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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Review: Earth Defense Force: World Brothers (Nintendo Switch)


Review by Matt S.

If you take Starship Troopers, and add a Japanese kaiju aesthetic, you get Earth Defense Force. If you then put it through a voxel art machine so it looks like LEGO, you get World Brothers. After Iron Rain from a couple of years ago did something very stupid (they tried to make a serious EDF!), World Brothers is exactly what the series needed. It's a return to form. World Brothers is nuts.

There is a narrative that explains why bugs and aliens are attracting blocky earth in droves, but since this is EDF... you're not going to care about it. All you need to know is that a bunch of aliens have blown the planet into little chunks, and by defeating the aliens by the horde, you can glue the planet back together again. Or something to that effect. Seriously, if you're playing an EDF game for the narrative there's something wrong with you. This series is all about the moment-to-moment play, and this one wastes no time whatsoever in diving deep into surrealist chaos.

See, the central hook of World Brothers is that you can rescue people from all around the world to help you on your swarm-killing missions. You'll get all the standard EDF heroes, sure - there's the wing divers, the soldiers, the heavy armours, and so on. But then you'll start being joined by... less conventional heroes. About an hour into the game my team of four heroes consisted of a cheerleader idol with a chainsaw and Jason Voorhees mask, a Mexican hombre with a guitar and a rifle, a prince from Persia with a magic carpet and explosive scarab beetles, and a Royal Guard from the UK, equipped with a fluffy hat and sniper rifle, that could summon little wooden toy soldier armies to put very big holes in giant ants and spiders. Now, name a single game that has ever given me that. I didn't even know I wanted it until I had it. Now I want that exact mix of characters in every one of my games.


Less than an hour after you start playing you'll be facing off against Godzilla, and the size and scope of the enemies don't diminish the further you get into the game. It's noteworthy that there are fewer enemies on screen than we've seen in some EDF games in the past, and to an extent there's less of a thrill when you're not staring down a few hundred giant bugs at once, but this has been offset by the fact that these enemies will actually fight back rather than simply swarm into the warm embrace of your guns. You still have plenty to shoot at, too, and because there are fewer enemies on screen at once you actually get a chance to admire their designs. They're fun.
 
The world, meanwhile, is attractively colourful and every bit as eclectic as everything else about the game. You will go from fighting in a modern city, to using the top of a pyramid as a base with which to rain hellfire down on your enemies, and on to a farm taken directly out of the Hollywood vision of the deep south. That's not spaced out, either. You'll do that over the course of three levels. There's plenty to blow up as you hoon around these large and entertainingly designed arenas, and if this were a more serious game you'd be left with serious moral questions about the collateral damage you're causing. Thankfully this is EDF and morals and philosophical questions be damned. This is pure boom boom, splatter bugs stuff. If the buildings get in the way that's their own fault.

Customisation is a big deal in World Brothers, too. Not only is there an absolute wealth of different characters to collect, but there are all kinds of different weapons you can equip to them, heaps of accessories that affect their performance in battle, and plenty of emblem types to proudly fly the flag for your squad in combat. All that customisation makes multiplayer a joy, of course, and while AI allies are competent enough (or, at least, in line with the competence of the enemies), EDF is best played in multiplayer simply because it is even more chaotic good fun that way. I highly recommend getting a group of friends together rather than randoms, though. This is a beers-and-giggles game, and who knows who you might get stuck with if you're playing randoms... I actually ran into someone playing online once who got very upset that others weren't taking this seriously and I realised that some online games are best left for friends.


I haven't played World Brothers on PlayStation or PC to compare to the Switch version, but I'm quite happy with the technical proficiency in the Switch version. There's the rare moment where the frame rate jitters a bit, and the lack of graphical fidelity on objects in the distance is noticeable, but the game is still highly playable, and EDF feels like something more appropriate to handheld consoles. See, when all is said and done, as wildly entertaining as it is, World Brothers, like every other EDF title, is a no-frills style shooter. People don't play this because they're looking for Metacritic-busting action and "AAA" production values. People play EDF for another reason: they're looking to have fun. Pure, simple, unadulterated fun.

I was concerned that D3 Publisher and the development teams behind EDF were losing sight of the purity of vision behind what they were doing. Iron Rain painted a bleak vision of the future of the series. Thankfully, the developers themselves seem to have realised what a misstep Iron Rain was, and the team at Yukes has pivoted a full 180 degrees with World Brothers. This game is just such great fun.



- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb


Review: Earth Defense Force: World Brothers (Nintendo Switch)
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