The Earth Defense Force games are coming at us almost quicker than the aliens that feature so prominently in them. After December’s release of Earth Defense Force 5, the Playstation 4-exclusive Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is now upon us. Ready to head back to the front?
Iron Rain does a few things a little differently, but it wastes no time in establishing that this is another Earth Defense Force title that is heavily inspired by movies like Starship Troopers and Eight Legged Freaks. The game comes with a slightly updated visual engine though, which makes for the best looking title in the series so far.
Another slight change over the last numbered release in the series is a better emphasis on story development in the game, although Iron Rain’s narrative isn’t earth shattering and the actual arcade-inspired action is still front and center, it’s nice to see a bit of narrative flair being added. It’s not something the B-movie genre is typically revered for, but I definitely appreciated the campy script and character development in the new game.
I was surprised to find out that Iron Rain feels like a more condensed title than Earth Defense Force 5, at least when considering the campaign. Both games are full priced affairs, yet I’d estimate that Iron Rain is about 40 per cent shorter. On the plus front, there is less of a risk of repetition this way, since there is plenty of enemy and weapon diversity – the latter category being especially well represented.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is far less of a loot fest than previous games in the series were, instead opting for a reward system that unlocks weapons for you based on your performance in a mission. Incur less damage than your teammates, or take out a large number of aliens in a short amount of time, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded in between missions.
Iron Rain features plenty of familiar Earth Defense Force tropes, including its insane weapons arsenal and the ability to choose different character classes with different abilities. This time, you can also ride the battlefield using one of the classes, which for me personally evoked memories of worm riding in Dune – another series I’d gladly see resurrected in video game or movie form. There is also a new mechanic called Overdrive, which supercharges your character for a short time and gives you better mobility and firepower.
Iron Rain supports local cooperative play through a split screen interface, which is a great fun – but can also be played online with up to five others. There is a team-based player versus player mode as well, and although I’d love to see what a proper tactical team-based take on the EDF universe would be like, it’s a mode that feels a little out of place in an otherwise almost arcade-like experience.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain positions itself as a (non-numbered) spinoff of the series, but it’s not different enough to do so while appealing to a different audience. As such, the changes don’t really pay off in a significant way, but fans of the series will probably like the slightly different flavor that’s on offer here.