Earthfall is a cooperative FPS title from developer Holospark, who had some very clear, and very famous inspirations for their title. Is this just another Left 4 Dead clone? Or is there more on offer from this horde-slaying FPS?
Earthfall takes a huge amount of inspiration from Left 4 Dead, taking the formula of 4 player co-op, fighting through hordes of enemies on a mission to get from A to B. So far so standard. Earthfall starts to differentiate itself by swapping up the backstory. The game still focuses around 4 survivors, however this time the zombies have been swapped out for an alien invasion. One saturated idea to another? Well not so much thankfully. While not the most original idea going, Holospark has taken the opportunity to build up the enemy count and add some interesting new foes for players to fight against, as well as some more familiar concepts.
Players coming into Earthfall off the back of a few hours in Left 4 Dead (which let’s be honest, is everyone) will be familiar with four of the special enemies added into the title. The Sapper is essentially the Boomer from the L4D franchise, but with increased mobility, making it even more of a pain in the arse. The beast is little more than a Tank with a re-skin, and maybe a little more armour. The Thresher is essentially a carbon copy of the Hunter, just with an uglier face. The real change is the Whiplash, most easily linked to the Smoker from Left 4 Dead, but instead of pulling you in and releasing a cloud of smoke when you kill it, this thing is a long-necked, 4-legged abomination that runs in, picks you up, and runs off with you. Inevitably miles away from your team.
The new enemies within Earthfall come from in a couple of different forms. The Enrager is a floating blob that sends out a pulse, enraging the enemies within the pulse radius. Hence the name. the Enrager is an easy enemy to kill, but once another foe has been hit by the radius, the effect remains until that unit is killed also, so even for a brief moment of life, an Enrager can prove to be a problem if not dealt with. The standard enemies come in three forms, your basic, most zombie-like alien, an alien that spits, and an alien that comes with head armour. Must have got the memo about headshots, eh? The most unique enemy added into Earthfall is the Blackout. Essentially, a floating squid that spits blue gunk at you, and comes protected by shields. The Blackout will teleport between places at least twice before it can be killed, making it more irritating than challenging. Holospark has done some work to make the enemies in Earthfall different from those found in titles such as Left 4 Dead, but the comparisons are sadly just too easy to make. The new additions do help, but ultimately the enemy list feels more of a re-skin than an outright change.
Storyline wise, Earthfall focuses on 4 survivors in an alien invasion, who are doing what they can to survive. You start off following a lead to a cache, but there’s no explanation as to where this lead comes from. This is the main issue with the storyline of Earthfall. It’s got a lot of potential to be something great, and the lore that is there is genuinely interesting, as to how the resistance came about and how they learned about the alien threat. The issue is that the vast majority of this comes from text dossiers that you are required to read in your own time if you wish to know what the hell is going on. The missions are fun and having an objective is a nice change of pace. But aside from 10-12 seconds of chatter at the start of the mission, the reason as to why you’re there is little more than mystery. It doesn’t help that the characters have absolutely no character building and have next to no backstory as to how they ended up together, which all takes from the narrative of the title.
It’s a real shame, because the mission variety in Earthfall is great, and helps to set it apart from the cookie-cutter A to B nature of other titles. Having to escort carts, find items, fix objectives etc help to give the missions meaning and purpose, but it would all be amplified if you had more of a direct idea as to why you’re actually there. Having lore and the like as readable items is all well and good to expand the universe, it’s something that RPG titles have done for decades. But when you have a title that’s focus is on FPS combat, it really shouldn’t be a requirement if you want to know the story.
Graphically, Earthfall falls behind more modern shooters but is a definite step forward from the titles from which it takes its inspiration. There are bland, dull textures alongside some absolutely lovely ones. It’s a strange visual. The world created has its lovely moments that just have this overarching dullness that kills the vibe. The character models are nice, as are those of the enemies. The game makes use of the dull tones to create a gloomy atmosphere but misses out on making the bright tones that do come through with the enemies and objectives pop, instead they come across somewhat muted, and it works to flatten the scene, instead of enhancing it. That being said, when the balance does even out during Earthfall’s daytime missions, that game looks fabulous.
The gameplay of Earthfall is easily the titles strong point. You’re not getting the weapon handling of a title like Battlefield here, but what you are getting is still a very enjoyable experience. The weapon feel is very much that of an arcade shooter, with its non-existent recoil and point and shoot handling. That’s all it needed to be, and that’s perfect. The game also takes a step above the classics allowing players to ADS, making use of the scopes that most of the weapons come with. You’re not really penalised for not aiming down sights, but it’s nice to have the option. The hit-markers are solid, they don’t get in the way, but they give you the feedback that you need when firing into a horde of enemies. The headshots are also extremely satisfying. There’s an audible thud when you connect with a dome, and it becomes rather addicting clicking on heads. I’ve said it before, if you want to learn how to shoot with a keyboard and mouse, shooters such as Earthfall are a fantastic starting point.
The weapons within Earthfall will feel familiar to players of other titles, but with a few changes and new additions. Aside from the additions of working sights, the game adds in the ability to dual wield the Desert Eagle, which is as glorious of a concept as it sounds. the title adds in some old favourites, with napalm grenades replacing molotovs, frag grenades and bait grenades, as well as health packs and stim shots. The Arc grenade is a new addition, which sends out a blast of electricity, as well and landmines, which are rather self-explanatory. Earthfall also adds in both a chain gun and a flamethrower for those who like to re-live the days of playing the 2 best classes in TF2.
Earthfall adds in more than just solid gunplay too. We’ve mentioned the objectives added into the missions, but the title has added a little more to the title to make it stand out. The game contains a few items that players can utilise to even the playing field of a holdout against the swarm, in the form of mountables and barricades. The barricades will open up for players but block any alien lifeforms but can be destroyed if you let the aliens deal enough damage to it. Secondly are turrets, both auto and manual. These are great for holding down an area, with the auto-turret being an extremely useful tool for guarding objectives. Earthfall also has healing stations and weapon printers, which prove extremely useful for getting a weapon with ammo and keeping yourself alive, and are usually based around locations of high priority.
As you can imagine, the most fun within Earthfall comes from playing the game with friends. We were given access to the title early and as you can see from our stream, we had a blast. The cooperative play works fantastic and is easily the best way to experience the title. As you might imagine though, the game becomes considerably easier with 4 players, as you’re not battling the sometimes questionable AI squadmates that seem to be part and parcel of cooperative shooters.
Overall, Earthfall is a great homage to the cooperative FPS titles of old. The game isn’t trying to re-invent the wheel, simply improve it. And they have in some ways, but with the story being such a missed opportunity, it does leave Earthfall as little more than a horde killer title, which does leave you feeling rather short-changed.
Earthfall is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.