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Review

Review: Earth Defense Force – Iron Rain

Earth Defen­se Force has always been my go-to series when I just want to chill out and have fun. It’s always fun just to shoot ali­en bugs for a hour or two, and each game never takes its­elf too serious­ly. Iron Rain attempts to take what is usual­ly a goofy and ener­ge­tic series and turn it into some­thing more serious and, dare I say it, ‘wes­ter­ni­zed’.

This isn’t the first time the series has been hand­led by a dif­fe­rent deve­lo­per, with 2011’s EDF: Insect Arma­ged­don being recei­ved poor­ly by fans. For this second try at crea­ting a dif­fe­rent take on the EDF series, Yuke’s – a deve­lo­per most­ly known for wrest­ling games – was cho­sen to hope­ful­ly avo­id the mista­kes made last time. Iron Rain does at least make a decent first impres­si­on, ope­ning with a giant ali­en mother ship attacking earth. After your cha­rac­ter mana­ges to des­troy the ship, they’re crus­hed its debris, lea­ving them in a coma for 7 years. This is whe­re the main sto­ry begins, and you can cus­to­mi­se your character’s appearan­ce and clot­hing, a new fea­ture to the series (asi­de from some basic colour choices in cer­tain EDF games). 

Also new to the EDF fran­chise are cuts­ce­nes, the main games using dia­lo­gue during mis­si­ons to tell the sto­ry ins­tead. The­se were likely added due to the more serious tone of the sto­ry, which does away with most of the goofy charm of the pre­vious ent­ries. The­re are also far more named cha­rac­ters here ins­tead of nameless sol­di­ers or hig­her ran­king EDF mem­bers, though due to the chan­ge in tone it’s hard to real­ly care about any of them. That app­lies to most of the sto­ry too, the lack of humo­rous self-awa­re ban­ter bet­ween cha­rac­ters lea­ding to mis­si­ons that feel gene­ric ins­tead of fun. 

Attemp­t­ing to make the game more serious than the main­li­ne EDF games has also led to some unfor­tu­n­a­te chan­ges in game­play too. At first glance Iron Rain may look like pre­vious game, with the same third per­son ali­en shoo­ting action, but a lot has been twea­ked or remo­ved. For star­ters, the four clas­ses – cal­led PA-Gear in Iron Rain – all suf­fer from some of the design choices made else­whe­re. The tro­oper is a basic no-frills class, with rea­son­ab­le defence and a short dash that can be used mul­ti­ple times. Jet lif­ter can fly around for a limi­ted amount of time, hea­vy stri­ker is bul­ky but can take and deal a lot of dama­ge, and the prowl rider can grapp­le around and ride on mons­ters. 

Sounds like a decent selec­tion of clas­ses on paper, but while play­ing they all have issu­es to vary­ing degrees. The­re are no class spe­ci­fic wea­pons, and vehi­cles can be used by all clas­ses. The tro­oper has the hig­hest capa­ci­ty for taking items and vehi­cles into batt­le, but sin­ce the­se use up credits – the cur­ren­cy nee­ded to buy armour and wea­pons – there’s no rea­son to use this class unless play­ing on the har­dest dif­fi­cul­ties whe­re money isn’t an issue. Jet lif­ter has a limi­ted amount of ener­gy that they use to fly, and there’s no way to increa­se it. Hea­vy stri­ker is the best new class in Iron Rain, but is still not as inte­res­ting as it’s equi­va­lent in EDF 5, the lan­cer. Final­ly, prowl rider’s con­cept is cool, but wit­hout items you can’t even ride on a mons­ter for long during most mis­si­ons. 

The tra­di­ti­on EDF wea­pon and armour sys­tem, whe­re you’d gain wea­pons and upgrade armour by collec­ting boxes drop­ped by enemies, has ins­tead been repla­ced by the afo­re­men­tio­ned credits. Mis­si­ons reward credits upon com­ple­ti­on and unlock new wea­pons in the shop, while enemies drop dif­fe­rent colou­red gems depen­ding on their type. Ins­tead of having to rely on RNG, you can buy the wea­pons you want with credits and gems. Unli­ke the rather poor clas­ses, this new wea­pon sys­tem is not too bad over­all. It remo­ves the annoy­ing grind for armour that was most­ly pre­sent in ear­lier EDF games, and you’re gua­ran­te­ed to get a spe­ci­fic wea­pon wit­hout having to grind spe­ci­fic mis­si­ons. The­re are still a coup­le of pro­blems though. Upgra­ding armour means that you’ll have less credits for new wea­pons and vice ver­sa. This is main­ly an issue when you hap­pen to buy a bad wea­pon, and there’s no way to test out a wea­pon befo­re you buy. 

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, while unlo­cking wea­pons has been stream­li­ned in a good way, the selec­tion of wea­pons over­all has been cut down hea­vi­ly com­pa­red to EDF 5. The­re are a lot less wea­pon cate­go­ries, and each one is fil­led main­ly with slight varia­ti­ons of the same wea­pons. That’s not to say that pre­vious EDF games didn’t have some boring wea­pons every now and then, but most of the more inte­res­ting wea­pons are not pre­sent here. The­re are some inte­res­ting quirks to wea­pons, like a Gears of War style rel­oad mecha­nic or ran­dom chan­ces of a bul­let doing mas­si­ve dama­ge, but they never get qui­te as cra­zy as the main­li­ne games. 

Out­si­de of class and wea­pon chan­ges, even the basic game­play has regres­sed some­what com­pa­red to EDF 5. Guns have less impact when shoo­ting enemies, from weak sound design to enemies not being blown apart by explo­si­ons. The robot enemies are the worst for this, bare­ly sho­wing any signs of dama­ge no mat­ter how you attack them.  Iron Rain may have bet­ter gra­phics when it comes to poly­gon counts and par­ti­cle effec­ts (even if per­for­mance on a base PS4 is still poor like EDF 5), but when it doesn’t feel satis­fy­ing to use wea­pons the­se impro­ve­ments feel point­less. The redu­ced ene­my count for most mis­si­ons does litt­le to help with this sen­ti­ment.  

Iron Rain’s big­gest pro­blem is that it released after EDF 5. If this was released a few years ago, back when EDF 4.1 was the latest ent­ry in the series, it would likely have been easier to igno­re some of the game’s flaws. But there’s a rea­son why we keep men­tio­ning EDF 5: It fixed many of the series’ long-stan­ding pro­blems and made each wea­pon satis­fy­ing to use. It’s hard to real­ly feel exci­ted play­ing Iron Rain when there’s less con­tent, less enemies and just less fun over­all.  

Conclusion

Earth Defen­se Force: Iron Rain isn’t a ter­ri­ble game, but it is far from a good ent­ry in the EDF series. Most of the game is toned down in an effort to make the game appe­ar more serious, and there’s far less con­tent than EDF 5, which was released fair­ly recent­ly in the west. This might be worth a purcha­se later in the year during sales, but as of right now the­re is litt­le rea­son to pick this up over the far supe­ri­or EDF 5.

 

 

 

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