Does this four-player co-op FPS leave others for dead?
The Earth has been invaded by aliens who have used EMP to knock out our power. In the redwood forests and snowy towns of the US Pacific Northwest, four survivors are trying to resist the invasion with the help of guns, medikits, and the bond of friendship. Yes, Earthfall is a four-player co-op FPS with a simple premise and familiar mechanic, that despite its low-budget origins does a decent job of providing fun combat and co-operative online shenanigans.
There are four characters: Which one you play as is picked randomly at the start of each match, but that choice is not significant. If you haven’t got a squad, for single-play your group is auto-filled with AI bots. The game has you playing through two campaigns, each with ten ‘scenarios’ all with a slightly different, though geographically related, setting. Progress through these areas is pretty much linear, although since exploration is not your main aim, that doesn’t detract too much. Objectives in each take the form of tasks like restoring power, repairing a comms array, or meeting up with an NPC.
Lust 4 life
The Left 4 Dead comparisons are unavoidable. Swap zombies for aliens, and if you’ve played Valve’s pioneering, late noughties co-op survival series, this will feel comfortingly familiar.
Waves of aliens will pop up constantly as you travel through the game, and typically completing an objective or arriving at a destination triggers another, bigger wave, or ‘swarm’. And this is where the game gets good; like any good zombiedefense game, the action is best when you’re outnumbered, and unlike shambling zombies, the aliens move fast and with a little more purpose.
There are plenty of varied weapon pick-ups along the way, so divvied up right, you can assign different combat roles to your team. Friendly fire is on— so you need to watch where your pals are and don’t run into the line of fire. This adds to the need for conscious team-play, and since the aliens can and do seem to circle round behind you, watching each other’s six is vital. Lose too much health, and you will be grounded, able to crawl and still fire a pistol, a bit like in Cod’s Zombies mode, and similarly your team-mates can help you up. If it takes them too long to get to you, it’s not the end… although you will have to merely observe the action until they can resurrect you. If your whole team is down at once, it’s adios muchachos. The alien design borrows a lot from
Aliens and Pitch Black; particularly in the fast moving, dog-like creatures, and glowing-headed ETs. They’re scary enough to provide a sense of horror to your survival, but essentially the enemy types are very, very familiar.
There are gas-filled, exploding weirdos, huge wreckers, and endwave bosses, toughest of which is a floaty squid thing that can teleport, particularly tough thanks to its shields, and because the hordes of
“There’s a charming B-movie feel to the rural US setting”
monkey-armed dog-things don’t let up just because their boss is there; they get the jump on you from behind while you’re dealing with squiddy, and pull you down to give you a good mauling.
4 squad’s sake
The dog-monkey things attack in numbers but they are satisfyingly ended with one shot from even the most basic of pistols. Satisfying, because one well-aimed shot from any gun should really be enough to put something down for good. Here is where the combat is at its most arcadey; it’s easy to kill in genocidal numbers. The flipside of this is that the recoil, and even the death animations, don’t really reflect the power of your weapon either. Okay, so they’re not going for realism. Far from it; despite the horror survival vibe, there are almost Fornite- esque tower defense elements like random, quick-erecting door barricades and 3D printers. Power one up, and you can 3D-print a working, top of the line high-spec assault rifle. Read that sentence again, and it still sounds ridiculous.
There’s not too much variety in either the level design or gameplay, so although enemies and pick-ups spawn a little differently each time, as a single-player experience it’s fairly uninspired. The bots’ AI is adequate, but it’s best with three other humans, working as a squad and making sure you’re able to keep each other alive. There’s a charming, schlocky B-movie feel to the rural US setting and the dialogue between your squad, but the game lacks depth, and the kind of attachment to your team that we are expecting with the more deeply drawn characters of Overkill’s The Walking Dead.
But considering Earthfall’s simple premise, arcade pace and low-budget origins, perhaps that’s a little unfair. The game is cheaper than a triple-A title, though still pricey enough considering the game’s lack of real depth or longevity.
That said, we miss Left 4 Dead; and if you’re a fan of Valve’s classic, and desperate for some L4D-style thrills, and can’t wait for Overkill’s new game, this is a pretty decent and low-priced stop-gap. ■
Far Left Why is it every time aliens invade, the first thing they do is redecorate?Left There are 20-odd different types of guns in the game, and they can be 3D printed!
right Squad tactics really come into play when the aliens come at you in a ‘swarm’.