Sometimes you just need to shoot giant insects for awhile. That’s the thesis of Earth Defense Force, anyway, a B-tier Japanese arcade shooter channeling B-tier horror flicks, which basically means there are big rig-sized ants all over the place and you’ve got a lot of bullets to introduce them to. The series is known for being fun but shaky on consoles—when dozens of enemies are on screen at once, the framerate takes a dive well below 30 fps. I spent a couple hours with the PC version of EDF 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair to see if performance is better on PC, and I came away with a constant 60 frames per second in the first few missions of the game.
I played EDF on fairly powerful PCs: one with an older i7-3960X paired with a GTX 980 playing at 2560x1440, and another with a i5-4670 and GTX 970 playing at 1920x1080. The game’s early missions never budges from 60 fps on either system. For a harder test, I ran the GTX 980 at 4K resolution, too, and didn’t see any frame drops. Even in an online match with massive transport ships flying and falling above my head, I didn’t drop from 60 frames.
I wouldn’t expect performance quite this smooth on older graphics cards, especially as even more enemies and explosions appear on screen in late-game missions. But any recent card should get you a near-flawless 60 fps, and even older rigs should easily outperform the console version. According to posts on the Steam forums, older GPUs like the 560 Ti and 750 Ti can run the game without trouble.
In terms of settings, EDF 4.1 is about as basic as PC ports get. There are no graphics options and only three image quality options: anti-aliasing (on or off), shadows (on or off), and anisotropic filtering (up to 16x). Resolution settings are present and you can downsample using Nvidia’s DSR, but only if you increase your desktop resolution (the game won’t scale higher than desktop). Setting the resolution to aspect ratios other than 16:9 will stretch the image, but there is a letterbox option if you’re playing on a 16:10 monitor and want to preserve the aspect ratio.
Support for mouse and keyboard controls is surprisingly good. Aiming with the mouse feels great and the default keybinds are intuitive (R for reload, spacebar for jump). The game also fully supports the Xbox gamepad, though annoyingly you have to back out to the title screen, then activate which control method you want to use. On the bright side, there’s local splitscreen which supports one player on keyboard/mouse and another on a gamepad. That’s a rarity in PC games these days.
EDF 4.1 is a simple port of a budget game, but I'm glad that it runs much better than it does on consoles. Launching at $50 (£30) on Steam feels steep, but a 30 percent discount until July 25 brings that down to a better $35 (£21).