In the midst of the carnage, between the flailing giant ant legs and the burning beetle torpedoing towards us, we catch sight of a giant lizard standing 60 metres above us. It’s so high its head disappears in the hazy mist of the raging battle’s smoke. It’s daunting, somewhat terrifying, and its name is Basil. This isn’t a normal shooter. The Earth Defense Force (EDF) series has always riffed off its cult status. What started as a budget series, those giant ants created out of necessity rather than artistic vision (they were cheap, enlarged pre-made models), has become a genuinely beloved franchise. Now, powered by Unreal Engine 4 for the first time, and in the hands of developer Yuke's (most famous for their WWE games), the series has its sights set on Western expansion. Waking from a seven-year coma in the year 2040, our protagonist Closer has only one thing on his (or her) mind: bug soup.
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Aliens called the Aggressors have laid waste to the world and our hero wants to put down these giant insects once and for all. This is done by shooting lots (and lots) of enemy creatures, and enjoying some full-fat cheesy dialogue along the way. While the EDF formula remains, sequel Iron Rain has some uniquely un-EDF things going on. For starters there’s a proper story to follow this time as protagonist Closer (who can be fully customised, male or female) takes on the Kindred Rebellion, the first new enemy of the EDF series that isn’t a giant insect. Formed from former EDF members, and led by the enigmatic Captain Faiza, this resistance group is a little shady and their true motives unclear.
All-new power armour… and the ability to ride insects
The focus on a single-player story hasn’t held back the craziness. This is still the EDF fans love, only with a brighter (but still rough) visual look and a new Prowler PA Gear (the power armour that gives you the abilities to take on hundreds of aliens and live to talk about it). While Trooper has an E-Dodge ability, Jet Lighter has flight via its E-Flight mode, and Heavy Strike’s E-Field shield enables it to withstand enemy fire, the new Prowler is actually the most fun of them all, its E-Needle grapple enabling you to hook onto scenery and enemies alike and pull yourself across the battlefield. Better still, you can use it to take control of the game’s epic creatures and ride them into battle. You’ve not lived until you’ve pincered your way through a throng of enormous spiders on the back of a giant scorpion.
Release Date: April 11, 2019
Players: 1-2 split-screen, 2-4 online
Missions are fast and furious, each lasting around 15 minutes of intense blasting. There are tactics to uncover, and you soon find hot-swapping between your standard gun and grenade or rocket launchers is a must depending on whether you’re surviving a horde or shooting a boss creature. Weapons can be unlocked and upgraded over time depending on your ranked performance; you go from firing rockets to launching a flurry of mini-nukes.
Collecting gems dropped by defeated creatures determines what you can afford to take into the next mission. If you want to loadout on powerful weapons, or the option to call on a tank for support, you need to collect more gems. You can indulge in some of the odder items too, such as releasing a soldier-shaped balloon as a diversion.
How co-op and competitive multiplayer works
At its core, Iron Rain is a classic wave shooter, which means selecting the best loadout for the right mission is crucial. Better still, go online and team up in six-player co-op and Iron Rain becomes a shot of arcade perfection (look past the visuals and it’s great fun with friends).
While co-op is nothing new to EDF – in fact, it’s the series’ beating heart – what is new to Iron Rain is competitive multiplayer. Tapping into the arcade nature of EDF you team up in 2v2 or 4v4 to slaughter and survive waves of monsters, large and small. You need to collect the gold gems they drop and dispose of them in the map’s gold zone to score. The team with the most gems as the round ends wins. If you die you respawn but get the option to upgrade your health or weapons, ensuring the match ratchets up the chaos to nuclear proportions.
Iron Rain’s versus mode is a simple but tactically nuanced setup that demands you manage your survival and predatory instincts. Kill a rival player and they’ll drop their gems, but can you reach them before the mass of giant tarantulas gets bitey? Then there’s the sniper who’s been taking potshots, and Basil makes an appearance - so we sit on the sidelines and hope to mop up the weakened team.
After all, Basil’s no herbivore, he’s a meat eater.
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