Official artwork and logo for the PC version of Earth Defense Force 5

Earth Defense Force 5, much like the rest of the series, is an interesting anomaly. With mediocre visuals, obtuse mechanics and terrible voice acting, one would think that Earth Defense Force 5 would be unplayably bad, yet the truth is actually quite the opposite. It is so unapologetic with its premise, so completely over-the-top with its action, that it manages to successfully transform some of its worst problems into the main attractions!

So if you're wondering just what Earth Defense Force 5 has to offer, as well as what sort of genuine problems it might have, allow me to share my thoughts now that I've spend a weekend blasting apart giant spiders and punching Godzilla in the face.

Earth Defense Force 5 PC screenshot of giant mechs and aliens

Giant mechs and aliens? Sign me up!

Since there is no way of avoiding the obvious, let's begin by addressing the giant ant in the room - the visuals. As you're probably well aware from even seeing a single screenshot, the graphics in Earth Defense Force 5 are extremely dated, and that's putting it gently. The textures are plain, the models are lacking in detail, while the special effects leave a lot to be desired when it comes to both the explosions and enemy attacks. It is a problem that has been with the series since the very beginning, and unfortunately Earth Defense Force 5 has done very little to correct it.

On the positive side, the music is straight up awesome, so much so that I'm listening to the main theme right now in order to get into the proper mood! And the soundtrack really does a good job at that since it's almost entirely grandiose and inspiring - a perfect backing track for mowing down hundreds upon hundreds of aliens while your soldiers shout absolute nonsense into the sky!

Earth Defense Force 5 PC screenshot of a giant ant attack

What EDF 5 lacks in visual quality, it sure does try to make up in quantity!

Speaking of which, the voice acting in Earth Defense Force 5 is a thing of beauty. It is so unbelievably cheesy and poorly acted that it manages to transcend our earthly realm and somehow become genuinely enjoyable to listen to. It's almost always hilarious, with characters acting in such stilted ways that it makes them seem more alien than the twenty meter tall frog-monsters! Combine this with what I can only assume is some brilliantly written terrible dialog, and you've got yourself a game where you're never really sure what sort of nonsense will come next, both in terms of gameplay and story.

Another thing working in Earth Defense Force 5's favor here is that all of the voice actors seem to have taken their roles extremely seriously. So even though all of the words coming out of their mouths are downright ridiculous, they deliver them with such conviction that it actually helps build a really intense atmosphere. Dying soldiers will scream at the top of their lungs, those that have managed to kill multiple aliens will boast about how invincible they are, while each new threat is usually met with a barrage of confused screams and sheer panic.

So even though they are essentially faceless nobodies, I eventually found myself becoming really protective of my fellow soldiers throughout the missions. They might not be the most effective fighting force, but keeping them around helps a lot with immersion and making the whole experience feel a bit more meaningful. Doubly so when you realize you can actually get them to sign a battle hymn with you!

Earth Defense Force 5 PC screenshot of the Wing Diver flying around

Not protective enough to stand in front of the aliens myself though!

While the presentation is certainly an important part of Earth Defense Force 5, it is the combat that we're all here for, and I'm glad to say it's pretty darn fun! Outside of the incredibly boring tutorial, you're always fighting against overwhelming numbers of enemies that can easily take you down if you're not paying attention, and overcoming that sort of challenge was always quite satisfying for me. After all, there's something primal and exciting about holding your ground while hundreds of oversized ants and spiders attempt to swarm your position from all angles, only to get turned into giblets just before they can reach you.

As for what exactly makes the gunplay so fun, I'd say it's a combination of each weapon feeling remarkably powerful and each enemy spurting out waves upon waves of cartoony gore as they're being riddled with bullets. Sometimes the streets can even get so clogged up with alien corpses and debris that you'll end up not being able to see what you're actually shooting at. Not exactly ideal when the aliens start returning the favor, but even so, standing victorious on a mountain of dead space-ants sure does make one feel quite good!

Earth Defense Force 5 PC screenshot of some absolute carnage in the tunnels

If you can see what you're shooting at, you're simply not pumping out enough bullets!

If you're not a fan of classic guns and you prefer a more face-to-face sort of approach, worry not as Earth Defense Force 5 has plenty of weapons that fill that sort of niche as well. In fact, Earth Defense Force 5 has an absurd amount of weapons, the vast majority of which are fairly balanced and usable in both singleplayer and multiplayer. Each class has dozens upon dozens of choices, everything from rifles to giant disco balls of doom, so regardless of the sort of playstlye you might enjoy, Earth Defense Force 5 will probably have you covered.

There's even combat vehicles you can operate if you choose the Ranger class, some of which are so powerful it feels downright unfair to the aliens. Personally, I love the very first vehicle you can unlock - the combat bike. It's extremely fast, it deals a high amount of damage, and most importantly of all, it's incredibly easy to crash and fling your character straight into the moon, Team Rocket style!

There is one thing I have to complain about here, and that is the way you acquire new weapons and upgrade your armor. All of this is done by collecting 'loot boxes' that drop throughout the mission, which on its own is a fine concept, but the pick up range for these items is so small you'll frequently end up spending minutes doing nothing but hunting all of them down. It's just an unnecessary break from all of the glorious action, so as much as I like collecting piles upon piles of loot, I would've preferred almost any other system for Earth Defence Force 5.

Earth Defense Force 5 screenshot of a ranger crashing their bike

The most common position you'll find a Ranger in

The final thing worth mentioning is that Earth Defense Force 5 has a lot of hidden mechanics you'll need to wrap your head around. For example, you might notice that some of the classes move unbelievably slowly. The heavily-armored Fencer class in particular is so slow on land that it feels like a joke put in by the developers to punish anyone who believed they could play as a giant mech with two tank turrets strapped to its arms. The reason this is the case is because Earth Defense Force 5 has whole-heartedly embraced some of the bugs of the past, and essentially turned them into interesting new features.

So even though the Fencer is barely able to outrun a turtle on a straight road, there are numerous tricks you can use to get yourself into the exact position that you want. The most basic trick would be to continuously use and cancel your dash move in order to propel yourself forward at such speeds that you'll seriously start to wonder why they even made the class slow to begin with.

If you're like me and you prefer playing as the flying Wing Diver, you can also bypass the slow floating speed by chaining air-dashes. Or if you're feeling particularly spicy, you can take things a step further by doing sideways air-dashes which generate an absurd and nearly uncontrollable amount of momentum! Once mastered, this will get you wherever you need to be in record time, though I can't guarantee you won't feel dizzy once finally there!

There are plenty of little tricks like these that you can use, and while I am a big fan of having unique and interesting mechanics, the unfortunate reality is that you will eventually have to open a wiki in order to figure out just what your class is fully capable of. Whether or not that is an actual problem, I'll leave for you to decide, but personally I see it as yet another one of those elements that makes Earth Defense Force 5 so much fun to muck around with.

Earth Defense Force 5 screenshot of the Lancer with a giant cannon

Totally not overcompensating for anything, not at all!

Closing Thoughts

If the idea of fighting aliens with giant laser weapons while wearing combat underwear and playing alongside someone who painted their death-machine hot pink sounds appealing to you, then Earth Defense Force 5 might just be up your alley.

The visuals are dated, the whole experience is a bit janky and the writing is downright stupid, but Earth Defence Force 5 embraces all of that in order to create a truly unique experience - an absolutely glorious mess. After all, it's not every day you get to mow down hundreds of mutant spiders while simultaneously leveling the entirety of the city you were sent to protect in the first place!