Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain (Playstation 4 Review)

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain — much like Earth Defense Force 5 — is setting out to revolutionize the franchise in its own way as a spin off. Iron Rain does away with the cartoonish visuals and whacky enemy stylings, grounding itself in realism. While Sandlot’s sister company, Yuke’s, are at the helm, you can still expect the same level of quality you’d expect from a mainline title within the series, good and bad.

Similarly to the recently released EDF:5, EDF:Iron Rain is another refresh on the series’ staple theme of alien invasion, with an added sleek visual overall. Rather than taking place in the current day, where you’d have to protect civilian life while squashing any giant bugs that come your way, EDF: Iron Rain starts out with you on the losing side of a war that’s been waging for years. 7 years have passed and the war now wages on in a now post-apocalyptic world, battling deftly to take back what was once yours in the gritty destroyed streets and blazing deserts of a ruined Earth. EDF: Iron Rain tries some interesting things like introducing more personalised squadmates with names and backstories to help liven up the story. However, these additions are lost since most information pertaining to characters and their ‘development’ are shoehorned into loading screens instead of in game clips or dialogue. The good thing is that important details, such as mission objectives and overall updates on the state of the world and its people, are relegated to post mission screens as opposed to the fuzzy radio chatter you’d hear in EDF:5. This in turn means players can focus on the moment to moment gameplay without losing out on important plot details while being sprayed with bullets and bug acid.

And that’s a mighty good thing, as this time arenas are confined and the bugs are just as big. Moving away from the oversized landscapes of its predecessors, EDF:Iron Rain keeps things claustrophobic. Arenas are small and tight-knit, but have way more personality to them. Centrepieces are more prominent and decals seem more diverse. There is one hang up to all this though, levels are re-used rather frequently. All too often you’ll be dropped into a mission thinking it’s a fresh environment only to turn a corner and realise you’ve been here before. And with half of the numbers of levels offered in most other EDF, things start to get samey even with a more thorough focus on level design. That becomes doubly troublesome when you are encouraged to scour these levels to and fro for ‘Mysterious Beacons’ and downed ‘MIA Drones’ that award the you with currency and item unlocks. Collectibles are a nice incentive, but with the locations being seemingly random the payoff for said unlocks and the amount of time it takes to find them don’t really seem worth it.

You won’t have to worry too much about finding these collectables though, since most unlocks come by way of mission completion. After every mission players will be greeted with a reward screen that shows their stats and how well they done in that mission. The better you do, the higher your ranking and seemingly the more money you get in return. One of the more drastic changes EDF: Iron Rain makes to the series is that classes and equipment are no longer mutually exclusive and weapons/items must now be bought using a combination of money earned from missions and gems collected from dead enemies. While this may sound appealing to some, it does limit the incentive to really experiment about with different play styles. Rather than picking up new weapons in the field and then trying them out in the next mission, I now have to wager what would be good to buy with my hard earned cash by looking for the biggest number increase. A wrong purchase could be disastrous since the game can be fairly stingy with its handouts, setting you back in savings and leaving you unprepared for the next mission. I can’t stress this enough as EDF: Iron Rain is drastically more difficult than any EDF before, even on its normal difficulty. Players can easily be overwhelmed since weapons feel wholly ineffective and, absurdly, items now cost the player a good amount of money to use in battle. Any item used on the field now comes out of your pay at the mission end screen. So health, grenades, and vehicles all come at an exuberant cost completely deterring players from using any items until they reach the harder difficulties with more rewards

Thankfully the revamped ‘classes’ now known as PA-Gear’s don’t cost anything to use. These suits function similarly to how classes in other EDF titles work, they have their unique stats and movement ability to suit. Of these, three very common classes resurface like the Trooper who’s the allrounder, the Air Lifter who can jetpack around with high mobility and The Heavy who can wield two weapons at once for more firepower. However, the newest PA-Gear is the Prowl Rider, a suit that lets players swing around the environment like Spider-Man and even lets you ride on your own EDF personalised bug. While I personally miss the Air Raider and his ability to call in air strikes and mortars, it makes sense as to why this class was removed as it functioned more as a cooperative support role and was wasted in a singleplayer environment. And all these PA-Gears come with a new ‘Overdrive’ which superchargers their speed in all aspects of movement, firing, reloading, and in the prowl riders case lets him ride specific insects. It can definitely be a game changer in those do or die moments, especially if you are going it alone.

Going it alone isn’t your only option if you have a friend that’s keen on killing giant arachnids. The main campaign can be tackled either through online cooperative play or by archaic means, split screen. Playing with more than one person can be the saving grace when you need it most. With the slightly less impactful weaponry and the incredibly intelligent A.I. playing with a friend can see you progress leagues further than you could on your own. Bugs no longer swarm a single position and you’re able to easily flank and out manoeuvre larger enemies. An added bonus is that a lives system comes into play during coop which remains absent in single player, given you a second or even fourth wind. There is an additional Mercenary mode for players to partake in that consists of a PVP/PVE environment where two teams face off against each other in a race to see who can collect as many gems from destroyed bugs as fast as possible. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this review the servers were as empty as my wallet after payday, so my time with this mode is non-existent.

EDF: Iron rain, quite like EDF 5, is a step in the right direction but also takes a few steps back too. The focus on a tighter narrative is welcome, but generally wasted on characters that are loosely introduced in loading screens and are absent elsewhere. PA-Gears help push a less restrictive playstyle but the overall weapon roster to compliment them is rather limiting. And the inclusion of a procedural unlock system means you’ll usually be given the tools necessary for the fight ahead but the cost of survival and unlocking them is unbalanced. For now, all we can do is wait and hope the next iteration combines the best parts of both for a truly memorable giant bug war.

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain

0.00
6

Overall

6.0/10

Pros

  • Story is conveyed through cutscenes instead of radio chatter.
  • Prowl Rider is pretty cool.
  • Overdrive is crazy fun.

Cons

  • Character development is conveyed through loading screens.
  • Variety of weapons is limited.
  • Gear is procedurally unlocked.
  • Currency system could do with a bit of a tweak.

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