Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain (PlayStation 4) Review

By William Lowery 02.06.2019

Review for Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain on PlayStation 4

Earth Defence Force is the definition of a "B-game." Light on story and lacking in technical prowess, the series has frequently made up for its shortcomings through simple yet deep, third-person-shooter gameplay, a wealth of content, and absurd situations. Although the franchise is over 15 years old, it has switched hands from developer Sandlot twice. The first was 2011's Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon, developed by Vicious Cycle. That attempted to modernize the series, but it disappointed fans through its short campaign, and attempt at a serious plot, instead of the tongue-in-cheek narrative of the mainline titles. Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain is made by Yuke's, and unlike Vicious Cycle's effort, it is a solid experience.

Although handled by a different studio, this spin-off preserves everything the franchise is known for. Basic alien invasion story? Check. Different character classes? Check. Frame rate drops? Check. As an elite soldier nicknamed Closer, it's his or her job to work with the EDF to put an end to the long-running war between them and the alien species known as the Aggressors. Over the course of 52 missions, Closer and the other soldiers will take on ants, spiders, scorpions, Godzilla-like monsters, and much more.

Screenshot for Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain on PlayStation 4

There's a stronger attempt at world-building and character development than in Sandlot's EDF titles. Soldiers chat amongst one another after each level, commenting on the state of the war and what's going on in their lives. Though their faces aren't visible during combat, the characterizations help them make them more human and less like faceless troops who act as Closer's meat shields. Speaking of personality, extensive customization options allow you to determine Closer's gender, voice, and outfit, so if you want, say a soldier who kills bugs while wearing a schoolgirl outfit, knock yourself out!

On first glance, Iron Rain doesn't play too differently from recent instalments, but there a welcome number of changes that modernize the combat, while preserving what makes EDF EDF. Initially, there are only two classes to choose from, but as the campaign progresses two more become available. Classes include the soldier, the jet lifter, the heavy striker, and the prowl rider. The first three will be familiar to those who have played the Sandlot-made titles, but the prowl rider is a new class capable of using tethers to get across the battlefield and scale enemies.

Screenshot for Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain on PlayStation 4

The four characters share weapons and armour count, rather than having their own specialized arsenal. Additionally, they also come equipped with unique equipment known as 'PA Gear.' PA Gear acts as a special ability, whether it's quick evasion for the trooper or the ability of flight for the jet lifter. However, it can overheat after too much use. When things get too frantic, overdrive can be activated, which boosts a character's speed and damage for a limited period of time, in addition to providing unlimited gear energy. The catch is that this power is a one-shot ability, so use wisely.

In the Sandlot EDF entries, unlocking new equipment or increasing health was done by picking up collectibles dropped by fallen foes. Now, bad guys drop blue, red, or yellow gems, and points are rewarded at the end of a stage based on one's performance and item efficiency. These currencies are used to unlock weapons and support equipment that becomes available in the shop over time. Though the revamped unlock system is a tad confusing at first, given all the different currencies to consider when purchasing stuff, it becomes easy to understand the more one gets familiar with it.

Screenshot for Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain on PlayStation 4

Other additions, such as the ability to test out equipment and firearms does wonders since you can figure out which loadout works best for which situation before heading out to kill more aliens. Even better, there's a 30-second countdown before a stage ends, which is a godsend since it makes collecting any leftover loot much easier to pull off in case something was missed. Iron Rain's 52 mission count is small in comparison to the gargantuan length of Earth Defence Force 5, but it also means the campaign doesn't have as many filler missions to wade through.

For everything right Iron Rain does, though, there are various shortcomings, the biggest of which is the technical performance. The game runs on Unreal Engine 4, which allows for sharp and colourful visuals, as well as diverse locations. The action takes place at EDF bases, a downtown district populated with massive skyscrapers, and a city engulfed in sand akin to Spec Ops: The Line. It's easily the best-looking entry to date - unfortunately, the frame rate takes a massive nosedive when there's too much going on. Shaky frame rates are a given for the franchise, but at times the action slows to a crawl and turns into a slideshow. Annihilating a giant queen ant with a big freaking laser cannon shouldn't mean the game looks like it might be on the verge of crashing.

Screenshot for Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Earth Defence Force has stuck to a formula, and when a different team attempted to diverge from it, things didn't work out. Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain is like a fully-realised Insect Armageddon. The story is basic, but the world is thought-out, interesting, and populated with likeable characters. The combat is crazy and bombastic, yet refined and more contemporary than its mainline entries. Every class has its strengths and weaknesses, and the addition of a practice mode helps players better understand how each one works. It's quite satisfying when everything clicks. Iron Rain re-modifies the series formula, but doesn't abandon the no-nonsense approach of the other games.

Developer

Yuke's

Publisher

D3 Publisher

Genre

Action

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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