Title: Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain
Release Date: April 11, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Genre: Third Person Shooter
The Earth Defense Force (EDF) series has always stuck to its guns. While every entry in the series generally has a few new additions to keep things fresh, in a nutshell, EDF games usually are all about, well, blasting away at swarms of strange enemies like giant insects, UFOs, and robots. The typical EDF run-and-gun, wave shooter formula, along with the B movie appeal the series has had, has been a huge hit as many players have found the series to be gratifyingly simple and oh so fun.
With the latest entry in the series, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, developed by Yuke’s, it’s a bit different — which we find out and were pleasantly surprised with what we discovered. To put the game simply, it’s a westernized EDF spin-off from another developer(even though most of the development team members have worked on EDF titles before) instead of the usual EDF developer, Sandlot. Despite a change in direction overall, veterans and newcomers will find much to love in Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain as it’s the biggest, baddest, and boldest EDF game to date.
One of the major differences with Iron Rain compared to other EDF games is its setting and story. Set in the year 2040 in various locations, 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 known as the Aggressors. Unfortunately, in 2033, Closer fell victim to a coma and ended up waking up seven years later only to discover that Earth is in complete chaos thanks to the Aggressors. To save Earth from an unfortunate demise, it’s up to the player the rest of the Earth Defense Force squad to fight against the Aggressors to finally put a stop to them.
The plot itself isn’t anything too special, however, it’s important to mention that the developer did try to go for a more weighty, serious narrative, whereas other entries focused had more of a silly, low-key tone. For me, I still found plenty of moments in the story to be downright hilarious, similar to that of scenes in a B movie. However, I did like how characters would share their thoughts on things like the Earth Defense Force team, what was happening in the war, and cherished memories from their past — which makes the game’s characters more realistic, in a way. Still, Iron Rain isn’t a drama-filled, tear-jerker epic since EDF fans and even new players are still able to find and greatly appreciate all the cheesy dialogue that comes up during each mission. Also, with the Kindred Rebellion, a new crew that looks down upon the Earth Defense Force, thrown in, and the game is set in a whole new place (the previous games were set in Japan), the story was surprisingly more entertaining than I thought it’d be.
It’s safe to say, though, that most EDF fans don’t necessarily worry about an EDF game having a deep story — they solely want good old fashioned, EDF wave shooter gameplay that lets them blast stuff down. Thankfully, Iron Rain still has the core gameplay that fans know and love, but it has a few new tweaks here and there to make it even better than ever before that set it apart from other EDF games. For each mission of the 52 missions in total, players basically are dropped off in massive locations, with two weapons equipped, and must achieve one simple objective: Kill everything and anything in sight or die. Now, when I say, “anything”, I truly mean it as enemies can range from kaiju boss monsters to swarms of gigantic ants, and trust me, it’s so ridiculously awesome.
Sometimes, however, the mission objective does change into something different — for one moment, players will need to support a line of defense with fellow EDF squad mates, whereas the next moment, players are tasked with escorting a vehicle safely. These little mix-ups actually did make me more engaged during missions as I couldn’t just unleash my inner Rambo and wreak havoc upon all the enemies that were in front of me. Some players, more specifically EDF fans, may be put off by how missions and even enemies are more complex compared to previous EDF games. Honestly, I can understand why since there’s nothing quite like slaying waves and waves of enemies without a care in the world — especially since Iron Rain is so easy to pick up and play thanks to its solid and tight arcade gameplay.
What makes going through missions pretty special in Iron Rain is the locales in the game that are recreations of spots in North America and around the world. Instead of staying in just one spot the whole game, Iron Rain takes you to various locations from skyscraper-filled, urban areas to desolate deserts. I particularly enjoyed battling in cities more solely due to being able to cause mass destruction by blasting at buildings and watching them crumble down, but all the other areas are great too.
The bread and butter of Iron Rain, though, is the insane level of customization options that are in the game. For starters, and this is a big deal for me, especially, is that there’s a character creation mode that lets the player make their very own EDF soldier. Within the mode, players can customize pretty much just about anything. Want to make the cutest waifu of all time? You can do that. Dreamed about being a heavily armored, fully-loaded badass soldier? You can be that. From costumes to face types and hairstyles to even personality types, Iron Rain is like a massive closet full of goodies that will blow players away.
While looking rad is important, having the right amount of firepower is also essential and Iron Rain isn’t lacking in that department one bit. With a whole slew of weapons, grenades, traps, tanks, jets, mechs, and of course, various customizable armor types — players can truly be the legendary soldier they want to be. What’s more is that instead of picking up weapons, Iron Rain has players unlock equipment instead via a gem currency that’s obtained throughout each mission. For me, I didn’t feel that I had to grind in order to unlock anything at all, which is a huge plus that most players will like.
Another plus is Iron Rain’s class system that actually features multiple classes that are all fun to jump into. Similar to that of previous EDF games, there are four classes included — Tropper, Jet Lifter, Heavy Striker, and Prowl Rider — that each has their own unique abilities. Trooper lets players dash rapidly, Jet Lifter grants the power to fly, Heavy Striker has an E-field barrier shield, and Prowl Rider (which is the best class, in my opinion), gives players the option to zip around with a grappling hook and even be a monster-controlling master. Some games with a similar class system restrict players by requiring a certain set of equipment to be used, but with Iron Rain, players can use any weapon they want, resulting in even more player freedom — and that’s excellent.
Understanding and mastering the classes surely comes in handy not only in the game’s campaign — even when you’re playing via co-op with a friend or a squad of up to five players online — but also when playing the game’s competitive multiplayer mode, Mercenary, which is a series first. For a quick run-down, Mercenary has two teams compete to kill as many AI enemies as possible, all the while collecting dropped energy gems that are laying around and depositing them via spots on the map which ends up giving you points. While this sounds relatively easy, the catch is that the opposing team can swoop in, blast you down, and even swipe away your gems. What’s makes matters wilder is that item drops and upgrade chests are scattered throughout, so players need to always be on the move. The multiplayer mode is a thrill and a pretty wild whirlwind. Since the maps are so small and jam-packed in multiplayer, matches can be a little too hectic — making it hard to really work together with your teammates. I’m not sure if the mode will go on to be a big hit, but it is nice to have.
Speaking of something nice to have, the new engine used for Iron Rain, Unreal Engine 4, does make it the crispest and clean looking EDF game to date — like a nicely polished robot. Environments, animations, and character models in Iron Rain are more intricately detailed than past EDF titles, which had a sort of muddy look. With that said, the game isn’t a visual masterpiece by any means. Similarly, the soundtrack and audio design are also nothing too incredible.
Yuke’s decided to do a fresh new take with the EDF series and managed not to splatter what made past EDF games so great. With its entertaining story, solid wave shooter gameplay, excellent customization options, and other quality of life improvements, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is, without a doubt, an epic, insane, and fun beast in the EDF series that veterans and newcomers need to play. Soldiers, it’s time to lock and load — we got hundreds of aliens to kill.
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