A few months back I reviewed the awesome Earth Defense Force 5, the latest game in the numbered EDF series which delivered literally thousands of hours worth of gameplay for those brave enough to go for the platinum trophy. Today we’re taking a look at Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, a new title in the franchise, from a different developer, which has a surprising amount of changes over the mainline series. The game has been created in an attempt to appeal more towards Western gamers as we branch out of Japan and take on the global invasion instead.
I know you’re thinking “not another EDF game!”, I’ve seen the comments that other people have said about this latest iteration in the series; However, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is unlike the previous games. It makes a step which reminded me of the change between Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Origins, only Yuke’s remember the key elements the fans love and cherish about the game, Assassin’s Creed pretty much recreated the whole concept.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is a lot more focused on the story than any of the previous EDF games I’ve played. Instead of working your way through over a hundred missions which send you to random locations and offer no back story other than a small text box as to why you’re there, the missions in this game are held together with distress calls, radio messages and cutscenes. That’s right, there are actual cutscenes in the game!
The general gist of the story is that the EDF had come together in order to take out the Hivecraft, the giant ships which controlled the alien threats, but in doing so they lost half their troops and the energy core which powered their most deadly weapons. Our protagonist was part of that final mission, they were the sole survivor who managed to take down the ship! However, fate didn’t smile on you that day as the mothership came crashing down on top of your head! Thankfully, the impact didn’t kill you, you were simply placed within a coma for seven years.
There was a short period of peace until the creatures which were left behind and forgotten about, within the ruins the war created, had started to breed and rise up once more. With no force strong enough to take them down, they quickly overtook the world and had all but replaced humanity as the dominant species on Earth.
So, with no EDF and little hope left, refugees were recruited into the remaining militia groups and equipped with the new PA Gear in order to enter the front lines and take these bastards down!
Who are you?
So far it sounds very much like your average EDF game, right? Well, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain gives you it’s first major change straight away – a full-on character customisation upon your awaken from your coma (think Saints Row 3 or Mass Effect). Previously you were forced to be a man or woman depending on what skill set you wanted to have, and you were always playing as a nameless and faceless character with only the colours of their gear as customisation. Now you can not only recolour them, but you can change their face, hair, age, sex, weight, etc… It’s not got tonnes of options but there’s enough to make the character your own – you can even unlock and buy new clothing as you progress throughout the game.
This may not seem like a big change based on modern games, as almost every game has some sort of character customisation, but this is a first for the EDF series and it’s great having a custom character who you get to see and follow in every mission. Also, all the cutscenes in the game are literally in-game cutscenes, so your character appears in them all wearing and looking like whatever you dress them up as! Again, not a big surprise usually, but for the series, it’s a biggie.
What are you?
Unlike previous EDF games, certain roles don’t require you to play as a female anymore, this is because the new PA Gear has been created to work for both genders with no issues this time around. The classes are slightly different in name but they are practically the same as we’ve seen before. The major change here is that each of the four different classes can use the same weapons and items, no specifics here unlike in every other game in the numbered series, with the only differences being their stats and unique ability. So, let’s look at the different classes you can be…
This is the basic PA Gear. As a standard infantry unit, your defence is above average, mobility is standard but you can carry a decent amount of items. Their unique ability is an ‘E-Dodge’ which allows you to quickly get out of the way with the tap of a button.
As you may have already gathered, this PA Gear allows you to fly around the battlefield and attack your foes from above. This unit is fast but has lower defence and item capacity as a sacrifice. The unique ability is ‘E-Flight’, the move which allows you to take to the skies.
This is the tank of the group. You can carry two guns at a time (not as in one which is swappable like all the others, I mean one in each hand) and is an absolute brute with a high defence but lower mobility and item capacity than the others. The ability this time is ‘E-Field’ and ‘E-Thruster’, a defensive barrier and thruster respectively.
Now, this class is interesting, you have less defence and item capacity than the Trooper yet you can move around at much faster speeds. The reason for this is because you can zip around as if you’ve just come from killing some Titans in the Attack on Titan franchise (it’s almost an identical piece of equipment). This is done via the ability ‘E-Needle’. But wait, there’s more! Just as in previous games you had one unit which could deploy and ride vehicles, the Prowl Rider can deploy and ride giant insects!
We’re all the same underneath!
For a first in the EDF series, who or what you are doesn’t alter the options you have when picking your favourite loadout for each mission. As I mentioned previously, weapons are no longer exclusive to a certain type of unit, neither are things such as grenades and summoning vehicles. The ‘Item Capacity’ I spoke about in the above section basically decides how many items you can take into battle – there are hundreds to pick from (once unlocked) and range from vehicles to inflatable dummies. The interesting thing with the items is that you don’t have to buy individual units of an item before a round, you’re just charged post-battle if you decide to use any, which is a great way to do it.
Another big change is the way hitpoints are increased. Instead of picking up crates in-game and either getting increases for the class you’re playing as (EDF 4.1 and below) or for random classes (EDF 5), as you’re the same person (no matter what class), you simply use your earnt credits to buy health upgrades for your character. That means that any increase you get will be shared between all classes.
Finally, there’s one last big difference in terms of the mechanics – the loot crates. As I just mentioned, there are no health crates anymore because there are NO crates. Not even green weapon ones or health packs. All you’ll find on the field are crystals/gems. There are multiple colours and you’ll never know what you’re getting until you see it with your own eyes as the mini-map doesn’t show you what they are, they just all appear as being green. Green crystals on the field will give you a bit of health back but all the others are used to unlock certain weapons and items back at your base.
