There have been many games I’ve been chasing new incarnations of that have played an important part in my love of games, and Left 4 Dead is no exception. A zombie-riddled first-person shooter that didn’t just encourage team play, it absolutely required it. The AI director was a big talking point when the game released and it always knew how to ratchet up the difficulty right when you needed a breather. Earthfall is a game deeply inspired by the Left 4 Dead experience in every way. It tries to take on that formula while also adding new progression hooks into the game.
Earthfall sees a group of four survivors of an alien invasion trying to complete objectives to push back the invading hordes. Each level will have you completing objectives that often culminate interacting with a button that calls in a horde of alien creatures. You find yourself on the claw side of groups of weak aliens, but to mix things up you may get pinned by one alien, grabbed and dragged away by another, or worse find yourself next to an exploding zomb… er… alien that will leave you in a dangerous cloud. These unique aliens mix things up but mirror old Left 4 Dead special zombies with almost no variation. Like I said, this game has deep roots in Left 4 Dead in a way that isn’t entirely unwelcome, it’s just been done before. This is also one issue with the game that I keep coming back to.
While many games inspired by more famous games come along and try to bring their own spin to it, it feels like outside of making some new maps and changing the zombies to aliens there just haven’t been many improvements to the formula of a Left 4 Dead style game. The guns don’t control as well, the action isn’t as smooth, and the mechanics don’t feel as solid. There are many ways this could have felt more modernized and yet it feels like they just recreated a close proximation of a game I know and love. The progression system is okay that has been implemented, but after months of work on it, I had just hoped for something more robust.
While progression in the game didn’t ship with the base game on release, I’ve held back a review of the final product because I saw on their development roadmap that they had a big progression update planned. After all the wait what was delivered feels like a slightly lackluster addition to a game that feels a bit flat. The alien design is mildly interesting, but I didn’t come to Left 4 Dead for the zombie design. I came to it for the team gameplay, the solid gameplay feel, and a unique ratcheting difficulty that always felt tough but winnable.
If Earthfall had managed to nail the gameplay, I think this product could really have been something. Unfortunately, the guns feel lackluster, and even with audio improvements since release, they sound off. The movement and action also just feels a little too stiff. On top of that trying to use a new gimmick from the game, the deployable gates, is a hassle that means most of the time they just go unused. Their placement makes little difference in most waves of enemies, and once deployed they are almost impossible to pick-up with how narrow the grabbable hitbox on them is.
With recent updates they also added a wave-based horde mode to the game, but even that feels wildly unbalanced. Instead of teamwork it seems to promote hoping that the enemies don’t just randomly drop out of nowhere on you as there is absolutely no indication where or when they will appear, so it feels more like the game just decides to keep putting them behind you at all times, which feels far from a strategic game, and more of random happenstance.
I have played the game a few times after I played it for an initial review, and have also tried the big progression update that launched with the console versions, and it all just feels too forgettable. Despite multiple attempts to come back to it I just can’t find much worth coming back to. An initial playthrough of a level is fun but even more than Left 4 Dead 2 I feel like I’m just replaying the same sections over and over again.
There have been a handful of games recently that are referred to as a new type of Left 4 Dead game. Four player co-op games against waves of enemies, but it feels like out of all of them Earthfall runs middle of the road. It’s not a bad game, but in a growing field of other similar games, Earthfall just doesn’t stand out.
Good length campaign
Characters sound unique
Unique alien types feel done before
Levels feel repetitive
Horde mode feels badly balanced