Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: October 29, 2019
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is a third-person action shooter available from retail stores exclusively in Japan and for download worldwide from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Earth Defense Force originated from Japan in 2003 on a budget range called Simple 2000 Vol. 31 which released on a CD for PS2 and was later distributed in the PAL region under the name Monster Attack in 2004, a sequel titled Global Defense Force was released in July 2005 in Japan, finally making it to Europe almost two years later in June 2007 and was successful enough to earn a turn-based strategy spin-off game called Global Defense Force: Tactics which released in Japan in July 2006 and June 2007 in Europe. The series continued with Earth Defense Force 2017 in December 2006 in Japan and seen the first US release of the series which launched in the same month as Europe in March 2007, followed by the first simultaneous launch of the series as Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon received a worldwide launch in July 2011. Earth Defense Force 2025 launched in July 2013 in Japan followed by Europe and the US in February 2014, while an enhanced port released on PS4 titled Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair in Japan in April 2015, the US in December 2015 and Europe in February 2016. There have also been forays into portable entries into the series including Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable for Vita in Japan in September 2012 and in Europe and the US in January 2013, while there was even a PSP release of Global Defense Force in April 2011, although the PSP version was only ever released in Japan before an updated Vita version titled Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space released in Japan in December 2014, the US in December 2015 and Europe in February 2016. Earth Defense Force 5 continued the progression of the main series of the franchise that released in Japan in December 2017 before releasing everywhere else in December 2018, while a completely unique arcade shoot ‘em up Earth Defense Force spin-off titled Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver the Shooter released in 2018. Given all of the quality games released in the series; can Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain deliver an impressive Americanised spin-off within the Earth Defense Force franchise?
The prologue introduces the Aggressors as a hostile alien invasion threatens Earth before moving 7 years further into the future; as your character wakes up to be greeted by the Commander in Chief of the Earth Defense Force army, Renald Campbell only to be told that the battle for Earth continues.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain features a total of 52 missions of varying lengths and objectives. Missions have a new rating system comprising how quick the mission is completed, how many energy gems are collected, how much damage is received by your character and a technical score.
Earth Defense Force’s traditional character classes have been replaced by four gradually unlockable sets of what is referred to as PA-Gear including trooper, jet lifter, prowl rider and heavy striker. Every set of PA-Gear equipment has unique attributes including defense, mobility and item capacity, alongside an energy move that utilises rechargeable energy from within the suit that is for instance capable of performing a dodge when wearing the trooper PA-Gear or flying in a manner reminiscent to that of a jetpack when wearing the jet lifter PA-Gear. Armour crates have been replaced by hit point capacity levels that are simultaneously upgraded for every PA-Gear suit up to as high as level 21 by using in-game currency ranging from 300 credits to progress from 500HP up to 600HP through to 3,929,900 credits to attain 10,000HP, albeit reducing the in-game currency required for later HP levels when attaining earlier HP levels, alongside dozens of unlockable emblems and 10 colour palette tones.
Character customisation has been massively expanded to include male or female gender, three male or female voices and three male or female body types; 15 hair styles and hair colours, 12 sets of facial features, eight skin tones, 15 eye colours and three facial hair combinations. The best character customisation selection is hair type 3, hair colour 5, face type 11, skin tone 4, eyes type 10 and no facial hair that collectively looks remarkably reminiscent to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Meanwhile, clothing includes a wide selection of helmet designs, upper body and lower body uniforms and facial accessories.
Enemy design comprises a large variety of Earth Defense Force’s trademark giant insects that have their own unique attacks such as ants and flying ants spitting acid, spiders spinning webs as traps to catch and drag their prey directly to them, scorpions, pods that produce a hulking monstrous creature and many more besides, alongside mechanical enemies such as flying drones that fire on sight, robotic enemies and ships that spawn a huge quantity of enemies. Enemies have as much impact as anticipated from an Earth Defense Force game as they remain rather scary, especially when they flank your position and sneak up very close without you realising until you find yourself standing directly under a massive spider or ant as more giant insects swarm in from all directions.
