Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair Review

Played on Windows
Also Available on PlayStation 4

The Earth is under attack again. This time insects are invading, it’s time to defend the Earth and everyone’s looking to you to join the Earth Defense Force. Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair has it all, big moments, giant insects and a ton of action. Will it be a blockbuster or a B-movie action flick?

If you know the Earth Defense Force series you might already know this game. With the exception of Insect Armageddon, which I have reviewed previously, they’re all made by a Japanese studio named simply “Sandlot”. This game is a remake of Earth Defense Force 2025, it was remade for the current generation of consoles, and on PC we also get the minor but impressive improvements to the engine.

EDF 4.1 doesn’t look incredible, but this game is all about the Dynasty Warrior school of video game design. The game has good models but uses a lot of them. The player should be feeling overwhelmed by the enemy count and does quite often in the game. There’s a horde of enemies on almost every level and while the graphics aren’t top notch, the number of enemies and the different varieties make up for them.

As an improvement from EDF 2025, the game increased the number of enemies and NPCs on each level. It’s more noticeable if you play the two games side by side but these changes are a major upgrade.

EDF 4.1 has a ton of enemies running around with civilians and other military personnel in each level and there’s a lot going on in each mission. The limited graphics allows for bigger and better enemies, levels and missions.

EDF as a series has destruction as a major piece. When buildings take enough damage they will play a canned destruction animation showing them falling. This sounds like a gimmick and many games use it as such, but this actually has a use in the gameplay, as insects will sometimes climb buildings, and buildings block some views that can be used tactically. However, seeing an entire city area decimated after one of the game’s massive battles is a major moment. It makes the victory feel a touch hollow, as you look at the destruction but the experience benefits from this.

The graphics can look amazing at times, if you take a moment to look at them.

The story of EDF 4.1 starts by talking about an insect invasion 7 years prior and a possible resurgence. As mentioned, EDF 4.1 is based on EDF 2025, and the first game in the series was EDF 2017. The game starts with the new uprising of insects, hundreds of ants have appeared and are terrorizing people. It’s something pulled right out of a B-movie.

The story of EDF 4.1 though isn’t necessarily the strongest point, but I think it’s the part of the game that made me fall in love with the series. It’s a type of story you’d see from a movie on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Something that leaves itself open for a lot of jokes and insults, but at the same time, it’s funny to make those jokes, and I’ve enjoyed the game more because of the corny dialogue and situations in it. This is only enhanced when you play with other players and if you can enjoy a bad movie, you’ll probably enjoy the story here.

Lines are thrown around like “They’re coming!” and chanting “EDF! EDF!” as well as there’s a song about the EDF sung to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic which is probably the most used chat default in the game. It’s even made better by the fact that the NPCs will sometimes respond with a different verse. It’s schlocky writing but it’s still endlessly entertaining. It’s not as bad as “The Room”, but definitely, has the cheesy movie feeling that you can enjoy.

There are a lot of missions in the game as well, 98 missions to be precise if you play the multiplayer version. However, the game progresses relatively quickly. Every couple of missions a new piece of the story or element is introduced, and every five to ten missions seems to introduce something new, or a new series of missions. The game changes very quickly and keeps it interesting for new players.

EDF 4.1 isn’t just a remake of EDF 2025, though I struggle to really call this out as the changes will be minor for fans. There are 94 missions in the original game, and 98 missions in EDF 4.1. The additional 4 missions all focus on a brand new enemy called Erginus, or better known as Godzilla. There are differences between the two Erginus and Godzilla but it’s really clear they finally wanted to add a Godzilla type monster to the game, and it works for that. The game also had to add a new weapon to defeat the Erginus, and in this case, they went for a giant robot or Mecha.

Erginus is the only new monster, but he is impressive. Hiding his face to protect his anonymity.

Yes, these are a bit shameless for the design but it still works for the story and the new levels are sprinkled over the entire story mode.

As I keep saying though, the B-movie quality story is going to be a love it or hate it part of the game. If you adore these types of movies, you’ll have a great time with EDF 4.1, however, the game is filled with this type of writing and it’s going to be the deciding factor for most gamers.

Though, with the story being unintentionally hilarious, how is the gameplay?

Earth Defense Force as a series is a third person shooter, but it also relies heavily on loot. It was the first game I called a “Loot ‘em up”. While the term tends to be used for games like Destiny and The Division, where there are different loot rarities and such, it’s the importance of loot that makes the term viable for EDF 4.1

The battles in EDF 4.1 are massive, there are a ton of enemies and you’ll have to kill all of them to progress to the next mission or map. Of course with a large number of enemies, they’ll quickly swarm most players if they’re not careful. Much of the game is back away from the oncoming horde and picking them off as quickly as possible.

