REVIEW: ‘Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain’ is One of The Best Action Games of 2019 (PS4)

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Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain

The aliens have arrived in America with the release of the newest Earth Defense Force game, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain. Following the release of Earth Defense Force 5, a new team has taken the reigns of one of the most action-packed games out today. With new enhancements and changes, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain has arrived to deliver a new kind of extraterrestrial combat to players. Having played Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain at PAX EAST 2019, it is with great pleasure to see it raise the bar for the franchise and it has become one of the best action experiences to arrive into the world of video games this season.

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain changes the combat and its setting now focusing on the United States of America. Seven years ago, a human soldier fought the giant alien mothership in bitter combat, utilizing a specially designed exo-suit for combat against the alien forces. Giant insects and robots pummel the battlefield, reducing it to ash and rubble until a lone unknown soldier exploits a weak point in the alien mothership and proceeds to severely damage it. The mothership suffers massive damage and explodes.

The soldier is buried but is recovered. He is placed in a coma for seven years. Seven years later, the soldier awakens to discover the war is still waging across the country. The members of Earth Defense Forces (EDF) further discover this soldier was part of an elite squadron with specially modified exo-suits, which included an overdrive function that supercharges the soldier and their weapons, becoming a lethal weapon of mass destruction across the field. As this suit is tailored to DNA, this soldier is the only one of his squad remaining and together with the newer members of the EDF, they must fight across America to defeat the alien menace, as well as a human rebellion that seeks to impede the efforts of the EDF and the security of the Earth.

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain plays as a third-person shooter. In the game, players will have an assortment of exo-suits, weapons, and items to choose from to combat these dangerous threats. Players will be able to customize not just their weapons loadout but also their soldier, choosing their gender,  physical looks, and visual features to better identify themselves on the battlefield. Across a long and varied campaign, players will face a host of different enemies, from the robotic to the organic who will stop at nothing to defeat the player. Multiple difficulty settings along with the ability to use various items such as sentry guns and vehicles help even the odds for the players playing on normal difficulties but will give players a saving grace, should they choose to try it on a higher difficulty setting.

Shooting giant bugs and enemies against overwhelming odds has been the core basis of all Earth Defense Force games since its inception, but Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain changes the formula significantly but for the better. Producer Okajima-san, and the new developer Yukes saw a different take on Earth Defense Force. When speaking to Okajima-san at PAX EAST he said he envisioned a more Western-inspired Earth Defense Force game. The soldiers and how they converse are based on more Hollywood-styled action. The choice to have it in the United States of America gives players a more engaging interest as this alien attack happens on their home turf.

Developer Yukes has handled a solid portfolio of action games and decided to lend a new take to the formula. In previous Earth Defense Force games, players were isolated to their class and the weapons exclusive to that class. For example, a Wing Diver, the all-female special ops team with alien technology and jet packs, could only use energy based weapons and could not use the weapons of an infantry class. But in Earth Defense Force Iron Rain, the player has a lot more flexibility to customizations and combat.

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain

Additionally, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain allows players to buy more health from currency earned in-game by completing missions. Enemies drop special gems that are required for buying new weapons to use on the battlefield. From there players have a wide range of customization options. For example, players can use a jetpack exo-suit, while using a mini-gun and grenade launcher, or use a traditional infantry exo-suit, with laser cannons and shotguns. This is further realized with the different exo-suit types unlocked during the campaign, such as the Lancer suit that turns players into a walking battle tank.

The newest and most exciting class is the Pale Rider. Players can use the grapple hooks for swinging to specific parts of the battlefield but then summon a giant insect, like a giant ant, to use in combat. Whatever your playstyle is, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain provides a huge amount of customization for players looking to tailor their soldier to their very own specialties. The list of customization options for combat is astonishing and only more rewarding the further you get into the game.

The choice to have Yukes become the developer team for the game was a wise choice as the gameplay for Earth Defense Force, already a prime example of exceptional shooting design is made even better with a new, more polished, and more weight take on combat. The combat in Earth Defense Force Iron is more detailed, more immersive, and grander in scale. The use of the Unreal Engine 4 in Iron Rain gives the soldier and aliens a  truly filled-out feel. Whereas in Earth Defense Force 5, the shooting felt a bit looser and the enemies felt like paper, the shooting in Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain felt like a combat experience with weight and toughness. Wielding and discharging weapons against a giant multi-storied alien feel like a battle of David and Goliath except David has a multi-billion dollar weaponized exo-suit and Goliath is a 50-foot tall alien that lobs giant shells of fire.

Using the different weapons systems and exo-suits is absolutely exciting and thrilling. The newest combat mechanic, the overdrive mechanics, is incredible. Players can click on the overdrive to make their soldiers fight faster and harder. While you can only use it once per level, using this is thrilling and euphoric, especially in one of the more intense fights against tougher enemies. Overall, the gameplay of Earth Defense: Iron Rain is extremely strong and better than it ever has been before. Players truly feel they are fighting a war of planetary proportions with a combat visual aesthetic that can be described as World War II of the future.

The same B-rated banter and soundtrack perpetuate the experience but is more intuned with something out of 1990s sci-fi genre like X-Files or Men In Black.  Overall, the gameplay is exciting, euphoric, challenging, and immensely fun, especially with a second player.  Of course, using the Pale Rider class is tremendous as well.

If there are any setbacks to Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, it would be the cost of some items. As mentioned before, a nice addition to the game is the fact that you can unlock and purchase weapons. However, their cost can be a bit high and so the desire to use new weapons must be abated until players gather enough crystals and coin. To do this, players can replay missions or play online with up to several online players. While players will need to farm out currency in these online missions the experience is still fun. Additionally, the vehicles to use are fun, but the aerial vehicles, such as the gunship, could’ve used some work with the controls.

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain sticks to the same old-fashioned shooting as all of its predecessors have for a decade but builds upon and modernizes the experience to create the best Earth Defense Force game yet.  It’s more Hollywood styled action but improves on existing mechanics making for an absolutely great action experience. Whether alone or with friends, every time is a great time to save the Earth in Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain.

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL; DR

Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain sticks to the same old-fashioned shooting as all of its predecessors have for a decade but builds upon and modernizes the experience to create the best Earth Defense Force game yet.  It’s more Hollywood styled action but improves on existing mechanics making for an absolutely great action experience.