Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain Review — Polishing Out the Absurdity
Earth Defense Force is a true cult-classic series. It's one that has always felt like a playable Starship Troopers game filled with strange political messages, over-the-top weapons, and pure absurdity. A lot of what makes the series so enjoyable is the level of jank, its lack of polish, and that feeling of playing a roughly cut diamond.
Well, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is different.
It has a level of shine that EDF has just never had before. As a series veteran, it's almost unnerving to see everything looking so, well, clean. The graphics are better than they have ever been, everything looks good. Shocking stuff.
The story of EDF: Iron Rain is much the same as it has ever been, though with a more overtly serious tone than before. Aliens have invaded Earth, things have gone horribly awry, and here you are, the only person who can stand against it.
You fight the good fight and actually repel the main ship before falling into a coma for several years. Upon awakening, it seems that your efforts were in vain. The bugs are still absolutely everywhere and humanity is not winning. Most of the planet has been turned into No Man's Land, while those who remain alive are the sponsors of the EDF itself, only they get full protection against the Ravagers.
A fairly dystopian tale if there ever was one.
Combat is the same as always. You take your loadout of weapons into missions and shoot your way through waves of enemies. It isn't full of nuance, but it doesn't have to be. EDF has always been one of the most entertaining arcade shooters around, and blowing enemies up with a triple-barrelled grenade launcher is still wonderfully cathartic, even if there are fewer enemies than before.
You still have multiple classes to choose from, though this time they unlock as you go. In fact, the whole game feels a bit more like an RPG than it has in previous iterations. Normally, you just collect dropped items in order to get health upgrades and new weapons at random.
Again, EDF: Iron Rain changes things up.
As you fight through missions, you get gold for completing them and collect various different Energy Gems in the missions to spend on new items and upgrades. You can use these to upgrade your maximum health, buy new weapons, or invest in consumable items to make the alien shooting gallery as fun — or as difficult — as you desire.
The health pool in EDF: Iron Rain is the same no matter which suit you are wearing. Weapons can be used by any class as well, so it is more about choosing the right tools for the mission ahead than the coolest suit.
The items are compelling, too. They range from simple things like grenades to more complex things like tanks. Unlocking them may cost special currency, but after that, you simply get charged for each use in gold. Balancing buying new items with using old ones is an intriguing aspect of the game, though it usually just means going back to an earlier mission to get some more money.
Iron Rain feels a lot like what would happen if capitalism had to run a war against another planet. Sure, the logical thing to do would be to just focus all the resources on surviving, but why shouldn't you try and make a quick buck?
The economies of scale don't necessarily dispell that, either.
Finally, the classes are interesting this time around, too — although to be fair, they always have been.
You have your basic soldier, the flying unit, and the heavy unit that uses a shield. The brand-spanking-new class, the Prowl Rider, is one that summons a bug to ride around on. It also uses Attack on Titan style wires to zip around cities with ease. It is a blast to use, but it's a shame you can't use your Overdrive ability more.
Overdrive for other units allows them to fire faster, reload quicker, and use their unique ability infinitely for a set time. For the Prowl Rider, it summons in the gigantic beast that you can then hop on and control. It's fun sure, but a one-shot unless you use items to refill your Overdrive.
- The best looking EDF in the series
- A surprisingly emotional story
- Attack on Titan movement
- Without special weapons, the classes don't feel as unique
- Fewer enemies on screen than EDF 5
- Classes feel less well-defined
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is fun, but not quite the same level of over-the-top action that the series is known for.
The weapons aren't quite as crazy, and you never feel quite as unstoppable. The enemies are brilliant and there are some wonderfully ridiculous missions, but everything just feels a bit like something has been lost when the game was polished.
Iron Rain is still a worth checking out, especially for series fans; the new systems work well, it says some interesting things about capitalism, and riding a giant scorpion is awesome. It just feels like there could have been a bit more absurdity to it all.
Often, with a series like this, we revel in the lack of rhyme or reason. Here though, there is more reason than is reasonable for a game all about shooting giant ants.
Iron Rain is a good game, there's just something missing that other series entries have captured so well.
[Note: A copy of Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain was provided by D3 Publisher for the purpose of this review.]