Earth Fall is a four-player co-op shooter which takes a lot of inspiration from Valve’s Left4Dead series.
Earth Fall takes a fair few cues from Valve’s popular co-op zombie survival series, Left4Dead, and by doing so leaves itself open to continual comparison. The main difference between the two games is the backdrop. Earth Fall is set some fifteen years after the event the game is named; a massive meteor strike which brought with it a swarm of hostile alien invaders to our humble planet Earth. Players take control of one of five non-descript protagonists tasked with tracking across the Pacific Northwest in an attempt to find out what the aliens want.
And herein lies my first problem with Earth Fall. While Left4Dead featured some great characters with real personality and an obvious bond, Earth Fall’s wayward wanders, however, feel too generic for me to care about. The character interactions are minimal while in-game with next to no verbal banter and should one of your comrades fall during a swarm there’s little to no reactions from the other humans. Playing a game that’s built on co-op survival should elicit some form of connection in order to make me want to save the others; rather than to leave them to their demise.
The alien hordes fare a little better but not too much. The standard drones all look alike and swarm at you left, right and centre. While they’re fairly easy to put down on their own, like a group of zombies they can be tricky to manage in sheers numbers. The special aliens each have their own designs which really stand out, but it’s hard to see them as anything other than Left4Dead reskins. The Beast, the Thresher, the Sapper and the Whiplash all share identical traits to the Tank, Hunter, Boomer and Charger respectively.
There is also the Enrager, which is a floating bulbous ball of flesh which emits a pulsing sound. This causes any alien nearby to get stronger and more aggressive while the Blackout protects itself with an electrified shield and teleports from one place to another. More enemies like this would really make Earth Fall stand out. Perhaps as DLC later down the line?
That’s not to say that Earth Fall doesn’t have its own merits. The narrative that weaves through the main campaign is well thought out with a number of different gameplay elements thrown in for each section. Unlike Left4Dead which is a simple survival from point A to B, Earth Fall mixes things up with fresh game modes. The maps are each well made and have clear directions which a decent mix of close quarters and open spaces. From scavenging parts for a vehicle to retrieving data from relay points to use later in-game. There are even bits of lore to unlock which explain a bit of the backstory; it’s a nice change of pace from running and gunning all of the time.
Much like Left4Dead, Earth Fall employs an AI director. Adjusting the difficulty of the game on the fly depending on how well the players are performing. While it’s not as refined as Valve’s (think director in training), Earth Fall does a pretty good job. Standing in one place too long will likely cause a swarm to generate while bunching up will send a Whiplash running through the center of your group. On the flip side, weapons and ammo are also spawned with the addition of placeable turrets and barricades.
While on the subject of the game’s AI, it’s unfortunate that the computer controlled survivors are about as useful as a bucket of sand in the Sahara desert. On a number of occasions I found them having issues navigating tight quarters and more often than not wouldn’t finish off any special aliens. Should you be unfortunate enough to be downed in most cases they absent mindlessly ignored my character bleeding to death on the floor in favour of staring off into the distance with their cold dead eyes.
Preparing for a swarm is more tactful, with the placeable barricades players are able to tunnel aliens into a bottleneck and the turrets can be used to gun them down with wild abandon. The game also plays with the idea of 3D printable weaponry with many of the main areas providing access to a selection of guns which can be printed as often as you wish. But the guns themselves lean a bit to close to the arcade shooter for my liking. A strange comment I made to my co-op buddy was that they felt too accurate. Duel wielding the 50. cal pistols were just as easy as aiming down the sights of one; that’s not to say the alien tech isn’t fun. It is.
From a technical aspect, Earth Fall ran at a steady frame rate with minimal stutters or pauses. The settings ware all pushed up to the max but it doesn’t make the game look much better. The visuals feel a little outdated and flat while the initial sensitivity for the mouse settings were a litle bit high; the later of the two issues was an easy fix in the settings menu.
While I feel Earth Fall has a lot of potential the problem with making a game so similar to a pre-existing franchise is that it will always be compared. Earth Fall is a lot of fun if you have someone to play it with, but I don’d think it does enough to differentiate itself from Left4Dead. The maps are well thought out and play great but with only two main campaigns and some dodgy AI, I can’t see there being much replay value.