EARTH­FALL

Does this four-player co-op FPS leave oth­ers for dead?

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - Chris Burke

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’.

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