The Earth Defense Force (EDF) series from D3 Publisher undoubtedly has a group of passionate and loyal fans that could be very well be deemed as a force not to be reckoned with. At any given opportunity, EDF fans will gladly chant, “EDF, EDF, EDF!” — and despite the series’ history of having all sorts of technical tomfoolery, like B movie scenes and dialogue, EDF fans will continue to simply still love the series for everything that it is and everything that it’s not. While the latest entry in the series, Earth Defense Force 5, sold over 300,000 copies in Japan alone, which is impressive, it hasn’t been met with as much as success here in the West as it has more of a cult following.
For me, my first foray into the series was playing Earth Defense Force 2025 on PS3, but I’ve sadly only played a bit of EDF 5, so I do happen to be part of the EDF‘s cult following. However, to bring more Western gamers into the series, publisher D3 Publisher and developer YUKE’S are teaming up to release a Westernized-focused spinoff game in the series, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, that’ll exclusively launch on PlayStation 4 on April 11.
At an Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain press event, I had the opportunity to go hands-on with the game — and was on a mission to find out if the changes implemented in the game will please series newcomers and veterans. After playing Iron Rain, both offline and online, it’s easy to say that the game captures what makes EDF such a blast to play, but it also has new additions that all players will enjoy.
The Kaiju (strange beast) movie and sci-fi mashup in past EDF games is still intact in Iron Rain. Set in the year 2040, Iron Rain has players take on the role of Closer, an elite member of the Earth Defense Force, who must defend Earth from an insane alien invasion led by a mysterious faction called the Aggressors. Unfortunately, in 2033, Closer fell victim to a coma and ended up waking up seven years later only to find that Earth is in complete and utter chaos thanks to the Aggressors. To save Earth, Closer and the rest of the Earth Defense Force must fight against the Aggressors to put a stop to them, once and for all. But with a new group thrown into the mix, The Kindred Rebellion, (an EDF series first) that will either be a friend or foe to the Earth Defense Force, players are going to end up being in one wild fight.
Similar to previous EDF games, Iron Rain seems like it’ll have a game narrative that isn’t going to be a contender for The Game Award’s “Best Narrative” award — it’s ridiculous, fun, and comical. During my time with Iron Rain, there were numerous times when I literally laughed out loud during story scenes and character interactions. The character players control, Closer, is a silent protagonist, however, everyone else does share their thoughts and opinions. All of the dialogue from the additional characters is delivered in such a low-budget, B movie corny way that you can’t help but laugh, even during the game’s more “serious” moments. However, I did particularly enjoy Iron Rain‘s full cast of characters, both from the Earth Defense Force and the Kindred Rebellion. The developer mentioned that they’re going for a more realistic narrative with Iron Rain, but still, the game isn’t deep and serious, it’s an over-the-top shooter that’s as entertaining as it is ridiculous.
Speaking of over-the-top, EDF games have been known to clearly not have an impressive, jaw-dropping look as they’ve sported a tight-budget look, especially when it comes to graphics. Iron Rain, on the other hand, is the shaping up to the best best-looking entry in the series so far. This is predominately due to the developer’s use of the Unreal 4 engine. With that said, Iron Rain has more advanced and realistic visuals and levels. One neat feature with levels in the game is that rather than fighting off an alien invasion in Japan, the game is set in recognizable recreations of cities and parks in the United States, which I think is a pleasant change. One mission I played had me taking down enemies in San Francisco, and I have to say, the developer did a pretty great job with recreating the city.
As far as gameplay goes, the general progression from mission to mission is similar to other EDF games, but there are new gameplay additions in Iron Rain that make missions more fun to play. Before each mission, players select two weapons — there are hundreds of weapons, including shotguns, mini-guns, missile launchers, cyber swords, and more that can be selected and unlocked — and other equipment, like a tank (yes, I said a tank). For missions, the objective is usually boiled down to “blast and kill every enemy in sight” as players fight wave after wave of enemies and end up taking down buildings in the process (there are plenty of destructible environments, by the way). Pretty standard EDF stuff overall, but what I truly enjoyed was the soldier customization options and the variety of PA Gear (Physical Augmentation Gear) that serve as different character classes.
There’s a lot for players to customize with their character in Iron Rain, especially with the game’s crazy and rad costume pieces. In my time with the game, I ended up changing my costume multiple times just because I enjoyed having the ability to do so. For character customization in Iron Rain, the possibilities are endless. My only gripe is that the game build I played didn’t have a variety of hairstyle options, but on the flip side, there were a wide array of helmets to choose from, so the lack of hairstyles wasn’t really anything to be sad about.
What players will love, though, is the four different and epic soldier classes of PA Gear that each has their own specialties and unique strengths: Trooper, Jet Lifter, Heavy Striker, and Prowl Rider. The Trooper lets players quickly dodge attacks, the Jet Lifter grants the ability to fly across the skies, the Heavy Striker class gives the power to drop a barrier shield to stop attacks in the tracks, and lastly, the Prowl Rider, a new PA Gear addition, is like a modern-day Spider-Man class with an awesome enemy controlling ability called the E-Needle that makes players a master of monsters. My favorite was definitely the Prowl Rider as I zipped across the battlefield, grappled onto anything and everything I could, and even mounted onto a giant ant and wreaked havoc with it. Obviously, Iron Rain isn’t an open-world game, so there are some limitations with what players can zip onto, however, the Prowl Rider zipping ability is still fun to use.
All of the character customization options do come into play in Iron Rain‘s multiplayer offerings. The game will have 2-player local co-op for the game’s campaign via split-screen along with 1-6 player online co-op. In a time when co-op games are hard to come across, is absolutely exciting to know that Iron Rain will continue to have co-op options that EDF 5 and other EDF games had. What’s new with Iron Rain, though, is that it’ll have a competitive PvP (players versus player) mode that supports 2-8 players. I had a chance to play the new competitive mode with other folks at the press event, and I had blast with it. From what I played, the mode had me and my teammates acquire multiple mini robots of sorts, killing monsters and opposing team enemies along the way. I, unfortunately, wasn’t quite sure how the scoring worked in the mode, but this is in part due to me only being able to play a few rounds — I’m sure once I go through a tutorial and play more of the mode, I’ll be good to go. Overall, though, the multiplayer options, especially the new mode, are going to keep players busy for hours and hours.
Iron Rain doesn’t present a drastic change to the EDF formula — it isn’t like when Iron Maiden went from having Paul Di’Anno as their lead singer to the notable and absolute rockstar singer, Bruce Dickison. However, Iron Rain doesn’t need to be wildly different compared to past EDF games, it only needs to be slightly different, and from what I played, it succeeds in doing just that. All fans of the EDF series will find that Iron Rain offers what they know and love, while series newcomers in the West will end up experiencing a special EDF game that was specifically crafted for them to enjoy.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is set to launch exclusively on PlayStation 4 on April 11.
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