It has been 9 years since the last Left 4 Dead instalment and since then only a few games have tried a similar formula and to do their own take on the gameplay style from the series we all love. Earthfall attempts to scratch that almost decade long itch with alien hordes instead.
Earthfall offers 10 story missions to play through as one of four characters. Each of these missions can be played in either single player or multiplayer and like Left 4 Dead consist of separate campaigns that mostly centre around getting from one place to another with objectives to complete along the way. Most of the levels do a decent job of giving you things to do besides blasting hordes of aliens but there are times where the ‘this will attract a swarm’ message may as well be permanently shown on the screen since it’s used so much.
Environmentally the game offers enough variation although personally I felt that forest environments were a bit overused. Some of the other, more unique environments include underground data centres and snow covered villages. Graphically it’s okay as long as you don’t look too much at the details where you might start to realise some things seem flat. Players wanting to learn more about the lore such as what happens between the missions, who the characters are or about the enemy types for example are able to access it via a ‘lore’ option on the main menu although I think some of this information would’ve been better used in-game to flesh out the characters more. The lore info itself is actually collected as you play though which was a nice addition, giving players something to collect.
As players traverse the campaign levels and have to blast down hordes of aliens they might recognise some very familiar enemy types. Obviously you have your standard enemies which just rush and melee you. These come in a few variants though with some having he ability to spit some sort of acid at you and others being bulkier and harder to take down. One enemy called the Thresher pounces on survivors, immobilising them until it is pushed off. Sound familiar? Another enemy called the Sapper rushes the group and tries to blow itself up, releasing a gas that damages those inside. Finally, a horse-looking enemy known as the Whiplash kidnaps a member of the group and attempts to take them away so it can break their neck. Lovely. You can really tell a lot of inspiration is taken from L4D with the enemy types but sadly Earthfall doesn’t mix it up anywhere near as much as it could’ve like what it did with one of its boss enemies. Two boss enemies are actually in the game: the Beast and the Blackout. The beast is basically a Tank from L4D, a hulking mass that just pummels everything it goes after, but the Blackout is a fast-moving squid-looking alien that has protective shields and fires bursts of projectiles. The unique design of this enemy was great since it actually made me have to change up the tactics which I carried over from L4D.
Gunplay is decent, with a handful of weapons to choose from ranging from snipers, to assault rifles, even machetes and miniguns. The lack of good rag doll physics and body destruction on the aliens doesn’t do a good job of showing the power of these weapons, especially the minigun but overall it doesn’t feel bad and it’s still satisfying to mow down hordes. Some defence elements with the use of portable barricades and turrets mix up the formula by giving players a chance to defend in ways they want. Mostly this will involve just reinforcing a building before confronting a swarm but it at least adds that extra bit of strategy rather than mindless running and gunning. I will reccomend players bring friends along for this ride though since the AI survivors aren’t exactly the greatest and make questionable decisions at best. That, and the defences and completing of objectives in general actually become coordinated, making the game much more enjoyable.