It's all over and humanity is on the brink, or at least that's what it looks like as we jump into Holospark's co-op shooter Earthfall. Abandoned suburbia overrun with alien scum. Here we're tasked with taking the fight to the aliens and reclaim what's ours.
One way to described Earthfall is to simply say it's Left 4 Dead with aliens. And to Holospark's credit, they don't beat around the bush when it comes to this. But the truth is that we're not enjoying ourselves as much here as we do with Left 4 Dead. Many of the elements are there, there's some decent gunplay, decent variation in terms of objectives, decent enemies. Overall, it feels quite... decent. From afar it looks good, but the closer you look, the more you see details that could have been more polished, further fleshed out, or simply better executed.
Earthfall hands four players (preferably, but the bots do a decent job and you can set their skill level according to taste) a selection of guns and melee weapons as they move through missions and locations in a mix of linear levels and sections where you build defenses, set up barricades, and ride out the storm while a generator is charging or you're trying to find gasoline for a vehicle and similar. It's by-the-book stuff for the most part and while the barricades (basically make-shift doors you can place to keep the aliens out) make for a bit of emergent gameplay there's typically a pretty strong indication on how to best make use of them (open windows or doors). It feels like an area that could have been expanded more as these holdouts typically don't last overly long.
The alien horde consists of plenty of drones, most of them with little more intelligence than your average zombie as they rush towards you. There are aliens that spit poison at you from a distance and more advanced mini-boss types like the support balloon known as the Enrager, the giant walking tub of poison gas known as the Sapper, the aptly named Beast, and the kidnapper known as Whiplash, and one or two others. The most interesting one is perhaps Black Out, which is basically a swirling mess of energy that zaps back and forth and sports an energy shield. You'll encounter all of these creatures throughout the ten missions, so there's no real progression in terms of enemy types, but the upside of that is that there's always a good amount of variation in each level. There's a nice precursor to each mini-boss appearing, with a sound effect and the first player to see the enemy yelling out (without the need for actual player-to-player communication).
In terms of the arsenal, there's your standard fare of assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, sniper rifles, and grenades, but there are also some more exotic alien tech guns you'll gain access to in later missions. There are 3D printers in certain places that allow you to print weapons for use, and you'll also find weapons in various caches throughout the levels (along with consumables). Ammunition is limited except for your pistol which comes with infinite bullets, so it's a good idea to dual-wield pistols during quiet times and save your overpowered alien zapper for when the proverbial shit hits the fan. In terms of the gunplay, it's once again solid, but we would have liked a bit more punch to some of the weapons, particularly the pistols as they come across as a bit lacklustre.
There's a good amount of variation in terms of the settings though, from suburban neighbourhoods to train yards and various industrial facilities. Generally, the enemy can swarm you from all sides, but there are also more closed off areas.
Earthfall excels at presenting the player with tactical options and then trying to overwhelm you with sheer numbers. It does the job, and as you play the missions over and over you'll develop a good sense for how to set things up and where to deploy turrets, drop mines, or set up gas canisters ripe for exploding. You don't need to be strategic, but it's more fun and the same goes for teamwork. Naturally, there are mechanics to encourage teamplay, including stimpacks you can use on teammates, and revives, and so on.
The best moments in Earthfall come when you're underneath a Thresher (a short assassin type alien that pins you down and starts eating away at your health) and a fellow player saves your bacon, or when you successfully flank a beast and unleash your overpowered alien gun on it from behind as it lashes out at your barricade. Or when you carry along a mounted gun and set it up in just the right spot to mow down an incoming wave of drones (World War Z style). The main problem is that it all gets a little too predictable, the ebb and flow is rinsed and repeated and it eats away at your motivation to keep playing.
The narrative itself revolves around finding the cause of this chaos and you'll go on a journey to find the truth, but given you won't be playing the missions in order and that it's a bit hard to keep up with the chatter, you likely won't pick up on all of it. But it really doesn't matter much, this is a game about shooting invading aliens. You do unlock "lore" as you kill aliens, clear missions, and simply use various items, but the presentation here leaves a little to be desired and it doesn't really feel meaningful to pursue these snippets of story.
Can you have a great time playing Earthfall with your friends? Absolutely. You can even have a good time playing the game with random strangers. But chances are you've already got something better to play with your friends and after a few rounds of Earthfall you'll go back to whatever it was you played before it. And that's where Earthfall falters, it's just not a great value proposition, but more importantly, it doesn't do enough to make us want to go back for seconds.