Although Iron Rain is an off-shoot compared to the other EDF games, it introduces features that hopefully will find their way into the main series.
Type: Single-Player, Co-op
Genres: Third-Person Shooter
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Release Date: 15 October, 2019
I’m not incredibly familiar with the Earth Defense Force (EDF) games, but I have put more than 50 hours into EDF 4.1, so I do enjoy at least one of them quite well. So when I was looking into EDF: Iron Rain (IR), I wondered what it was about the game that led to so many negative reviews. Checking out YouTube video reviews suggested that although it wouldn’t feel quite like other games from the series, there was still enjoyable elements to take from the gameplay. Curious enough to see which side of this game was more in line with my own tastes, I accepted a review copy, ready to rain Hellfire upon alien scum.
Simply enough, IR is a 3rd-person shooter based around blasting away at massive alien robots and giant insects. There’s some variety in the clear conditions of missions, such as surviving for a certain time duration, saving ally tanks, or protecting a building. However, most of this is only a surface-level change, as it doesn’t remove the need to kill swarms of enemies. You’ll unlock better weaponry as you progress, along with other tools of war and skins for your attire. However, this only makes it possible to purchase the new items, which requires 4 main components: credits, and 3 colors of energy crystals, blue, red, and yellow. These will be earned and found in missions, but like other EDF games, is quite grindy to accumulate. Obtaining even a portion of all the gear the game has available takes replaying stages multiple times.
Checking out the Golden Storm DLC, there are 14 missions to play through, and they serve as the final challenge for those who want to push the difficulty of the game to its height. Enemies will swarm in abundance, and emphasize the strongest, most durable foes available. There’s some new variations on already existing enemies, such as gold-plated ants and black scorpions, and this DLC grants weapons that you otherwise couldn’t use. There’s not much need for this content, and I’d only suggest it for those who already are playing the base game for dozens of hours to grind for better gear, as they’d be the sort to enjoy this content the most. Plus, the difficulty can vary considerably, as some aren’t all that bad, whilst others bombard you with so many stun-locking moves that you’re unable to do anything except die.
I expected the controls of IR to be a bit simpler than they are, but it’s not that hard to get used to. The ‘L joystick’ moves the character, while the ‘R joystick’ controls your view. If you press the ‘L joystick’ in, you’re able to sprint. ‘L shoulder’ brings up the weapon scope, and the ‘R shoulder’ fires your weapon. Some can be held down, and others need to be tapped for each shot. ‘A’ jumps, ‘X’ reloads firearms, ‘Y’ switches between your 2 weapons, and ‘B’ interacts with drivable cars and other items. Hitting ‘L bumper’ will activate equipped tools, up and down on the ‘D-pad’ cycles through your tools, and ‘R bumper’ triggers the unique ability for whichever class you’re using. For instance, the basic trooper will do a short dodge dash, while holding it down as the heavy brings up an energy shield. Overall, I think the controls work well, though trying to drive vehicles feels sluggish and unresponsive.
Coming from the plot of 4.1, one thing that made the story work well was how it opens with the alien invasion just beginning. It made subsequent missions follow the growing intensity of the invasion and desperately fending it off. With IR, there’s a prologue about the main character being the sole survivor of an attack 7 years ago and falling comatose. From him coming back to consciousness, he’s dealing with events as they arise, but our squad leader doesn’t give much of a briefing. To me the story seems very arbitrary and directionless, as we keep responding to cries for help or intel, yet don’t have a clear objective or guiding principle. What happened during those 7 years, and how did we hold out a stalemate for this long? The inclusion of a rebel squadron, when facing a potential end of all life on Earth, also seems a bit contrived.
Compared to other EDF games, the graphics in IR are more refined, as well as looking more somber or imposing. For example, many of the robot forces in 4.1 were gangly, stumbling about in over-animated fashion. The robots in IR are stouter, and the drones don’t flit about like they’re out of control, making them come across more seriously. Although the scorpions glow in the dark, most of the giant insects have realistic coloration, with many of them taking on brown and black hues. I found the better graphics a bit taxing on my PC, as I had to close other programs to prevent it from having performance issues. It’s true that does limit how many enemies can be on screen compared to other EDF games, but I didn’t find the difference that significant. With 5 difficulty levels and enemies still spawning in droves, it’s just as possible to be surrounded and overwhelmed with the enemy forces in IR.
