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Earth Defense Force 5: giant bugs, explosions and campy co-op fun

Imagine this: you're a cargo hauler, doing what cargo haulers do. Carrying nuclear weapons around a super-secret military base populated by mechs, highly motivated soldiers and weird flying ladies in skimpy outfits. Suddenly, giant bugs appear and huge teleportation pylons start falling from the sky!

What's going on?

What should you do?

If your answer is that these animals probably escaped from a zoo, the pylons are a terrorist attack, and you should pick up four heavy weapons to clean this mess up while singing a tune about the valiant infantry, congratulations! You're Earth Defense Force material.

A noble mission

As you might've guessed, EDF5 is a shooter. Gameplay wise, it's about shooting things until they die. You can also run. There's a 110 missions (~30 hours) long main campaign, which you can play through solo or with up to three friends (in split-screen co-op or online), and after you're done with that you can play through it again on one of the higher difficulties.

The story is a parody of monster movies and alien invasion movies, with tons of radio chatter to spice things up when killing 9812636 giant ants starts feeling a bit samey. It's extremely campy, and you can tell the writers had tons of fun making the story as ridiculous as possible.

Defenders of Mother Earth

EDF5 lets you pick from four classes:

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The Imperial Guard Ranger, who's your basic soldier. New in EDF5! The Ranger can now run!

The Fencer, who's a mini-mech. Big guns, slow legs… and a jetpack? Yes, please!

The Air Raider, who uses the power of friendship to call in airstrikes, nukes and various vehicles.

And finally the Wing Diver, who flies, shoots lasers and wears mini shorts. Don't worry, there's a really good lore reason for the mini shorts. I promise.

Each class has access to dozens of weapons, ranging from simple shotguns to orbital cannons and of course gigantic swords. Lots of variety there. You can only carry 2-4 (depending on your class) weapons with you, so you have to customize your loadout to fit the mission. Naturally, you can loot these weapons from the bugs you kill. I'm sure a great lore reason for that, too.

Explosions

So, you pick a class, shoot at monsters, blah blah blah. Why should you play EDF instead of, say, L4D? Well, for one, EDF is more enjoyable solo, if you're so inclined. It's obviously more fun in co-op, but it doesn't rely as much on team mates bailing you out, so co-op is more of a nice extra than a necessity.

The more important distinction from other games, however, is that EDF takes its monster movie inspiration and fully commits to it. The enemy hordes are huge. And these aren't zombie hordes, but hordes of 3+ meters tall monsters, so it's not uncommon to see tall buildings covered in bugs. The environments are also totally destructible, so you'll often see those buildings crumble after a nice dose of orbital bombardment. The game takes full advantage of that, letting all of its classes cause mayhem on a nearly unparalleled scale. Hey, Michael Bay? If you're reading this, you should play EDF. It's like one of your movies, but with more explosions.

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Of course hordes of giant insects aren't the only things you'll fight, but I won't spoil the rest. Let's just say there's tons of enemy variety in EDF5, and later on you'll face large enemies that can be dismembered like in Dead Space. The huge number of missions is great, too, because many similar games only feature a small number of them meant to be played over and over again, while EDF5 offers much more variety.

Now, of course there's a downside to all of the above. EDF is a budget title, and there's a reason why most games don't let hordes of enemies wreck fully destructible cities. It limits the visuals a lot, so EDF5 isn't the prettiest game around. However, it looks alright, and often it's really impressive because of its sense of scale and how well the enemy AI works. It also runs flawlessly on my mid-range PC.

TL;DR

EDF5 is a remarkable and unique game that's definitely worth playing if you're at all interested in killing giant bugs while listening to campy radio chatter. It looks a bit rough at first, but after a few missions you notice how well it executes its concept and how many cool mechanics it has. And if you've got a friend or two or three, it's even better.

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