I often use the term, “turned left and bananas…” when something has turned silly, Earth Defense Force 5 turned left and bananas around about level six. When the city-sized spaceship turned up and released hordes of smaller building-sized UFOs onto the city, it had gone past mediocre B movie plot, to sit alongside one of my favorite cult classics of all time, Rocky Horror Picture Show. From tens of building-sized insects like in the 1955 movie Tarantula, all the way up to hundreds and hundreds of UFOs being scattered across the city by my Winged Diver’s Plasma Cannon.
If you have never seen or heard of Earth Defense Force as a series, then you may be thinking, “This is a top-down real-time strategy? Right?” Wrong. Instead, Earth Defense Force elects to be a third-person action game of horrors and nightmares. It’s filled with humongous ants, enormous arachnids, and skyscraper-sized reptiles with you, a puny human with some guns. Big guns. Guns that would make the American military stand to attention upon first sight.
Now that I have slightly showered praise on Earth Defense Force 5, I have no shame in saying, I played it sitting three miles away from the TV inside a nuclear bunker. Well, for the most part. I was happy to come out when the spaceships turned up to release me from the horrors of mutant ants. To say the very least, I have not had the most peaceful week.
Visually Earth Defense Force 5 wouldn’t please the fans of the action set pieces in Call of Duty or Battlefield, but what it lacks in graphics, is made up for in scope. As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, there were hundreds of spaceships in one battle, surrounding me in the sixth level. In all honesty, there was a conceivable forty to fifty, though how quick you have to be to not die makes it feel like a much larger battle. So, it is an adequately epic battle at that alone.
The story isn’t exceptional either, as I also said in the first paragraph, it felt very much like a camp B movie. I think what doesn’t help is the less than persuasive voice performances, which will squawk phrases at you and sometimes with you into a battle. Female characters perform suggestively made noises that I think were from another production, while men sound like excited children playing with toy guns. It’s generally a mixed bag of performances.
To nitpick a little further, like a large particularly picky anthropoid on his mates, the difficulty is hard enough that you build some fear of these giant Hymenoptera crawling around the underground military base. Once I had gotten to level eight where the leaping arthropods come into the story, I was using weaponry that splayed them across the sidewalk with ease. Either I have become adept enough to make Earth Defense Force 5 easier than hiding behind the couch, or with the “Plasma Big Cannon,” I have become one with death.
I could also argue that options are less than optimal. Without brightness, I have to fight with either a light on, which I do not recommend or with a projector. Alternatively, I could fight giant spiders in the dark on a screen the size of them. Which I also do not suggest. There’s also the lack of subtitles. Often, I will find multiple characters with similar male voices yelling at the same time. All of this alongside the issue with games in Germany. Blood is either green or purple when in reality, an ant’s blood oxygenated is blue. Surprisingly, options for brightness, subtitles, or realistic blood are missing in the options menu.
In conclusion, I think Earth Defense Force 5 is a great game with dated and what I can only assume are predominantly Japanese design flaws. With an abundance of menus and lower graphics, I could see it putting off “casual” players. However, I think if you wish there were more games like Shadow of the Colossus where you fight giant monstrosities, this is the game for you.
A PS4 copy of Earth Defense Force 5 was provided by D3 Publisher for the purposes of this review.