It’s not just insects in this game though, while ants, spiders, and bees are featured heavily, there are flying robots, giant walking bipedal “Hectors” and even more. The game keeps introducing new enemies, which range from just simple pallet swaps to entirely new characters. Each enemy produces a new danger or challenge that the player will have to deal with, and before long the game will mix and match the new danger into its rotation of enemies.

When the massive enemies appear, they really are MASSIVE. This guy is taller than skyscrapers.

Along with the massive number of enemies, a large amount of loot will drop. Enemies will often drop one of four boxes. There are a small and large version of the health packs, which heals the heroes. There are also Armor crates and Weapon boxes. These don’t affect the game in the middle of the mission, but after winning the mission, the player earns an Armor (which serves as Health points) upgrade based on how many armor crates he retrieved. He also gets weapons based on the difficulty of the missions. Higher tier difficulty and later missions will produce better weapons.

That’s really the core of all the Earth Defense Force games, killing lots of enemies and earning loot from doing so. In EDF 4.1 there are 98 missions in just the base game, and 48 additional missions in both DLC packs. None of these missions are very long, most take between 5-10 minutes, and the good news is that means failure isn’t a huge loss.

EDF 4.1 has quite a few big boss moments, which are major moments so they take up more time when you’re taking down a mothership, or downing a large enemy for the first time. There were probably less than 10 missions that took more than 15 minutes, but every one of them is a monumental achievement the first time you complete them.

The player is able to choose from four classes in the game. The classes are Rangers, which are standard infantry, Wing Divers, which are agile but weak jetpack soldiers, air raiders, characters that are able to summon vehicles, and fencers, heavily armored characters carrying four weapons.

Each of these classes play differently and have their own sets of weapons and armor. Playing one class only levels up that class and only provides weapons for them as well. I’m partial to the agility of the Wing Divers but have to admit, that I often got jealous of the Air Raiders with their toys, when playing. The Rangers are the most typical and get some of the easiest to use weapons, whereas the Fencer is perfect for someone looking for something different than all the other three classes as it uses a unique control scheme and a different style to what the other three have in common.

There are no wrong choices here, but with each class having a unique armor score and weapon list, it means completionists will have their hands full. I played over 30 hours to get through the game one time with just the wing diver class. There’s a lot more to collect and with four more classes, we’re talking far more.

But that’s not all, EDF 4.1 boasts five difficulties in the game, where Normal is the starting difficulty, and I recommend it to every player, Easy is also a good choice for players who want to beat particularly hard missions or just speed through the game. On the other side of the scale, there are Hard, Hardest, and Inferno. Yes, Hardest is the fourth, not the final difficulty for some reason.

These aren’t like a normal difficulty scale Hard is intended for players who have already beaten a few levels, gained some solid gear and want a harder challenge. Hardest is for people who have pretty much completed Hard, and Inferno is for people who want an absolute struggle.

Taking down large enemies produces major moments of awesomeness.

That’s not to say players can’t tackle them before those points, but the enemies will gain a lot more health and hit harder for each step up the difficulty curve. These are more like the difficulty tiers in Diablo than just a difficulty level in Wolfenstein. There are ways and certain levels that can be farmed easily even on these difficulties, but it’s still a major step to move to the next difficulty tier.

There are also two ways to play Earth Defense Force 4.1. There’s an offline progression and an online progression. This choice is important for a strange reason. Your characters are shared between the two modes, however, your progress in the missions isn’t. This is likely due to having a different number of missions in offline and online for some reason, but if you’ve beaten 20 missions in offline, going online means you have to start over from scratch to get to the 21st mission. Of course, you can join players who are on that mission or any mission but to select it yourself you have to beat the first 20 missions one at a time.

You are able to play single player online as well, so there’s really not a reason to play offline, other than perhaps the additional missions don’t work well if there’s only one player. Personally, though, I recommend everyone to play online if possible, EDF 4.1 really shines online. While more players will slightly increase the difficulty, it’s not enough to outweigh having a second pair of hands, guns, and even someone to revive you if you fall.

Online has some minor struggles. Finding players online can be a little clunky. In fact, most of the UI of EDF 4.1 is unwieldy and fits more with a game from 1990, not 2013. There’s really not a reason for the interface to be so poor.

For online though, players are able to look at a full room list. There’s search functionality, which actually searches for missions around your target mission instead of just one out 98 missions), and a decent amount of games are still being played. Someone put in some effort to find a game.

Sadly that guy seemed to go missing once players are in game room. EDF 4.1 doesn’t have join in progress functionality, and with missions taking between 5-10 minutes, it’s unclear how long players will be. There is also no progression meter which would have been a great touch.

