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Blowing up massive bugs and spaceships in Earth Defense Force has always been a blast, and Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space for the PlayStation Vita manages to perfectly capture that mindless fun in a portable package that's stuffed with content.
“Wait a minute! You reviewed Earth Defense Force last week,” I hear you say. Well, that was actually Earth Defense Force 4.1 for the PlayStation 4. The teams at Sandlot, D3 Publisher and XSEED Games have been especially busy as of late, and they managed to launch both the home console and portable game on the exact same date.
But while the gameplay and structure are as similar as it has always been for the series, these are actually two entirely different games. Earth Defense Force 2 is actually a remake of the second game in the series, one that never actually launched in the States until now. And while I recently stated that EDF 4.1 is the best of the lot to date, I'm surprised to say just one week later that EDF 2 comes in at a very close second.
In case you're new to this series, here's what you can expect out of Earth Defense Force: Massive insects, flying saucers and even the occasional kaiju have started attacking the earth and it's up to you to put a stop to them. You'll do that over the course of around 80 missions with about 400 weapons at your disposal. The plot is paper thin and so is your objective: Kill everything that moves.
Fans of the series will quickly recognize two of your selectable classes, the Infantryman and Pale Wing. Go Infantry if you want an all-around solid soldier with the best speed, defense and shooting in the game. You wouldn't be faulted for favoring the Pale Wing, however. What these Valkyries lack in ground speed and armor they make up for in vertical mobility (yay, jetpacks!) and weapons that are more fun to shoot than your standard fare. New to the series is the curiously named Air Raider. Similar to the new class on the console version of Earth Defense Force, this guy is mostly for support. It's fun to tool around with his unique weapons in single player, but he's clearly designed to complement other players with traps, air strikes and deployable turrets.
And yes, you can absolutely play this game with your friends. Up to four players can team up online or in the same room via ad-hoc, which is 100 percent the best way to play any EDF game. Blowing up buildings and blasting holes in massive ants is far more fun when you're doing it as a team.
That's not to say that the game isn't a riot if you want to fly solo, but it's a bit harder to overlook its various shortcomings if you can't laugh them off with some buds. As always, enemies and their projectiles will clip through buildings on the regular, and the frame rate can dip a bit when too much stuff is happening on-screen at once. The latter is nowhere near the problem that it used to be, however, and I'm happy to report that Earth Defense Force 2 usually runs smooth despite having dozens of enemies and crumbling buildings in eyesight.
Some weapons are a bit wonky to aim and result in self-kills more often than not. That wouldn't be so bad if they'd just implement a checkpoint system of some sort but, alas, that continues to be lacking this time around. Also on the negative list is extremely slow base movement and some vehicles that are just too difficult to control. The tank is as wonderful as ever, but the helicopter and speeder bike, for instance, are more likely to get you killed than fend off the baddies. I'm also a bit bummed that the better targeting from 4.1 didn't make it into EDF 2.
There's also the fact that this game is about as repetitive as you can get. Your sole job is to kill things, move to a new area and then kill more things. Since EDF has managed to create a kind of magic that makes all of that nonsense a lot of fun, this isn't a huge complaint. But still, if you're hoping for a deep story filled with multi-layered missions and multiple objectives, you're going to be disappointed. I will say this about EDF 2, though: It has possibly the best mix of missions, locations and enemies of the entire collection. You won't see much that you haven't seen before, but Invaders From Planet Space manages to mix things up more regularly than other entries, meaning you won't be killing the same kinds of baddies in similar areas multiple missions in a row.
Also, unless you're playing multiplayer, you're now the sole soldier on the field for most of your encounters. While I'll admit to missing some of the goofy chatter that accompanies other EDF games, as well as terrified citizens running about, their absence makes for a cleaner experience in terms of what you're looking at and what you're hearing. A bunch of that silly jibba-jabba is instead replaced by more frequent calls over the radio, with various characters filling in the plot and giving advice on your quest to becoming the greatest hero the world has ever known.
In short, if you enjoy the Earth Defense Force series or are simply looking for a game that puts a bigger emphasis on unbridled mayhem than plot or variety, then EDF 2: Invaders From Planet Space is a no-brainer for the PlayStation Vita. It's just a heck of a lot of silly fun.
Players: 1 (4 online or ad-hoc)
Platforms: PlayStation Vita
Developer: D3 Publisher/ Sandlot
Publisher: XSEED Games