So, you’ll still be unlocking tonnes of weapons and gear as you complete each mission, which is what we’re used to, but everything that’s ‘unlocked’ still has to be bought with crystals and cash before you can pick to use it in battle with you. I personally thought this game was going to be an easy platinum as the trophies didn’t seem that bad, then I saw you had to buy every single weapon and piece of clothing – that’s going to take even longer than unlocking them on the previous games!
I suppose the main question you’ll all want to know is, is the gameplay the same as the gameplay we’ve come to love – a mindless bug squishing and alien/robot slaughtering free-for-all? The answer to that is, Hell yeah! With the vast array of weaponry, the four slightly altered classes, numerous vehicles to drive, diverse levels, and freaking massive creatures to take out, it’s so much fun simply equipping a flamethrower-type gun and burning them all to hell! There aren’t as many levels this time around, with just over 50 for each of the five difficulties, but they seem longer and more intense than I’ve seen in some of the earlier games.
One of the major disappointments for me was the fact that there is no EDF song this time around. I know the one in EDF 5 wasn’t as catchy as the one we had in EDF 4.1, but this time your character just screams EDF and the people around you cheer – that’s crap. I don’t think they should, but if they put the EDF 4.1 chant in the game as an Emote for about 99p, I would buy it.
I suppose the main difference with the gameplay, other than all of the above changes to the new customisation and crystal collecting parts, are the enemies. We have our standard ant and spider creatures which are always fun to slaughter, as their legs fly all over the place, as well as giant beetles which shoot fire out of their arse and even some scorpions. On the alien side, we have massive robots, flying drones and some massive creatures. One of them looked just like the Godzilla from EDF 5 but another one is at least four or five times bigger than that creature!
It’s not safe to go alone!
Just like previous titles in the franchise, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain has support for local and online cooperative play, as well as a new online multiplayer mode as well. So, locally you can play with up to two people in split-screen mode – which was a bit rocky pre-launch but they have released a few patches so far that make it more stable and helps to keep the framerates up. Or, if you choose to go online, then you can have up to six of you playing the entire campaign together.
The multiplayer mode sees up to eight players combat in two teams of four against each other and a horde of giant creatures. The aim is to collect more crystals/gems than the opposing team, all whilst protecting yourself from the oncoming threat. It’s not a bad multiplayer mode as it constantly keeps you occupied whilst also alert as it’s a case of getting to the collectables before the other team.
It seems the online portion is quite active as well, I jumped in earlier on and there were over five thousand people currently joinable online – this means you shouldn’t have an issue getting into a quick match, although it’s best played with friends.
The two biggest changes to EDF
For me, there were two things that took Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain and placed it above all of the previous games in the series which I’ve played. First of all, I don’t know if this was because I requested them when I reviewed EDF 5 or if it’s just a coincidence, but all in-game essential vocals have subtitles! You no longer have to worry about the noise of an explosion overshadowing some important intel, or if you’re hard of hearing then you can finally follow the story without only seeing the visuals. I feel this is a great addition for obvious reasons and also because Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain really does try with its story and rolling commentary.
The second change, which you will have seen by now, is the visuals. My god, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain looks very pretty. I thought EDF 5 looked good as its step down to 30fps allowed the game to push the visuals a bit more than EDF 4.1, which was technically a remaster. However, this game looks so much better as it implements a lot of post-processing like depth of field, motion blur, advanced lighting, reflections and more accurate destructions. It all feels very next-gen in comparison to previous titles. Obviously, it’s not going to be as good as PlayStation’s own exclusive titles, but it’s the best looking game in the franchise so far.
I just love the fact that I created an old woman with bright green pig-tailed hair and I can remove her helmet so I see the granny drop into battle in every pre-game cutscene. Her hair even has physics when out on the battlefield when it’s flopping around the place.
With regards to the music – it’s very EDF-like. I would say that it sounds like a lot of the music may have come from EDF 5 as I think I’ve heard it before, but I could be wrong – it may just be because it has that EDF feeling about it. Also, the voice acting is okay – it’s not as cheesy as it was in EDF 5 but there are some really good performances in here.
With a new coat of paint and a shift in mechanics, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain sets itself above previous EDF games. There have been some major changes within this title, such as the customisations, abilities, unit types, pick-ups, and loadouts, but once you get used to them, it feels like this way is much better than the old way. The visuals have not only had a coat of paint, but they’ve had an undercoat and at least three layers placed on top to make them look great during gameplay. The addition of subtitles made me happier than you can imagine as more people can now enjoy the story, even if it does get a little generic if you’ve played all the previous games.
Don’t shrug off Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain as being just another EDF game, this is an EDF game which has taken a few rather big steps in order to change itself. Some people will like the changes, some may not be too open to them, I personally took a while to warm to them but now I’m finding myself playing this more than EDF 5.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain£49.99
- - Massive improvement to graphics, physics and overall gunplay (over previous titles)
- - Fully subtitled during the mission with key plot points and story exposition
- - Great soundtrack which is very EDF-like, along with cheesy vocals
- - Fully customisable character with lots of unlockable clothing, weapons, PA Gear, and items
- - Up to six people can now play in coop and eight in a new online multiplayer mode
- - If you're not a fan of hack and slash games (like EDF and Dynasty Warriors), then you may grow tired of it after a few hours
- - The platinum looks easy but it's almost as long-winded as previous titles
- - There are some framerate dips when the action gets really manic on screen
- - The new crystal/gem collection and unlock process wont please everyone as it's quite a departure from what we've seen previously