Review: Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain – We’ll fight in the shade

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Yuke’s has made their debut with the Earth Defense Force saga, throwing out a new approach to a tried-and-true system, offering new incentives to keep fans playing, and even a way for them to test their skills. Find out today, why Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is a step in the right direction for the series.


Pros:
+Destruction is bigger than ever before and newer weapons make it incredibly so
+The new Soldier class makes up for a lack of innovation with harder gameplay mechanics
+Character’s feel tried and true rather than added cannon fodder
+A new unlock system that truly adds a sense of replayability

Cons:
-Graphics have been only slightly upgraded from before
-Performance issues carry over from earlier established titles
-Controls can still feel stiff, and at times, frustrating to use


Earlier this year, I had the chance to review Earth Defense Force 5 when I’d just returned from my holiday break. Now, here I am, only four months later with a second title, one that seemed as if it had more time in the cooker than the prior. I wasn’t impressed with Earth Defense Force 5. I’d actually preferred Earth Defense Force 4 and Earth Defense Force 4.1 over what EDF 5 had to offer.

To me, it felt as if the latest one had been rushed, that it was just an afterthought piled together to create something less than uninspired. But now, here we are, and with a brand new Earth Defense Force title by the name of Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, which right out of the gate, felt like a breath of fresh air on a tried and worn out formula.

It’s evident, in ways, that this one wasn’t developed by Sandlot by any means necessary. While it plays like a Sandlot title, looks like a Sandlot title, and even feels like one, it’s not. It’s actually something entirely new, and it’s very noticeable that Yuke’s is the one behind the game itself. They broke up the monotony of things we’d done a million times and gave us something even more to enjoy.

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The story itself, is the biggest improvement, next to gameplay mechanics

One of my biggest complaints about Earth Defense Force 5, which I hate to keep ragging on, but will be in order to point out the massive improvements to the series, was its story. It felt stale, overplayed, and rather uninspired. Having played every single title in the franchise up to this very point (it took a bit, but I got there), I decided to give this one a whirl as well.

This time around, you aren’t watching the invasion start, it has already started. Aliens are swarming the planet, giant robots are attacking, and you are one of the many on the lines, a resistance if you will. Early in the game, you obtain a Power Cell, one of the few of their kind to ever have existed.

After a brief rundown of why it makes you special, and why you were in a coma, things go as you would expect. Your character dusts off their sh** kickers and gets back on their way to making the aliens regret ever having assaulted Earth and decided to call it home. The comedic value behind all of this still remains: Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is still a b-rated science fiction flick turned video game. It’s funny, the character acting is intentionally horrible (what did you expect from a b-rated film?!), and the setting is laughable at best.

That’s the charm though, the series, even the developers, don’t take the experience as series as titles such as Days Gone or Detroit: Become Human. It’s an important thing to keep in mind when you’re blasting through giant bugs and robotic turtles, humanoids, and the likes. Even as human factions fight against one another, the undertones remain as you would expect, their unique, their funny, but the seriousness of the situation does appear more than one. I appreciated that to be quite honest.

This time around, there were moments where you learn that some of your squad mates have family in the militia, you have some that work for other factions, and you even have some who refer to their alien-invasion experiences with video games (the PlayStation consoles being heavily punned upon at the time). Surprisingly enough, the AI isn’t as dumb as it was either. This time around, they actually help you. They actually work side-by-side with you as you get your hands dirty and chip a few nails while trying to stay alive.

Story aside, the game itself is a blast, and I’ll be spending quite a bit more time with it post-review as I’ll be working on that platinum trophy that’s calling my name. Even then, there’s a lot to do, and lots of brand new mechanics to the game whether some are easy to complete or even all that hard. Thanks to the brand new and unique settings, you’ll find yourself enjoying what’s going on, holding out for grand scenes such as air strikes come, alien deployment scenes where giant spikes fall from the sky, or even giant robotic forces march forth from just over the horizon.

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EDF: Iron Rains biggest arsenal is a constant flow of enjoyable content

One of the newest approaches to the series isn’t just how you unlock stuff including armor, weapons, classes, and various customizations, but also upgrades. It’s not like before where you’ll pick one of the various classes, level up its gear, and carry on about your business. This time around, I enjoyed the character customization’s, I enjoyed picking my characters facial features, her hair, armor colors, and what kind of loadout she would actually use.

