This year’s Tokyo Game Show was a big one for Earth Defense Force, D3Publisher’s long-running third-person shooter series. There were three EDF games playable at the show: Earth Defense Forces 5, Earth Defense Force 4.1: Wingdiver The Shooter (a new top-down shoot ‘em up) and Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain. It was the last title that was most intriguing.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is fascinating for a number of reasons. It’s not being developed by series creator Sandlot, but by Yuke’s, an Osaka-based studio likely best known for its recent work on WWE and UFC games. Iron Rain also appears slightly more grounded in tone than the EDF series has been in the past. But it’s not taking itself too seriously; you’re still shooting giant bugs and building-crushing kaiju along the way.
We played about 10 minutes of Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain at Tokyo Game Show today and found a few reasons to get excited about it. Given that the franchise began as a 2,000 yen budget title, 2003’s Simple 2000 series Vol. 31 The Chikyuu Boueigun, it was exciting to see a new entry that appears to be more polished, with slightly higher production values.
But first, here’s the official synopsis of the game’s story, spotted on a catalog at TGS:
10 years have passed since the war with the aliens began. Humanity has fought for too long with civilization suffering more devastation by the day. But there are those who have yet to give up the fight against this despair. Find out who they are in this new project for the EDF series.
The Iron Rain demo at TGS felt pretty familiar at first. There were four playable characters, two men and two women, each with their own weapon loadout. I choose the female EDF soldier equipped with a shotgun and rocket launcher, then set off to take care of the city’s giant ant infestation. Immediately, one small change in Iron Rain stood out: The enemies were noticeably more aggressive. I spent a good portion of the demo’s early battles on my heels, running away from swarms of ants and other bugs, using a rapid dash move to dodge attacks.
In previous EDF games, the alien threat didn’t seem, well, all that threatening. But I found myself using health items and throwing freezing grenades at enemies just to survive. And it wasn’t a very long demo.
The game’s visual presentation stood out as well. Everything just looked better, from the environments, which are generally flat and blocky in core Earth Defense Force games, to the explosions, which featured nice lighting effects.
After taking out a few ant squads and their makeshift colony, a massive kaiju dropped from the sky. Artist Ryu Oyama is handling creature design for Iron Rain, and his creations diverge from the giant monsters in past Earth Defense Force titles. They’re quite simply more grotesque and therefore more intimidating than giant space frogs and robots.
The changes coming to EDF in Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain don’t feel particularly any better or worse than other games in the franchise. Instead, the series mechanics feel tweaked in interesting but subtle ways, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else Iron Rain has to offer next year.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain is expected to hit PlayStation 4 sometime in 2018.