The Earth Defense Force games have always felt connected to movies. More specifically, they felt inspired by B-movie classics like Them! and The Deadly Mantis. There’s bad voice acting with incredibly cheesy lines. Bugs are everywhere, clipping through everything, and it is easy to become buried in their carcasses as you annihilate them. Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain feels like it both continues and improves on this by adding even more elements that make the game a little more like an over-the-top action movie.
It starts with an opening cinematic that feels more like the beginning credits of a movie. There are shots of the Aggressors’ Hivecraft floating over a city, interspersed with images of the Earth Defense Force rolling out to fight back. Title cards appear for D3 Publisher and important staff members. A scene is clearly being set, and our avatar is shown as a last line of defense. We watch as an Independence Day-style laser comes down to devastate the city, wiping out all soldiers and leaving the Hivecraft damaged in the process. Thanks to comrade’s sacrifice, our hero gets the opportunity to make a last stand and bring the Hivecraft down, defining them as a legend and giving us a sense of the stakes all at once.
From there, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain gives people a chance to set their playable character apart. In past Earth Defense Force games, characters have sometimes stood out. In Earth Defense Force 5, for example, the hero is an ordinary civilian touring a base that gets caught up in the alien invasion. The head of the troop constantly promises that he will get you to safety, but that never happens and you still fight alongside the company. With Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain, our character is more defined. They are a hero. We get to choose their gender, face, hair, eyes, body type, and voice. We pick their outfit and equipment. We determine if they have Trooper or Jet Lifter PA-Gear at the outset, which determines if they will function more as infantry or be more like Pale Wings and Wing Divers from previous titles. We determine the character’s identity, then hear how the Blast Team, news reporters, and other people react to them and their history.
Another way in which Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain feels like a movie is by giving us other characters who have identities. When you are out on a mission, you are not working with random soldiers who all look and sound alike. These people have actual identities and interact with one another in the world. Renald Campbell, EDF Commander in Chief, speaks to and about your avatar in the tutorial mission, then becomes your direct superior after joining Blast Team. Maive is your constant EDF operator at headquarters. You will hear a lot from Takuma Yagami in the field, as he’s the Blast Team’s commander. Phillip, the newest and youngest member of the team, can come across as the most naive. For example, when he sees the robotic Scourgers for the first time, he wonders if they are based on mankind or resemble what the Aggressors’ true forms. Through them, we learn details about what life is like in a world beset by monsters, such as when one explains during an after-mission scene that he only needs three more badges to move his wife and child from a Priority B protected area to a Priority A one.
The execution and transitions between missions helps keep the theme up. Before every mission begins, there is a bit of exposition to set the stage. We’ll see the location, get a debriefing, and hear a little banter from our teammates. The mission then takes place, with the situation and objective perhaps changing as you fight different kinds of bugs and robots. Once you have completed all of your goals and have collected the energy gems left behind by the beaten foes, there is a cinematic where the whole Blast Team boards an aircraft back to base, some poppy song plays, a radio show may offer a take on your performance, and you can listen to your allies talk amongst themselves. Or, rather, maybe it is more like a kitschy, science fiction TV series, where each mission is like an episode and tutorial mission is like the extended, mini-movie pilot introducing it all.
Earth Defense Force, as a series, has always paid homage to cheesy shows and movies. Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain takes actions that continue to embrace that ambiance. The opening helps set the stage with an explosive tutorial. People get to make a custom hero with different customized areas. Allies are no longer faceless soldiers, but unique individuals. There is also a mission structure that offers more insight and worldbuilding. It can seem quite cinematic.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain will appear on the PlayStation 4 on April 11, 2019.