Instead, I’d slowly be introduced to new weapons, new armors, new customizations, and the classes. I would have a chance to set up everything to my choosing, clear down to what kind of consumables I wanted on my character, grenades and healing items included. This time around, to unlock stuff, I needed to collect gems, I needed to earn currency by completing missions, and even perform better than I had my first time or two through a mission.

This time around, I’m not concerned about whether or not I missed a weapon or weapon or weapon upgrade by missing boxes during the course of a mission. This time, I simply play, I pick up the loot left behind, and then get scored for my performance. Missions themselves are relatively short, lasting between ten to fifteen minutes each, and every single one of them pretty much offering different objectives from the other.

Some missions would require me to save humans from giant robot turtle pods, but with a restriction. I couldn’t blow up the pods, I needed to aim for the critical points on the mechanized turtle or risk losing all my progress in that mission. On the other hand, it forced me to try out new weapons, and see how they worked with the overdrive ability. A feature you can only use once throughout every mission in the game.

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Cooperative Play and PvP are a thing and they are great

One thing that you should expect from Earth Defense Force games by now is clear: Online multiplayer. Whether it’s you taking on with a friend online or some random players, it’s a blast, and Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain makes sure you know this. Whether you are diving into missions online with friends or randoms, duking it out with three others while taking on an opposing team of four; there’s something for everyone.

But I did run across a few minor issues. Lag. It wasn’t just in the online multiplayer portion either. It seems that Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain does use peer-to-peer networking for its lobbies, which, unfortunately, can come at the cost of lag being a major thing if connecting to players from around the world.

The same can be said for cooperative play. I’ve experienced significant lag from players from around the world and in my local region. Unfortunately, it’ll remain this way as it seems that the series may never be able to support dedicated servers. Regardless, it’s still fun and it still provides a few good laughs.

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But don’t expect any graphical or performance upgrades either

One of the let downs of this title shouldn’t come as a surprise. There aren’t any performance or graphical upgrades to this title. While it does seem lighting has been slightly touched up to make things seem a bit crisper, but don’t expect much else. Framerate still seems to be a bit iffy when too much gets going on the screen at once and it doesn’t hold up well when lots of explosions get underway, which happens more often than not.

In some of the earlier missions, primarily 7-10, when this began to happen and has for some reason or another, managed to stick around moving forward. While it does come and go, performance problems do exist, and they leave room for wonder if this will be a continued problem for the franchise.

While it would certainly be nice to see upgrades of this kind, it’s a situation where you can’t hold your breath, and you might as well carry on knowing that these small performance issues exist. Regardless of your thoughts regarding graphics and performance, it doesn’t take away from the fact Yuke’s has put a lot of time, a lot of love, and a new way to experience the series on the shelves for fans to enjoy.

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But there’s one last thing to discuss. A new class.

One of the things I’ve been leaving out is that there is indeed, a brand new class, and perhaps, it’s one of the best additions to the game. With 50 missions to complete, multiple difficulties to complete them on, and even some multiplayer fun to be had – it’s hard to not cover every little tidbit of this game.

The last thing to discuss is a new class… The soldier. This new class is just as it sounds. It’s a grunt, it does all the heavy lifting, but without all the bonuses that the other suits actually get. Your best offensive is a great defense, making this class a second guesser at some point or another, but a great new challenge for those that really want to put their skills to the test.

You’ll even find those vehicles you didn’t use before to be quite useful when playing as a soldier. Personally, I didn’t enjoy it, I was too accustomed to floating about, shooting Aggressor’s from high above and unleashing my powerful overdrive attacks from afar. But if you want to be able to really put your skill to the test. Give this class a try. It’ll make you second guess how good at these games you really are.

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Fin.

One of the best and worst things about Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is that it continues to use a tried and true formula, only changing a few necessary elements, and adding in a few minor ones to make itself really stand out from the rest. While it sounds as shameful as it could be, it isn’t, and it’s a welcome change in a series that had begun to grow stagnant over the past few releases.

Whether it’s the grim banter of your troops, an interesting bit of dialogue from the other factions, namely the Resistance. My only concern should be quite clear: What next? Can Earth Defense Force take another step in the right direction? Can it truly clear out any concerns we had about a series that lacked innovation or even improvement in its weakest areas?

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer: Yuke’s
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $59.99

Those questions are for later down the road, but for now, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain has removed the restraints we’d come accustomed to once before and simplifies things in a might way. To some, maybe a bit too much, to others, not enough, but to those few that call this series home – it’s just enough.


Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.


Final Score: 7 out of 10


About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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