Did you see what I did there? In the title? Bugs? Because there are giant insects in the game. It was a joke! A good one! Ok, fine.
Anyway, Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair (which is a hell of a long title) has you shooting giant insects. A lot. Right from the word go, you will be confronted by hordes of rampaging giant insects, from ants, to bees, to spiders (I know, but the game calls them insects…) before moving onto robots and space ships. It’s utterly bonkers, but great fun for it.
And I’m not kidding when I say hordes. On pretty much any one of the almost 90 missions, you’ll be confronted by hundred of enemies to take out either alone or with a local partner or 3 online team mates. Taking on so many enemies at once and coming out on top is quite cathartic. In many ways it reminds me of the Warriors games (Dynasty, Samurai etc.) in that you lead a group of soldiers to mow down swarms of opponents using your choice of weapons.
There are 4 classes available. The middle-of-the-road Ranger, the agile but vulnerable Wing Diver, the support and vehicle summoning Air Raider and the walking tank designated Fencer. Each has their own abilities and variety of weapons, giving you more longevity than you might expect for a game solely about blowing up bugs. Once you pick a character, though, you’ll likely want to stick with it, as your health and weapon stash increases for that character only. This means that if you switch class half way through the game you will be significantly under-powered. This felt a little unfair as once I had finished the game on normal, I wanted to play as a different character on a higher difficulty. Doing so was near impossible due to all the other characters being far too weak to survive on hard mode.
And this is where the game starts to slip somewhat. Farming. Do you like farming for items and buffs? Then this is the game for you! To have a hope on any difficulty above hard, you will have to go back to previous levels and farm health pick ups. I don’t have a big problem with farming, but after a while it becomes rather tedious. And if you want to see all the game has to offer, you’ll need to do this with 4 classes. I saw an estimate that to finish the game on the highest difficulty with all 4 classes would take around 500 hours. That’s a lot of content I suppose, but I for one would be bored long before hitting that!
I’ve yet to mention the story, and that’s because there barely is one. It’s very much old fashioned B-movie fare: aliens invade Earth with giant insects. This is fine as I don’t think anyone was expecting literary genius here. The graphics are serviceable, but certainly won’t blow your mind. The sound is fine, although the music is repetitive. The voice acting is simultaneously some of the best and worst examples of video game vocal work I’ve heard in a long time. It’s full of cheesy dialogue between the soldiers mid-mission and lead to more than a couple of laugh out loud moments (Soldier 1: “Why did you sign up?” Soldier 2: “For some reason!”). Utter gold.
Most important though, is that this is fun. It’s light-hearted, switch off your brain fun. The combat feels fine and you don’t need to think too hard about what you’re doing on the first few difficulty settings. On higher settings you’ll need to be very careful and plan ahead, but for the most part you can simply run around having fun. If you go into this not expecting anything more than that, you should have a good time taking out aliens and collecting hundreds of different weapons.
Earth Defense Force 4.1 was developed by Sandlot and published by D3. I played the game on PlayStation 4 and would recommend you give it a try as a cheap action game. If you need a palette cleanser game that you can easily dip in and out of, then this could be exactly what you need. Put your feet up, switch off your brain, and kill some ants!