If your dream is to save the Earth from gigantic insectoid aliens with nothing but an energy weapon in your hands and a jetpack on your back, then Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is for you. Despite its obviously low-res visuals and repetitive gameplay, it’s a fun little mindless third-person shooter that you can play through once with your friends and never think about it again.
After single-handedly saving the human race from the alien invaders known as Aggressors seven years ago, you are the legendary hero of the titular Earth Defense Force.
Unfortunately, the aliens have returned with a vengeance, so it’s time to suit up in your Power Armour exoskeleton, select one of many increasingly outrageous weapons, and help turn back the threat once more.
Being a budget spin-off title that was made with a smaller development team, the visuals are … minimalistic to say the least. Character models are blocky and low-quality, while environments for the stages are frequently reused. However, there is one saving grace visually, and that is the design of the huge and creative enemy aliens that you will murder by the thousands.
Massive tank-sized ants, enormous tarantulas that leap over buildings in a single bound, squid-like aliens that shoot energy death rays from glowing tentacles … these are just a few of the amazing ideas that the developers have come up with, and the enemies get even crazier as you progress. It seems they have made a conscious choice to focus their limited resources on creating great alien foes, and it really shows.
Another plus is the gameplay and shooting mechanics, which are quite good, with responsive controls and a unique, special ability button that changes according to the type of Power Armour you are equipped with. For example, the standard “Trooper” gets a quick dodge roll, while the more mobile “Jet Lifter” can fly for a limited time. Players can experiment which type of armour suits their playing style the most.
The general gameplay loop is repetitive but still satisfying, with each mission only lasting around 10 minutes. Fallen enemies drop different coloured gems, which you’ll need to unlock new weapons and upgrades, and progression feels tough but fair. There are also some quirky ideas incorporated into the weapons, such as one assault rifle that fires very weak bullets normally but randomly fires a superbullet that kills an enemy in one hit every once in a while. It’s creative gems like this that push Iron Rain above your average budget co-op shooter.
Finally, if the seemingly endless stream of alien invaders is too much for you to handle alone, enlist a friend to join the fight. You can play local split-screen co-op with a buddy on the couch, or connect with up to five other players online to push back the alien threat. Split-screen might become a little hectic on a smaller TV and the frame rates will slow down quite a bit if you’re rocking the normal PlayStation 4 instead of the Pro version, but these types of games are always more fun with a friend.
Overall, Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is a fine budget title if you need a quick shooter fix but don’t want to jump into the competitive nature of battle royale games such as Apex: Legends or Fortnite. It’s good for a cooperative session with friends where you can bond, make fun of each other’s epic fails, and save the Earth from giant alien bugs together.