb for multiplayer matches and great even for single-player bouts if you have the right frame of mind.

The beacon system using the touchpad for multiplayer purposes is a nice touch.
Controls for vehicles are vastly improved over other entries in the series, especially coming from EDF2.
There's something simply amusing about having units trigger off sayings simply by using the touch pad.
Occasional sound mixing issues regarding the voice overs.
There's a bit more framerate drop issues compared to the recent EDF2 Vita release surprisingly, considering the PS4's abilities.
If you're a graphics nut, this still isn't the series for you.
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