A fun, albeit, flawed experience.
Most video games had been played by individuals sitting by themselves enjoying the experience that the developers carefully crafted for them to have, the way they wanted the player to have it until about 15 years ago when online play really started to take center stage. Online gaming has since carved out a major portion of the gaming community, and itself spawned many sub-genres like the cooperative shooters that we play today. No game had solidified that particular style as much as Left 4 Dead before its release, and even over ten years later, its difficult to come up with many games that have found their own version of the secret sauce that makes that type of game work with a fresh take.
Thankfully, there are some games that we’ve seen in recent years that have managed to apply the tenants of Left 4 Dead, but with their own style and nuances, making them feel familiar and fresh at the same time. It gives me no pleasure to say that Earthfall isn’t quite one of those. It’s not a bad game, as it does go by the Left 4 Dead rule book closely enough to never fail too hard, but the price Earthfall pays for that safety net is ultimately far greater than the reward.
While Earthfall does occasionally offer moments of genuine fun, those moments feel more like short glimpses than sustained experiences due a very bland setup and some annoying issues that just didn’t need to be there. The price being at 30 bucks definitely makes me want to cut it some slack, but at the same time, if a game has issues, those issues don’t cease being issues just because the game is cheaper. So while I do appreciate the reduced price for this game, and I do factor that in, I just can’t bring myself to just overlook all of Earthfall’s flaws, and neither should you.
"If you want a true evolution to the genre of which Earthfall is a part, you’re better off spending your money on something else, but if you just want something to goof around in with your friends while shooting aliens, hey, maybe this works for you, just don’t expect a whole lot more than that."
Right off the bat, you will notice the dated graphics and overall presentation looking like something that came from the better part of a decade ago. Along with the fact that the sound effects are mostlypretty underwhelming and make most of the guns sound like toys, this cleary isn’t a game that intends to compete with others of the same genre on presentation. Okay then, online cooperative games don’t necessarily need great graphics and sound design to be effectively fun to play. So how is the gameplay overall? Well again, its generally just nothing special. The mechanics and tasks your team is charged with are all pretty much a carbon copy of Left 4 Dead, so while they are functional, and do give just enough motivation to keep you and your team moving around, it’s just another area that I feel like Earthfall surrenders to mediocrity far too easily, and really could have benefited from just a few more molecules of originality.
On top of that, there are several small irritants that drag down an already demonstrably ordinary-at-best experience including but no limited to iron sights on most guns giving you no zoom benefits whatsoever making that perspective essentially pointless, a completely senseless hit-marker system that clouds your sights needlessly, and the fact that the several types of aliens that can instantly incapacitate you indefinitely, leave you no individual recourse and essentially no time to defend yourself before they get to you if you don’t happen to spot them as soon as they enter the environment. Granted these things don’t ruin the game on their own, they just add to a picture of a game that seems to illustrate an experience where its much harder to find cool things about Earthfall that make it memorable and fun than it is to notice the things that are either less than acceptable or just barely so.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t fun times to be had here, though. The holdout sections and swarms can be a blast when your team is engaged and working together while the soundtrack swells to some lively climaxes. Even though I would have appreciated many more of them, there are a few moments where the repetitive tasks are traded in for some slightly more original set pieces that do mix things up a bit, and even though these moments are incredibly rare and pretty short, they were a noticeable step in the right direction for the game. Weapon printers were also a nice touch and came in handy right when you would expect them to.
"While Earthfall will not be joining Killing Floor or Vermintide in the upper echelon of first person online cooperate experiences, and there are many older and cheaper games that still bring more to the table, the fundamentals of this style of game are more or less here, and depending on what you want to get out of a game like this, at 30 bucks, the sometimes brainless tasks and unbalanced moments might not bother you."
I also appreciated the heavy weapons that could be picked up at the expense of speed, yet would deal quite a bit of damage to quite a bit of aliens. Speaking of the aliens, they are largely designed well in my opinion and I found the bigger ones in particular to be pretty fun to fight alongside an engaged team, and their presence in the enemy line-up amounted to a nice way to mix up the pacing of the levels. I also enjoyed relocating turrets and propane tanks at my discretion before one of the holdout sections to add to my teams advantage. These are small things, but they are also important little twists that do keep the game from being just a complete copy and paste of the games that inspired it, so they do matter and they do have a positive impact on the overall experience.
While Earthfall will not be joining Killing Floor or Vermintide in the upper echelon of first person online cooperate experiences, and there are many older and cheaper games that still bring more to the table, the fundamentals of this style of game are more or less here, and depending on what you want to get out of a game like this, at 30 bucks, the sometimes brainless tasks and unbalanced moments might not bother you. It’s the kind of game where each player’s mileage might vary. It’s not definitively awful or great, for most, it’s probably somewhere in between.
How much it leans toward either side is going to largely depend on your individual tastes. If you want a true evolution to the genre of which Earthfall is a part, you’re better off spending your money on something else, but if you just want something to goof around in with your friends while shooting aliens, hey, maybe this works for you, just don’t expect a whole lot more than that. When Earthfall decides to toe the line of it’s genre and play it safe, it does so in a satisfactory way and shows us the enduring nature of the pillars of the basic online co-operative shooter structure that continue to stand the test of time. It’s just a shame that Earthfall almost never does anything more than that, and, at times, even dips below its own standards.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Even though it lands a notch or two beneath its inspiration, Earthfall shows us the timelessness and versatility of the "Left 4 Dead" format, and at a relatively friendly price.
Dated graphics, boring objectives, and unoriginality hold back Earthfall from truly shining.
Earthfall has some great flashes of fun, but lacks the imagination and balance needed to sustain it for very long.