Your chosen character begins with two weapons including an assault rifle and rocket launcher. The Earth Defense Force franchise’s weapon crates have been replaced by in-game currency that is awarded in relation to the player’s performance within each mission that can be utilised to unlock the weapon for use in missions. As was previously the case in Earth Defense Force games; there are hundreds of weapons to utilise in your fight against the giant insects and enemies with a range of weapon categories including assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, rocket launcher, missile launcher, special weapons and more besides. Every weapon has their own unique attributes including damage, ammo, firing range, reload time, rate of fire, weapon type, precision, if it has a zoom or a laser sighting and more besides, alongside a full description of the history of the weapon such as when the latest model was developed and how it has improved over the previous version.
Environment design is reminiscent to previous Earth Defense Force games in some missions as the player battles against enemies in large cities, streets, parks, countryside and more besides that is technically open-world due to how vast the environments are outside of the core battle. However, there are a fair few unique areas such as insect nest mountains, sand dunes and missions that occur at night rather than every mission taking place during daytime. Meanwhile, destructible environments are as impressive as ever such as posts, fences, billboards, trees, cars and even buildings, structures and bridges are destructible given enough bullets or rockets are fired upon them.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain has downloadable content titled Golden Storm extra mission pack including 14 new missions, over 30 new weapons, special vehicles, a new PA-Gear suit known as Invisible Trooper and more besides available for £9.99 or $12.99 or as part of the more expensive Ultimate Edition digital release for £73.99 or $89.99, while there are also custom character creation components and items that are individually available between £0.79 to £2.49 or $0.99 and $2.99.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain will not be receiving a Vita port, although Earth Defense Force fans that prefer to play their Earth Defense Force games portably can find excellent Earth Defense Force games on PSP and Vita including Global Defense Force on PSP, alongside Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable and Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space on Vita. Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain’s remote play performance retains the graphics, audio and general performance in comparison to the PS4 version. There are only minimal remote play control scheme optimisations resulting in firing being mapped to the top right of the rear touch pad, while sprinting is remapped to the bottom left of the rear touch pad, alongside overdrive moving to simultaneously tapping the bottom left and bottom right of the rear touch pad. However, as the controls are fully customisable; Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain’s best remote play experience can be attained by remapping the controls including pressing R to fire; pressing L to aim; pressing right on the d-pad to perform an energy move; and pressing left on the d-pad to use an item, therefore providing a much more comfortable remote play control scheme that is quite suitable to portable Earth Defense Force games.
The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the default control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to fire; holding L2 to aim; pressing R1 to perform an energy move; pressing L1 to use an item; pressing X to jump; pressing square to reload; pressing triangle to change weapon; pressing O to perform an action; pressing up or down on the d-pad to switch item; pressing L3 to sprint; pressing L3 and R3 simultaneously to perform an overdrive; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. There is also an alternative control scheme that remaps the energy move from R1 to L2 with changing weaponry moving to R1 from triangle as use item is remapped to triangle from L1 with aim moving from L2 to L1. Meanwhile, there is also an entire set of customisable controls including quick custom and advanced custom for each PA-Gear suit and vehicle. Touch pad implementation involves gently tapping the touch pad and gently swiping across the surface of the touch pad to select a line of dialogue to appropriately communicate or issue a command to your allies such as “Come here!”, “EDF!” or another from the available selection. Vibration reflects the recoil of the weapon your character is firing at enemies or when being attacked by an enemy, although the light bar is not utilised that could have produced colours to represent the current status of health, armour or ammo.
Graphically, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is the most technically and visually impressive Earth Defense Force within the entire franchise. Textures on every character, enemy, environment and weapon, alongside character and enemy animations have all taken a huge leap in quality in Unreal Engine 4. However, it would be amazing to see a future Earth Defense Force game in virtual reality.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain’s presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, mission selection menus, equipment menus, customisation menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, alongside the right analogue stick moving your customised character, although it does not include support for navigation via the touch pad. Menu backgrounds consist of your team’s ship that transports the team between battles, while your character stands prepared to battle incoming enemies to the right of the screen.
