Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 5/20/2019 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Earth Defense Force is a series that has a VERY special place in my heart. It’s like the SyFy movie of video games; it’s completely ridiculous from premise to execution, and you have no idea how they make enough money to break even let alone justify an entire series, and yet lo and behold, game after game comes out. At its core, every EDF game is pretty much the same. They’re all third-person shooters in which you play as a generic soldier with mercifully unlimited ammo as you massacre thousands of giant insects sent by an alien force to invade and the conquer the Earth. Not only is the concept the same throughout the series, but like half of the games are just remakes of each other anyway. Has that ever stopped me from buying every single one my greedy little eyes behold? Not a chance.
Iron Rain is a little bit different from other EDF games, and I attribute that largely to the fact that this is the first game in the series to be developed by Yuke’s. Iron Rain is, in a lot of ways, a reboot for the EDF series. It changes up a lot of the gameplay mechanics to make things feel more customizable, more modern, and more accessible while still keeping it feeling distinctly EDF. It’s still a third person shooter, but it’s a very different feeling EDF. First and foremost, there are a TON of customization options with your player character. You can choose between male or female, obviously, but you can also tweak certain aspects of the appearance beyond that – height, bust, etc. There are a variety of hairstyles and voices from which to choose as well as a TON of outfits. Want your avatar in standard EDF military fatigues? No problem. Want your avatar in a cleavage-heavy blouse and mini skirt? This is your game. Want your avatar in Daisy Dukes and a tight-fitting t-shirt? Look no further. It doesn’t stop there, though; not only do you have a lot of variety in the types of outfits your character can rock, but they all have eight different color patterns so that you can mix and match to your heart’s desire.
Continuing with the “It’s basically a reboot” theme, the story of Iron Rain is unrelated to the previous games, essentially taking place in a separate universe. Rather than being based around an attack in 2017 and another attack in 2025, Iron Rain is set seven years after an initial attack between which there was a tense period of relative stillness wherein the Aggressors (the giant insects) were present on Earth but seemingly holding the territory they’d taken rather than actively expanding. The other thing that sets the story apart (aside from the obvious fact of being an alternate universe) is that it takes itself a lot more serious than most EDF games. That’s not to say that the game totally takes itself seriously – after all, you’re still fighting thirty-foot tall spiders – but the character dialogue and the way the story’s told maintain a more serious tone throughout, the few comic relief moments notwithstanding.
Stylistically, the game is most similar to Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon with its plot unrelated to the main series and more serious tone. It manages to avoid one of the common complaints with Insect Armageddon, though – the length. Insect Armageddon only had 15 levels – a far cry from the series norm of having five or six dozen levels. Iron Rain, on the other hand, has 52 levels – still a little shorter than most EDF games but a respectable length nonetheless. The game’s campaign can, of course, be played multiplayer in addition to a few specifically multiplayer game modes. Each of the game’s missions has multiple difficulty settings which affect the quality of the weapons you can unlock, giving the game a large amount of replayability.
Earth Defense Force has, from the first mission I played in Earth Defense Force 2017 years ago, been one of my favorite game series, and Iron Rain takes that formula and almost perfects it. It’s definitely the best game in the series so far, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so wholly satisfied with an arcade-y game as I am with this one. It’s the best performing game in the series with only a couple of mild frame rate drops (whereas most games in the series are known for the truly abysmal frame rates), it looks great considering the series’s low-budget origins, and most importantly, it’s fun and addicting to play. “One more mission” usually turned into three, four, or five more before I realized what had happened. The series rarely gets much attention in the West in gaming discussions, but if any game in series deserves attention worldwide, it’s this one. If you have a PlayStation 4 and like a fun, goofy good time, you need to look into Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain.