Oversized insects, robots and arachnids (since they’re not bugs) combined with the possibility of jetpacks, dual-wielding rocket launchers, and calling in airstrikes are definitely someone’s idea of a good time. Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain will offer all that and more and with a nice helping of B-movie level cheese pushed to the extreme. You can’t go into this title expecting anything serious in tone as you’ll only be setting yourself up for disappointment. There are problems sure, but in terms of nonsensical, simple fun will be where the entertainment is at. To get a sense of this feel free to read over my preview impressions of Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain. It covers the first ten or so missions and provides a nice parallel to my thoughts on the final product.
So a more comprehensive look at the story follows the trials and tribulations of “Closer.” An Earth Defense Force soldier who woke up from a seven-year coma after barely being able to destroy an alien spaceship. He returns to a planet on the brink of destruction by a myriad foes. Giant sized creatures threaten any human life, humongous robots (controlled by aliens) wreak havoc on military outposts and civilizations, and the various alien lifeforms themselves are up to some sinister plan. Closer is assigned to “Blast” team which serves as one of the more powerful squads of the EDF. They’ll be sent, sometimes at random to fill game time, to different locations around key points in order to disrupt and defeat what menace plagues the area.
For those thinking Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain sounds like a super serious, gritty, wartime shooter do not need to worry in the slightest. This is easily the cheesiest game I’ve ever played and I say that in a mostly positive light. This sci-fi experience has it all…political espionage, selling out to corporations, teleporting between worlds, a rebellion group, flying ships, Kaiju monsters, hammy dialogue, specialized robotic suits, mind control, and more. However, none of this is told through proper cutscenes or traditional story paths. Like my preview piece, 90% of the game’s plot and plot devices are told through audio communications over gameplay comms or loading screens. This doesn’t necessarily help or hurt Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, just don’t expect some grand space opera to play out on your screen.
Gameplay is from a third person perspective and only focuses on destroying as many abnormally large enemies that appear on your screen. Different enemies will have different tactics I suppose, but I found they could all be dealt in the same manner. By equipping a powerful rocket launcher and a backup weapon. There were so many explosions I assure you. However, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is not limited to just explosions and rocket-propelled grenades. There’s actually a ton of weapons and equipment to use against machinery and biological insides alike. First up are the PA-Gears that are the robotic suites that Closer can wear. There’s essentially only four types (the 5th one is just an updated version of the 4th) and will both cater to different playstyles and mission structures. The normal one has a dodge roll ability while boasting nice overall stats, a flying one with less defense, a mobile tank suit that allows dual-wielding of all weapons, and the last one will allow you to control a giant creature for a period of time.
In between missions you’ll be able to purchase and equip all sorts of items thanks to enemy drops on the battlefield. Weapons are a dime a dozen with assault rifles, shotguns, snipers, missile launchers, laser guns, grenade launchers, swords, miniguns, energy weapons, and even satellite weapons. There’s also plenty of support items like health items, grenades, revive bots, traps, vehicles, and even field support abilities like drops of cannon fire. One thing’s for sure is that you’ll never get bored coming up with different combinations. The only limit to the possibilities is each PA-Gear’s inventory size. Then there’s overdrive mode which can only be activated once per mission (unless you have a useable item equipped) and allows Closer to go berserk. Everything from firing rate to damage output is increased for a small portion of time. This also allows an unlimited use of energy when used. Otherwise you have to follow an annoying gauge on how long you can run, fly, or use an energy shield.
A more annoying problem is how Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain overstays its welcome by a mile. There’s fifty two missions in total that will take a little less than ten hours or so to overcome. Granted there are a few difficulty modes to try out, and one to unlock after you beat the game, that will offer a nice challenge and slightly different Aggressor behavior. Sadly, the amount of missions should have been cut in half to maintain a sustainable sense of fun. A lot of levels just feel like filler in a game that already plops you in an area with the sole goal of killing everything in your way. Once about every seven to ten missions does something interesting actually happen gameplay wise and it doesn’t offer terribly much in the way of replayability on its own. I found myself questioning if all this pointless filler was done on purpose to match the B-movie aesthetics.
I’ve touched upon it before, but it bears repeating. The game can be really simple in how to proceed with killing all that you can. More than half the game was spent with the same setup of relying on FX-Naughty Boy (a fast firing and quick reloading rocket launcher) to demolish all those that stood before me. There’s a ton of options to vary up your own personal gameplay style, it just won’t effect too much in the long run. The maps were diverse enough to keep my interest, but they were mostly empty, except two or three with cookie cutter buildings, to further the point of just killing tons of enemies in front of you. While annihilating armies of ants or gargantuan creatures was a thrill ride, nothing supported it. Graphics aren’t bad and resemble the PS3 era and no amount of customization colors or emblem sticks for Closer is going to make up for that.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain does have both couch and online co-op. And I have no doubt that playing with others would have increased my fun dramatically. It’s just in typical fashion I couldn’t find a soul to play with during the pre-release period. Let alone five more to fill out the squad limit. I do plan on giving it a go when the title releases of course. I just need to see explosions and enemies perishing more than what I’m capable of currently. There’s also a competitive multiplayer component called Mercenary. Just like the co-op though there was nary a sneeze on the servers. From what I can gather through there is only one game mode called Scavenger. This focuses on two teams fighting to acquire the most enemy drops before the round is over.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7.5/10
Those of us who like playground fun will find a home with Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain. There’s plenty of weapons to take down the biggest creatures alive and you’ll more than feel like a badass for doing it. At least for the first few hours. Then the game’s simplistic level design and seemingly filler missions will take a toll if you play solo anyway. There’s plenty to appreciate, but I can’t help but wonder what this experience would be like if the developers put as much effort into enemy intelligence and mission structure as they did with gameplay combination possibilities.
Great B-movie level aesthetic
Many weapon, item, and apparel customization options
Cutting down swaths of oversized targets is a simple joy
You can dual-wield rocket launchers
Too many missions that felt like filler
Simple and borderline poor level design for too many missions
Doesn’t take much variety to complete any goal
Reviewed using a PS4 Pro.
PlayStation is love. PlayStation is life.