There are many voice-overs including the allies on your team, a sergeant providing mission objectives, scientists commenting on the behavioural patterns and sizes of enemies and a radio presenter. Sound effects include collecting energy gems, weaponry being fired at the giant insects and other various enemies, vehicles being driven or piloted, the screams and howls of the insects, explosions of larger mechanical Aggressor enemies, environments being destroyed during battles, alongside climactic and battle driven music. The DualShock 4 speaker produces a voice-over that represents your character’s chosen PA-Gear energy overheating and cooling capabilities.
The trophy list includes 44 trophies with 32 bronze trophies, 7 silver trophies, 4 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Doom from the Skies bronze trophy for completing the prologue; the Don’t Get A Concussion bronze trophy for performing 30 e-dodges using the trooper PA-Gear; and over a dozen bronze trophies for defeating 100 enemies with specific weapons. Harder trophies include the Immortal Soldier silver trophy for reaching 10,000 hit points; the Elite Customizer gold trophy for purchasing all customisation parts; and the Complete Arsenal gold trophy for obtaining all weapons. There are at least 4 online multiplayer trophies including the Welcome to Dystopia bronze trophy for playing Mercenary mode for the first time; the Defending the Earth Ain’t Easy silver trophy for earning the title of Ensign during Mercenary mode; the Friends Through Iron and Smoke silver trophy for completing a mission on the hardest difficulty level in online co-operative multiplayer; and the Forged in Fire gold trophy for completing a mission on the disaster difficulty level in online co-operative multiplayer. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 40 to 50 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are five difficulty levels including easy, normal, hard, hardest and disaster, although disaster difficulty level are unlocked upon completing on the hardest difficulty level. The major differences between each difficulty level are that the player can progress through each mission on easy difficulty without a huge difficulty spike in the majority of the missions, although enemies are capable of being aggressive particularly during close quarters combat. However, from the normal difficulty upwards; there is a noticeable increase in the damage inflicted by each enemy and the quantity of health that each enemy has, while enemies become more aggressive in their behaviour with each step up in difficulty.
Split-screen co-operative multiplayer allows two players to play the entire set of campaign missions fighting alongside each other in any of the four previously unlocked PA-Gear suits and total customisation for each player’s respective character on the same team against the enemies. Given the general scope and scale of every environment; it is rather impressive that there is such a vast mission area that both players can explore in split-screen being able to venture in completely the opposite direction from the other player that really provides a sense of complete freedom to destroy buildings or structures upon the horizon of the scenery, while retaining the graphics and performance of single player gameplay. However, there is no horizontal split-screen option; only providing vertical split-screen, while there is the rather odd omission of the extremely entertaining split-screen competitive multiplayer that was previously featured in Earth Defense Force 4.1. Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain also features online co-operative multiplayer for two to half a dozen players, while Mercenary mode provides online competitive multiplayer in which two teams of four players per team battle against the Aggressors and each other’s teams to collect as many energy gems as possible in comparison to the opposing team.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain’s replayability stems from 52 missions, four PA-Gear suits with their own unique abilities, hundreds of unlockable weapons, destructible environments, five difficulty levels, split-screen co-operative multiplayer, online co-operative multiplayer for up to half a dozen players and online competitive multiplayer for up to eight players that will collectively keep players coming back for quite some time. However, less missions and the lack of split-screen competitive multiplayer reduces the replay value in comparison to Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair.
• Title: Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain
• Developer: Yuke’s
• Publisher: D3 Publisher
• System: PS4
• Format: Blu-Ray Disc (Exclusively in Japan)/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-2 (Split-Screen Co-operative Multiplayer)/2-6 (Online Co-operative Multiplayer)/2-8 (Online Competitive Multiplayer)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 19.52GB (Version 1.07)