Welcome back, today we’re covering Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair. It’s an updated re-release of Earth Defense Force 2025, and was released on Steam in July of this year, brought to us by Sandlot and D3 Publisher.
EDF 4.1 is the story of the return of the giant bugs and aliens that appeared in the original game. Just as it happened 7 years ago in-universe, Earth is under attack, and the Earth Defense Force stands ready to repel the intruders. Both sides have spent that time gearing up in anticipation for this battle.
Mechanically speaking, it’s a 3rd person shooter game with co-op. Imagine if Armored Core had a baby with Helldivers, combining intriguing build customization involving an impressive number of components with hammy performances and over the top combat. It also reminds me a bit of arcade-y titles like Warship Gunner and Gungriffon Blaze, with its power-up drops and stage structure. I’ll tell you outright, it’s an excellent combination.
The gameplay of “Here are a hundred giant bugs and/or giant robots, go kill,” is surprisingly nuanced, with a good chunk of the story missions going into their interactions and showing scenarios in which your own troops are at a disadvantage. The earliest example is with the airborne units known as Wing Divers. The ability to evade most enemies and attacks by flying above the melee is great… Right until the giant webs come out or they’re otherwise faced with something that can out-range them. Better yet such moments fit the structure of the alien invasion movies that EDF mimics, where the humans think they’ve finally got the edge only for the invaders to have another ace up their sleeve.
Anyway, you run a mission. Shoot up some aliens, listen to the hammy dialogue, pick up Armor crates to increase your maximum health and Weapon crates to give you more options for the next run. There’s also multiple difficulty settings, which influence the quality of the Weapon crates in addition to making enemies stronger and even adding more of them in later stages. You’ve got 4 classes to choose from in your search to find a fitting playstyle, including the “Has a gun for every occasion” Ranger and the “Clunky but powerful” Fencer. The Support class, Air Raider, is a bit impractical without more versatile firepower from other players or a large group of AI-controlled troops, but otherwise I quite like the roster. With ~80 missions running at 5-10 minutes a piece, the game manages to be both reasonably long-lasting and easy to pick-up and play for short periods.
It’s not perfect, though. Some weapons and tactics explicitly require teammates, through being impossible or unbearably impractical otherwise. Another point is that the weapons that drop are dependent on the difficulty and stage, so it can be hard to get, say, Air Raider weapons in a certain range when the missions in said range are rather impractical for their playstyle.
Getting back to the positives, the co-op elements are solid as well. Teammates can revive each other, albeit at a cost of their own health, and any loot crates picked up benefit the entire team, so a player can’t, accidentally or otherwise, hog all the stuff. The levels for Online unlock separately from the ones for Offline, though, and the aliens get a noticeable boost if you try to play Online alone. I guess that’s one way to encourage teamwork.
Going into the Presentation now, I’ll start by saying the translation is a little off. Not broken, just… you can tell it was translated. That’s not the end of the world when it’s already a cliche B movie in game form, though. Also, the interface is a little strange in that the WASD keys provide character movement and control of the menus, but you can always pull up the dialogue menu with the arrow keys, and it can be a little confusing until your brain mentally separates the two. For my last complaint on this section, levels with civilians are unpleasantly loud and obnoxious as the overlapping screams, wounded alien sounds, and gunfire threaten to destroy the player’s eardrums. On the upside, the world looks great with mostly bright, detailed stages full of equally detailed soldiers and bugs and robots. And, it should probably go without saying, but the weapons are incredibly satisfying in their impact, kicking bugs the size of tanks halfway down the street and/or pulping them in a bloody explosion.
So, that’s EDF 4.1. It’s $50 on Steam, and I’d say it’s a worthy purchase if you enjoy action-oriented gameplay, fussing with cool weapon systems, or getting past your arachnophobia with the assistance of a plasma-tipped pile bunker.