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Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain (PS4) Review

May 25, 2019 | Posted by Marc Morrison
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Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain (PS4) Review  

I’ve long avoided the Earth Defense Force (EDF) franchise.  The idea of it sounded interesting but the few videos I’ve seen of it always looked bad and the review scores for most of the franchise seemed worse.  I lumped it in with Dynasty Warriors—a franchise that I never wanted to touch. But a friend roped me into playing Iron Rain, so here we are. While Iron Rain isn’t as bad as I initially anticipated, that still doesn’t make it a “good” game.

EDF places you in the shoes of a soldier you create at the start of the game.  The “Aggressors” (aliens) are attacking per usual and it’s up to you and your somewhat ragtag squad to stop them.  I have no idea why they don’t just call them “Aliens”, but I digress. You then spend about 50+ missions blasting apart giant bugs, robots, spiders and alien spacecraft.

There are four classes of soldier for you to play as. Two are unlocked from the start while the other two are unlocked gradually in the story.  They are:

Trooper – This is the default class and the most baseline.  It can wield most weapons, has decent defense and the special move is a dash to get out of danger, quickly.

Jet Lifter – Aka “The Flying Class”.  This soldier has wings so it can somewhat fly around the battlefield, dealing out damage.  Unfortunately, the controls aren’t exactly great for this activity.

Heavy Striker – This is the tank class of the 4 available.  You can use two weapons at once which means it deals out more damage but you do have to be aware of your ammo.  The special ability is an energy shield that stops damage at the cost of energy.

Lastly, my personal favorite the Prowl Rider.  The PW has slightly more armor than the Jet Lifter but less than the Trooper and far less than the Heavy Striker.  The hook with this class is it literally has a grappling hook that can attach to buildings, or even the ground, to zip around the level with.  It’s a lot like the grappling hook in the Just Cause games.

Each class also has an “Overdrive” mode that is akin to a super-mode for your soldier.  The Trooper shoots/reloads a lot more quickly, the Lifter can fly infinitely a short time/shoot quicker, the Striker’s shield increases in diameter and the Striker summons a friendly insect to ride.  I should say “attempts” to summon, since this feature didn’t seem to work half the time.

The enemies you face in Iron Rain leave a lot to be desired.  There are around 15 enemy types total, and that’s about it for the entirety of the story campaign.  Enemies include: giant ants, giant spiders, a beetle that can rush at you, giant robots, tiny ships that can teleport, and so on.  There are a few variations as well, such as one enemy called a “Scourger” which initially is red. Later in the campaign, you come across a blue variant that is the same basic model, just more difficult to kill.

There is also an enemy human faction but they matter so little in the story as to barely merit a mention.  I think you only fight against them in like 4 of the missions (if that), so they aren’t a big threat.

Missions typically follow the pattern of you being dropped off in an area, the bugs are there, and you have to “kill’em all”, to steal a line from Starship Troopers.  Once you destroy the initial wave of bugs, a second wave will pop up, and then usually a third. Most of the time it will be against a new enemy type, but after a while it begins to repeat.

A few missions change up this formula but only ever so slightly.  A couple levels involve you having to defend a building against alien attack.  Some other missions don’t have an open-area at all but confine you to a cave system, going through corridors and smashing bugs.  Also, some levels have boss fights in them but they don’t exactly feel epic when you are fighting them.

Seemingly, the impressive part about EDF games is the scale.  The old games had large environments and could fill levels with a lot of enemies.  Iron Rain tries to do this but only the first part is successful.

Most levels can overwhelm you with enemies but it doesn’t seem fair.  A lot of the weaker enemies can go down in one or two shots (depending on your weapon), but stronger enemies can become bullet sponges and can take forever to go down.

It really doesn’t help when there are over 10 enemies on screen and the framerate takes a massive hit to what is going on.  The ants are one thing, but certain enemies like the giant robots can really tank the framerate and overwhelm you, if more than two get on your case.  Enemy behavior falls into about two categories of “shoot” or “follow you relentlessly” which makes fighting most stuff not fun.

Enemies do drop crystals though and you’ll need them and money to buy new weapons/gear for your soldier.  There are three crystal colors (blue, red, yellow), with green crystals being a health pick-up in the level.  When you complete a mission you’ll also get some cash which you can use to buy new stuff. I’m not quite sure why you need money in a game world that is all-but destroyed with only a single force (EDF) to prevent total annihilation but maybe that’s explained in an earlier game?

There are a lot of weapons and gear you can unlock, but most of it is pretty meaningless.  There are rocket launches, machine guns, laser guns, swords, grenade launchers, shotguns, etc. for you to wield against the bugs.  Here’s a tip: use a rocket launcher and laser rifle once you unlock them and only them. The laser rifle has limited ammo but can destroy most enemies easily, while the rocket launcher is useful on bigger things.

You can also use money to buy upgrades to your health but at a certain point it becomes ridiculous.  It is an exponential increase in how much money it costs. So to go from level 2 to level 3 health, it might cost 5,000, but to go from level 3 to level 4, it will cost 20,000.  You don’t get a ton of money from doing missions either, so you’ll really have to repeat them and grind it out if you have an eye on a new weapon or health upgrade you want/need.

Items involve health packs, decoy traps, grenades, rebooters (resurrect a friendly soldier) and the like.  There are also vehicles that you can use and they are awful.

I have no idea why the vehicle controls are the way they are, but it’s like a blast from the PS1.  Instead of the traditional “Use R2 to accelerate, L2 to break, R1 to shoot”, they put all movement on the left analog stick.  So, you actually have to hold up to go forward. So you have to hold in a diagonal direction to turn right or left. There are some tanks and mech suits that are (theoretically) useful in fights, assuming they weren’t really low health, but there are also “joke” vehicles like trucks that just make a horn noise.

This applies to ground vehicles.  There are also air vehicles but I have yet to figure out how to even drive them correctly.  The ground vehicle controls are bad, the air stuff is unusable.

The story, such as it is, is barely there.  The game starts off and there is an escalation of alien stuff with a “Hivecraft” ship, and then other unique alien enemies that you have to destroy.  After every mission, you might get some light banter between your teammates or a radio show from a slightly ditzy female DJ. The problem is, all the voice over is during your mission results screen.  That’s it. There’s no cinematics with your teammates, or really, any cinematics at all, to make you invested in the story. Once you finish the campaign there is a montage of pictures of (presumably) the characters in the campaign, but considering they are never shown in the actual game, it becomes a farce.  The pictures could be characters from a Mobile Suit Gundam series, and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

So, are there any positives?  Well, like I said above, that Prowl Rider class is kind of fun to use.  It’s a weird mix of Just Cause and Vanquish with how you can get around a level quickly.  Also, as a co-op game it’s “passable”. It would be better if enemy health wasn’t boosted when you’re in a co-op game, but that’s me.

The final score: review Poor
The 411
While Iron Rain tries to be a reboot/new entry for the franchise, it barely hits the mark. The gameplay is sloppy, somewhat buggy (no pun intended) and just not fun. If you have a die-hard friend or group to play it with, it becomes somewhat manageable but the amount of grinding you have to do even zaps that interest in the game.