Communication is very hit and miss. Many of the people I played with did type chat messages back and forth. For some reason there’s a size cap on what can be said, and no log or history in game. In addition, Voice chat is completely shot, in my experience. It’s hard to hear what people are saying, and it’s much better to grab a group on another service and then play EDF 4.1, then try to use their chat system. I even had the game almost muted and the voice chat maxed, and still struggled to hear most players. That’s not good at all.

Not everything is doom and gloom. If you find a group that is ready to play with you, you’ll find the game becomes even better in a group of two to four players. New tactics can be used, and the comradery is fantastic. I found myself playing with people for three to five hours per session because we formed a great team. Some people would swap out but we made consistent progress.

Friendly fire is on though at muted rate, I assumed we’d see some problems. I’m sure trolls could exist, but for most fans, they’re here to win and I didn’t find any troublemakers aside from one guy who decided to show us his ultimate weapon, which killed us quickly. We laughed and then played the mission for real. The only issues I had with other players was a few times when people joined my game in which they were heavily unprepared. They were bringing armor and gear from the first level into a final mission and the game doesn’t really help that.

I’d also be lying if I said it was always easy to find a group. Once you pass the halfway mark, missions get harder and a lot of players aren’t available for those missions. I could usually find a group within thirty minutes if I tried, but players ready for the later missions are a bit scarce.

The entire EDF 4.1 is a fun time if you have the right mentality and I really wish I could stop with that point, but there are problems. Actually, a LOT of problems with EDF 4.1. Some are just minor nitpicks but I found some serious issues here.

First, I mentioned completionists, but to be clear, there are four characters classes, and five different difficulties to 100 percent the game, you’ll need to play through every mission in the game, 20 times. If one run through took me about 30 hours, we’re probably looking at closer to 500 hours to reach that, and that’s if you don’t fail more often at a higher difficulty, which is almost impossible.

Also, some missions’ difficulties are a bit variable. A very easy mission can follow one of the hardest missions in the game. If you just beat mission 47, mission 48 can be anywhere from simple to very difficult. It’s a similar situation for length, some missions might look the same and just take twice as long for no stated reason.

The game also still has a few stability problems. I got one crash where the game just closed on me without a single message. This appears to be a crash other people have seen but no reason is given. In addition, players will sometimes join a server for multiplayer and everyone gets disconnected. Players can reform the room quickly, but it’s still a poor user experience.

I saw this error message entirely too much

EDF 4.1 has a weird bug where the game’s framerate tanks on the missions and equipment screen specifically. There’s no reason for this, but changing game rooms fixes the bug, however players shouldn’t be required to do this when spending hours working as a team. Most teams suffer through it, but again, it’s not a good experience.

As mentioned, with no join in progress or percentage done is a shame for a game in 2015. It’d be a great feature to add and help players feel like they’re helping each other out, but instead the game has opted for a stale experience of waiting in a lobby and writing a message hoping for a response.

Players don’t have a way to tell if a game room is in progress or in the lobby without joining it, so often players will jump into rooms and out quite regularly.

Just a strange bug is that the Wing Divers can’t sing, so when they chose their part of the Battle Hymn of the EDF, it’s silent. As that’s my favorite class, that particularly bothered me more than most people. The fact that they are the only female class as well made me wonder if they just didn’t record those lines with the female voice actresses.

Finally, at the core, this game is quite grindy. I really enjoyed my 30 hours with the game, but I have to admit, there are probably at least half the missions which aren’t fully required. I like the longer game, but if the game was only 15 hours, I might have played through as a different class or two a second time. Instead I had my fill and more than that. It was enjoyable but I didn’t want to replay it.

So what is EDF 4.1 Well it turns out it’s a B-movie, it has the cheesy acting, the silly monsters, the good action, and comradery that is amazing. But it also has the B-movie qualities in the game itself. I like the schlocky parts of the story, and the cheesy elements, even the gameplay isn’t horrible, but the bugs really hurt this game and change the Mystery Science Theatre elements to more of an Angry Joe rage fest. What’s worse is this game has been out for 3 years, it should have been patched and fixed. Still I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a great time when it worked right.

I give Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair a


Still, this is far better than the EDF: Insect Armageddon and honestly, I still think most people try this out just for the how outlandish it is. I might even throw it a personal favorite award at the end of year because, as much as I complain, it’s still a game I enjoy so much.

Final Thoughts: A solid representation of the B-movie in video game form, for better or worse. It’s got a lot of laughable moments, with a few design issues and crashes but they don’t ruin the fun.

Stats: 36.9 hours played 5/51 achievements earned (Most will take MANY hours of grinding)