The music in EDF isn’t quite rock music, but it has an upbeat tempo and beat to it that reminds me of that style. Also, some songs carry a patriotic and heroic tone to it, which makes for decent background noise while dealing with overwhelming forces. Admittedly though, the song that plays as you head back to base seems a bit out of place with how cheery it is. Most of the voice acting is pretty good, though one of the scientists has an ethnic accent that I think is hokey. Otherwise, the sound effects do the job, with guns and explosives ripping into alien foes.
- The ability to use tools in combat, albeit at a cost, is a smart mechanic to incorporate. You decide which items to equip before starting the mission, including healing items that can be used at any time. It’s well worth spending $500 on a health pack to prevent mission failure, and becomes almost mandatory in some cases.
- I know some people dislike that the classes don’t have unique weapons anymore. However, I like this system better. Each class is just gear that can be changed out to meet different needs. Most importantly, it reduces the grind to acquire armor.
- You can test out your weapons at a firing range to see how they fire, reload, and the distance they can hit enemies from.
- Although the tone isn’t as campy and goofy as other EDF games, which I can appreciate, I don’t think the more serious story was given enough structure to succeed very well. Being told that the ravagers were going to places with no significant value repeatedly didn’t help matters. Plus, there’s quite a bit of map recycling.
- The design of IR could have reduced some of the grind found in 4.1. However, getting enough credits and energy gems to unlock all of the available weapons and items takes a long time to do. The DLC on sale which throws these resources at you reeks of pay to win nonsense.
- Some enemies have attacks that stun or even freeze you, which can lead into situations where you can’t counter or even move until you’re killed. It’s incredibly cheap.
- It’s tempting to spend your money and energy gems on all of the weapons and items you unlock. However, that’s not an effective use of your funds, as having dozens of redundant weapons from the same category is pointless. After playing the first dozen or so missions and unlocking some armor and a few weapons you’re comfortable with, I recommend playing missions 2, 6, and 8 on Hard to unlock 3 quality mid-grade weapons that should last a while. A sniper rifle, grenade launcher, and assault rifle, respectively.
- Get used to routinely checking the radar to help prevent enemies from sneaking up behind you or surrounding you. This is made much easier if you play with others, but it’s still a good habit to develop.
- Some enemies are able to charge towards you, and they can shorten the distance quickly. A couple of examples include the beetles and scorpions.
As I played through the 52 missions in IR, and followed up by almost beating all 14 missions in the Golden Storm DLC, I kept waiting for the unbearable qualities of IR to stand out. However, though I saw differences between the style of IR and 4.1, and think they could have done better in certain facets, I don’t find this game as bad as the overall review score would suggest. Admittedly though, some of the late-game missions were obnoxious with the enemy spam and potential of getting locked in place by enemy attacks. If you’re the type of person who played Call of Duty game one after the other, always wanting the next game to be a better version of the last one, this will not appeal to you because IR is a different take on the series. Considering it’s not a series made up of a dozen games already, seeing some experimentation early on is refreshing, as it suggests more room to expand and bring in mechanics that’d improve upon the foundation.
That isn’t to say that IR is worth its full asking price, as the base game’s mission count is only 2/3 that of a much cheaper 4.1. With many of the early missions of IR being on the short side, it doesn’t have as much content or value to offer when stacked up against the competition. Additionally, the mission-based DLC of IR costs slightly more than either of 4.1’s, which also offer more missions to play. I do recommend playing IR, but wouldn’t suggest paying full price for it. If forced into an arbitrary choice between IR and 4.1, I wouldn’t know which to recommend, as I think it falls into personal preference. At this point, I kind of just hope they’ll make an EDF game that’s not so grind-heavy.