We’re always on the look out for online four player games here at FNGR GNS. We love jumping on a stream and joining up to take on a game we can all get stuck into with a variety of tasks to get done. We’ve teared through The Division, we’ve started and beaten Strange Brigade whilst streaming the entire thing and being on the lookout for something new lead us to Earthfall, a game I’ve had my eye on for a while but never quite had the confidence to take the leap. Still, with the latest inclusion of its new Horde mode Invasion, it seemed like the right time for us all to jump in, with myself taking the reigns of the review. You can watch our first stream of the game (featuring a couple of levels and the new Invasion mode) below;
Earthfall feels an awful lot like Left 4 Dead, and it’s not exactly trying to hide this. The issue being of course, is that everything it’s trying to do to capture that particular audience, it’s not doing very well. Earthfall as a whole is lackadaisical in almost every aspect, attempting to reach a goal it’s never quite going to make. There’s elements of gold in fleeting moments but mostly you’ll be digging up copper in its majority.
You play as one of four characters, either three AI bots alongside you or three other friends as you tear through a variety of levels (ten of them, to be precise. All of them rather large and well designed) whilst finding yourself stuck in the middle of an alien invasion. When I say stuck in the middle, I don’t use those words lightly. At nearly every turn you’re going to be completely surrounded by alien beasties with absolutely no warning, they’ll just appear and come storming at you for no reason. There’s no backstory. No setup. You’re just dropped in with a pistol and made to fight your way through the ever-growing number of aliens who want nothing more than to murder you right in the face. It’s a bizarre mechanic, before you even get a chance to take a breath after a shootout you’re right back it, shooting down a metric ton of copy and paste aliens that are easy enough to take down once you find some decent weaponry (though they all sound and feel as flat as a pancake), annoying enough to keep coming at you regardless of where you are. You can’t learn anything about the game, the characters you are or why the aliens are here at all. The game doesn’t give you a moment to think about why any of this is happening at all. You have a choice of five characters but don’t get too excited, there aren’t any unique traits so they’re all exactly the same. Seriously, there’s a better choice of characters and unique skillsets in Paw Patrol On A Roll than there is with this lot.
Away from the rather preposterous shooting mechanics you’ve got the fortifying, which allows you to place barriers up to block intruders from coming through. These are scattered across every level and can come in handy, so long as you place them quickly and in the correct places. In one instance – which you can find in the Twitch stream above – I had placed a barrier in front of all open doors in our small garage we decided to hold up in, only for the AI controlled member of our team to go through the barrier, opening the doors and allowing a huge swathe of beasties to come pouring in. Yeah, thanks Maya. It’s moments like this that make the fortifying rather pointless. It seems no matter what you do the aliens will somehow find a way inside. Especially if your AI controlled teammates decide to just let them in. She died soon after that. We felt it was best for the whole team.
With a four player team though, there’s definitely fun to be had, even if it can become ever more chaotic. Chatting to each other to revive and share health and weapons is a good laugh, especially when you turn around see your teammate being carried across the map by a dinosaur-esque alien who has the hilarious ability to pick you up and just run away with you, forcing your teammates to chase it down in order to save your friend. There’s nothing scary about these creatures in the slightest, and come off a little Hammer-Horror. The grunts – of which there are tons – are joined by the aforementioned dino runner, some giant green sludge machine that you shouldn’t get all that close to, an armored and very fast dick known as Blackout along with a floating head or some shit and a some giant beasts that have weak areas in the back that you shoot to bring them down. Honestly, why do so many aliens in video games have weak spots on their back?
Then there’s the Invasion mode, a brand new addition to Earthfall which made us want to check it out in the first place. Safe to say it’s little more than a Horde Mode with a bit of fortifying. If you can imagine a Call of Duty Zombies mode – y’kno, without the originality or sense of humour – you’re more or less onto a winner here. Areas can be fortified and you’re going to want to do this because the sheer number of enemies that want to take you on is rather absurd. There are indoor areas that are goldmines for barricading up, allowing you to earn coins by taking down enemies and use to either heal up, print out weapons or ammo and keep an endless amount of barricades up whilst they slowly get destroyed. It’s certainly fun and there’s plenty to smile about when you and three of your mates have their weapons pointed at barriers and you’re shooting through them taking down endless hordes of aliens, there’s just little here you haven’t seen in a Horde Mode before. It’s probably rather difficult to innovate the concept at this point, though as it’s been around for so long at this point, surely just nicking particular ingredients from Horde modes of the past and then selling the cake you’ve created as your own idea seems a tad disingenuous. Effectively the mode is the campaign that doesn’t end until you die. Aside from the endless supply of health and ammo (depending on your coin level, of course), there’s nothing in Invasion that, if you were watching the game being played, would differentiate it.
Earthfall just doesn’t do enough to make it feel essential. Absolutely everything it throws at you has been done and done far better in a multitude of different co-op adventure games released over the past few years. I can’t think of a single mechanic that it includes which is any better from that which it’s stealing from, leaving the entire experience feeling half-baked.
It’s by no means an awful game. The level design is solid, it keeps you on your toes constantly and playing with friends can be a blast. The issue is I’ve no doubt you have similar games in your collection which are similar and much, much better.
Earthfall is out now on PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro), Xbox One and Steam.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with multiple review codes from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.