Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair Review

Still blasting away in 2025

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a PlayStation 4 on

ESRB Mature rating

It looks like giant insect aliens are at it again. Considering this game is merely an improved version of last generation's Earth Defense Force 2025, does it do enough to stand on its own? Grab a can of insecticide and let's find out.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair screenshot 1
Exploring the depths of the city is much creepier in the dark

If you've ever played an EDF game then you know what to expect when it comes to gameplay. You basically run around with the left stick, aim with the right, and shoot at massive insect and robot enemies. In order to avoid their attacks, you can jump or roll out of the way with the same button. It's all rather easy to learn yet where the game shines is in its B movie absurdity. There isn't much of a story (as fans have come to expect) but watching all of the chaos unfold as the insanity slowly ramps up throughout the lengthy campaign is pure awesomeness. Doing such crazy things as firing a missile that explodes a distant building covered in spiders is always exciting. Seeing as there are so many combinations of character classes and weapons to experiment with, you'll likely spend hours trying to find the best configuration so you can kick as much alien butt as possible.

Although the gameplay is inherently enjoyable, it doesn't stay that way for long. After you play around with a handful of weapon combinations and see what each of the four classes is capable of, nothing really happens that'll keep you compelled to push on. Sure, new enemy types and situations gradually present themselves but the core gameplay remains unchanged. To add frustration into the mix, many difficulty spikes frequently occur. When these happen, it's hard not to just shut the game off in anger after a dozen attempts.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair screenshot 2
Local cooperative play adds a lot of enjoyment to taking out alien forces

Besides the gameplay eventually becoming tedious, the biggest problem that Earth Defense Force 4.1 faces is its presentation. For starters, it doesn't look like current console quality. In fact, it appears to be only slightly better than its previous generation's counterpart (which was far from impressive on its own). Not only are the environments drab and uninspired, their textures (along with level objects) tend to pop-in regularly. It's hard to believe that a game with not the greatest visuals on PlayStation 4 struggles this much to keep up. Another issue is that the voice samples of citizens and soldiers repeat way too often. These people love to yell in terror but when you hear the same line said twice in a row (or even on top of itself), it gets irritating fast. They should have recorded more voice clips or made people not talk as much if they didn't have enough samples to last ten seconds without rehashing lines.

On the bright side, there is a ton of content that'll keep you busy for hours upon hours. The single player campaign consists of 89 missions. Most of them basically involve just blasting away everything in sight while some require you to take out specific enemies or installations. They can get rather tricky, but non-playable characters will assist you and some classes can even drive vehicles that'll give you a temporary boost. It's definitely a great time when you start to command helicopters and mechs. You also have the option to play through missions cooperatively with a local buddy. For a welcome break, you and your pal can battle each other in a versus mode. However, the most impressive mode is the online campaign where you can tackle 98 missions with up to four players simultaneously. Luckily, the ability to heal and revive your fellow soldiers adds a layer of strategy to the otherwise mindless shooting. When you factor in the five difficulty settings and hundreds of weapons to unlock, you know that you're in for one long insect-squashing adventure.

Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair screenshot 3
Soaring above the chaos as the Wing Diver is quite a thrill

As with most games in the series, Earth Defense Force 4.1 is an absolute riot at first. It's too bad that the fun doesn't remain exciting throughout, but the time that you'll spend blasting away insect alien scum will at least put a smile on your face.

  • + Awesome B movie setting and plot with equally over-the-top gameplay
  • + Loads of replay value with tons of missions, various modes, and configurations to explore
  • - Gameplay gets too boring and frustrating after playing for only a short while
  • - Subpar graphics with too much pop-in
  • - Voice samples are annoyingly repetitive
6.7 out of 10
Gameplay video for Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair 9:09

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