Playing a game like Earth Defence Force: Iron Rain is like watching a campy B-movie that plays on TV at midnight. Sure, the charm is there and, but the production values, actors, and storyline aren’t exactly Hollywood’s best. In this case, that doesn’t matter because in a case like this, it’s more about the experience. This is like playing Starship Troopers.
Its Raining Insects
For the most part, if you play an Earth Defence Force video game, you know you’re taking on UFOs, massive insects and in some instances, robots. This might appeal to your typical gamer but the fact this series is still going strong, means there are gamers who like what Earth Defense Force games offer. And for good reason too, this is a mindless but satisfying third-person shooter where my only objective is to blast ginormous insects into pieces.
Playing a game like Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is absurd. But the game left me smiling at the absurdity of what I was doing on screen. Saving the Earth from an alien invasion where massive insects are destroying cities across the globe? It’s like Men in Black without the formal wear.
For the first time in the series, your character is customizable and once you put a face to your character, the fun starts. Over 50 missions and a big arena to defend the planet. Excitement about taking on these massive monsters runs high at the start but around 10-12 missions in my energy were depleted. Often, I would run into a gameplay loop, I’d unload tons of ammo on a monster, and through patience whittle down its health. Other times, I’d take on a mission and die somewhere near the end, losing all my progress and having to restart all over.
The basic gameplay of any Earth Defense Force game takes place in third-person, allowing for the best view of bugs exploding all over. So, while the shooting mechanics are sound, the difficulty is not. In fact, over my playthrough, that while a few insects do not a pose a threat, a swarm of them do, and that taking them lightly is cause for failure. Surprisingly, planning and a sound strategy is a better choice than diving in headfirst and going in guns blazing. Even with the weapon variety, and unlimited ammo weapons offer, I suffered at the hands(?) of these insects thanks to the AI.
Classes play a significant role in Iron Rain. There are four classes – Trooper, Jet Lifter, Heavy Striker, and Prowl Rider available. Trooper is your most basic and is useful in most situations. Jet Lifter uses the PA-Gear and is an air unit but offers weaker armour for better mobility. Heavy Striker is all about raw power and can dual-wield weapons. Prowl Rider is new to the series, and not only uses guns but a sword to tackle enemies.
Classes offer some leeway to tackle challenges. Unlocks for classes come from completing missions. First off, the class system offers a surprising amount of freedom when it comes to equipment combinations. Second, each class comes with its own Overdrive ability, which helps when needed to turn the tide.
Multiplayer is a blast whether you’re playing with a friend or someone random. The options for multiplayer include local campaign or online with up to five others (and generally, this is the best way to play EDF). Getting a co-op campaign started, on the other hand, isn’t a blast and requires navigating menus to get started. Also included in Iron Rain, is a new competitive mode called Mercenary. Two teams work against each other to kill as many enemies as possible while collecting gems and delivering them for cash. Whoever collects the most gems at the end, wins. It isn’t that simple though, as the opposing team can kill you and steal your gems. I had fun playing Mercenary, which kept me wildly entertained.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain offers mindless fun, and sometimes video games like this are beautiful in their own way. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the difficulty spikes, inconsistent difficulty or forgettable narrative. Then again, we’re blasting away at massive insects invading Earth, so what should I really expect? Iron Rain is a solid spin-off title and restructures itself enough that it works. If you’re curious about this game, then I recommend checking it out.
[A copy of the game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]