Review: Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (PS4)

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Title: Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6.08 GB)
Release Date: December 8, 2015
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Sandlot
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: M
Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair is exclusive to PlayStation 4.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Like most Earth Defense Force games, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair has a lot of content to play and a lot more to unlock. I recently reviewed Earth Defense Force 2 on the Vita so now lets have a look at what 4.1 has in store for us on the PlayStation 4.

The setup of this franchise isn’t complicated: the world is being invaded by giant insects and alien ships and you have to shoot all of them. It is simple and to the point like games from yesteryear and in a world where now most shooters are trying to be cinematic and huge in scope this is oddly like a breath of fresh air.

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When it comes down to gameplay the controls are your run of the mill third person shooter. That is not meant to be a knock against the game, it’s just that the game doesn’t do anything special in the control scheme department worth noting. It plays well and there is nothing odd to report; the shooting feels like it should.

There are four character classes to choose from:
Ranger: The standard foot soldier that has the ability roll and run
Wing Diver: A jetpack flying character that uses energy based weapons
Air Raider: Also equipped with a jetpack and has the ability to call for vehicles and air support
Fencer: Tank class that has a shield and dash and is capable of holding four weapons

These classes make up the diversity of the game with each having their own sets of weapons to collect and their abilities being helpful in different situations. As the game increases in difficulty or the location changes, it becomes necessary to take advantage of the specific abilities of an individual class to help get by.

… an excellent job of switching up the enemy types …
Each class has their own advantages and disadvantages and the game shines best at the higher difficulties with the help of others via split-screen or co-op. For example, the Wing Divers can get away from enemies faster by boosting out while the Ranger class, once surrounded by enemies, does not stand a chance. The Fencer class can barrel through a crowd while the Air Raider relies on helping their teammates more than standing on their own.

Throughout your playthrough, you will come across a large variety of enemies; everything from different types of giant ants or spiders to large spaceships and robots. The game does an excellent job of switching up the enemy types and making them more aggressive and powerful from level to level while their difficulty increases as you progress through the game. The gradual increase is appreciated and needed to keep players engaged through the many missions.

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Weapons and armor are the driving force to keep playing as they are doled out through random drops by fallen enemies. Weapons are graded by a level which dictates their power and features.

In order to get better drops though you will have to bump up the game’s difficulty which will increase the possibility of higher leveled weapons dropping. The amount of loot to pick up is pretty crazy and if you are driven by collecting as much loot as possible, this game will be right up your alley though the randomness of the drops might frustrate some.

All in all, despite the game’s generic setup, the core mechanics are solid and the loot cycle can be slightly addicting. I did not find it to be much fun as a solo player, but when I jumped into the multiplayer, this game became a favorite to play.

… the amount of enemies on the screen reaches ridiculous levels …
Visuals:
Earth Defense Force 4.1 is not going to take any awards for its graphical prowess and that is acceptable because the game is not attempting to be more than a mindless shooter or “B” movie type of experience.

The game does a lot with the little it has. The environments are pretty bland but the amount of enemies on the screen reaches ridiculous levels. It’s crazy how many enemies this game will throw onto the screen.

In single player the frame-rate takes a small hit while the split-screen action takes a bigger hit when adding the destructibility of buildings. These technical issues did not take too much away from the fun I was having. The visuals may not be impressive, but the gameplay is solid fun and makes up for any shortcomings.

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Audio:
The soundtrack does not stand out too much. There are some decent battle tracks reminiscent of Japanese action games, but it gets mostly drowned out by the sounds of weapons firing and bugs dying. The menu music is great and since a lot of time can be spent here just looking through the many weapons unlocked and reading their stats, it’s admirable at least,

The game does not feature a lot of voice work outside of a reporter giving the occasional updates on the story and attacks. Her work is fine and as for the rest of the voice acting it is fine as well.

Other voice work consists of a general giving orders and the random screams of fellow soldiers and scared civilians. Some of the random lines shouted by these characters can often come across as hilarious. Clearly the game is not taking itself too seriously which is a plus.

… with only the framerate taking a hit …
Online/Multiplayer:
This is an absolute blast when playing with other people. The game features both online and offline play both of which worked great in my experience.

Most of my time was spent playing in co-op offline using the two player split-screen option. It works well in split-screen for the most part with only the framerate taking a hit when the difficulty is cranked and both players are using highly destructible weapons.

There are some seriously over-powered weapons to find that can take out skyscrapers in one shot and when both players are destroying everything in their sights the game can be a slideshow, but outside of leveling all in sight, the game ran smooth.

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Online co-op supports up to four players and matches are joined through a lobby system that will display the rules set by the host. Joining other players was painless and worked every time I attempted it.

During my matches I did not come across any lag and the game was easy to run through with all four players working together and taking advantage of the four class types available to choose from.

In addition to cooperative play there is a 1v1 Versus Mode that is offline only. In this mode two players face off against one another in a deathmatch. This was a fun, short distraction, but in the grand scheme of things nothing more than that.

… overall the experience stays mostly enjoyable …
Conclusion:
Earth Defense Force 4.1 is worthy installment in the long running EDF franchise. It combines a plethora of missions, loot, and a fun co-op experience with the game’s offline two player split-screen and four player online capabilities.

Now while solo play is an option, I do feel fatigued by it with how many missions there are and I resorted to playing mostly in co-op. This is where I found the game to be the most fun. On its highest difficulty, it’s a fun challenge and is especially fun when playing with others. There are some technical hitches that come up, most specifically when it comes to frame-rate dips, but overall the experience stays mostly enjoyable.

EDF is not a game focused on its story and should be seen as a horde game best spent with friends at home or online. No matter which way you decide to play, the amount of content packed into this game will keep anyone busy for a long time and is worth checking out.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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