It's not every day that a cooperative first-person shooter hits the market. Does Earthfall have what it takes to scratch your co-op itch?
Earthfall developer Holospark acknowledges cooperative predecessors like Left 4 Dead, Vermintide, and the Payday series as inspirations for their mission-based alien shooter. While there's some fun to be had with Earthfall, it unfortunately can't quite live up to the expectations set by its inspirations. The story goes something like this: the Earth has been overrun by a massive population of aliens that are working to put an end to the human race. You play as one of four survivors: Roy, Danny, Maya, and Jonas. All four characters play the same and the characters themselves are far from memorable so I generally just left the character selector on random.
Earthfall consists of 2 campaigns, each with five missions. Each mission consists of a variety of tasks including powering up an old broken-down van, clearing out a hive of alien pods, and simply looking for respite from the alien swarms. Waypoint markers generally point you in the direction you need to go but there is incentive to explore off the beaten path just a bit to find health packs, weapons, and more. It can be played by yourself or with up to three cooperative partners. When you're not playing with a full human squad, the extra characters are controlled by AI so you'll never actually play alone. This is especially helpful for when a character is downed or pinned by an alien as the AI are generally pretty good at watching out for you.
The gunplay in Earthfall is competent and simple. You're always equipped with a pistol that has infinite ammo (dubbed "The Peashooter" by my co-op partner) and you can also equip one additional more powerful gun that has limited ammo. These guns are cool and a couple of the special weapons like the flamethrower and Gatling gun can be powerful tools to fight the alien swarms. Precision aiming isn't terribly important as you're regularly surrounded by so many aliens that you're bound to hit them by firing blindly and I found myself regularly shooting from the hip instead of looking down the sights. Similar to Left 4 Dead and Vermintide, Earthfall features a variety of alien types including several boss-tier aliens that occasionally spawn as you progress. Unfortunately, these bosses are quite dull with the massive Beast alien being the only memorable encounter. Almost every level features him as the final boss which leaves little room for surprise.
To its credit, Earthfall features a few options that allow you to tweak the difficulty to your liking. There are four settings and an additional option that allows you to select how strong you want your AI partners to be. If you're looking for a leisurely playthrough with some friends, you might want to dial down the challenge and if you really want to prove your alien-slaying merit, crank that sucker up! But be warned, there are no checkpoints in Earthfall. If your whole squad goes down once, it's back to the beginning of the level. Although Earthfall is perfectly playable alone, I'd definitely recommend bringing a friend along for the ride. While playing by yourself, mission quests and environments start to feel repetitive and bland fairly quickly so having a pal or two to chat with is highly recommended.
Speaking of which, I ran into a couple of quirks with the online experience in Earthfall but nothing game-breaking or terribly frustrating. My co-op partner had two crashes during the 5 missions we played together. However, Earthfall is built for drop-in / drop-out coop so he was able to rejoin me in the mission. A larger issue was that there weren't many people playing. I played the whole second campaign by myself with three open available slots and I only got joined by another person once.
Even though Earthfall isn't revolutionary and doesn't stand tall with top-tier cooperative shooters, there's still some fun to be had with it, especially if you have friends to enjoy it with.
- + Mindless cooperative fun with friends
- + Simple yet competent gunplay
- + Decent AI partners
- - Boss aliens aren't very exciting or intimidating and one repeats far too frequently
- - Mission objectives start getting repetitive
- - Uninteresting characters