Earthfall doesn’t just take a lot of inspiration from Left 4 Dead, it wants to bring back the chaotic cooperative action that became so popular during the high points of Valve's hit shooter. The biggest difference between the two is that the crazy zombie designs have been replaced with even crazier alien ones.
Those aliens came to Earth in a meteorite that landed in the Pacific Northwest, leaving the area in complete disarray. After the government and military fell to their attacks, average citizens had to take up arms and fight back against the invaders - that’s where Earthfall begins.
The combat felt almost identical to Left 4 Dead, everything was familiar as I took on hordes of aliens before having to rescue one of my AI controlled team members. That’s exactly what developer Holospark was going for, “I don’t think people realize how long ago Left 4 Dead and it’s sequel came out,” said Holospark PR director Colin Moore. “Left 4 Dead 2 came out in 2009, it’s been so long and we want to bring that type of gameplay back.”
The demo mission set us down in a grassy neighborhood that had been left in ruin by the alien invasion. The four member team needed to make their way to a power plant to get the electricity running and take out any resistance they ran into along the way. Most of the mission was fairly straightforward, move along the path while fending off the dozens of aliens that sprinted at you. It wasn’t until a few enemies with different abilities showed up that the things got a little more extraterrestrial.
One tall alien, called a whiplash, resembled a small white giraffe. It moved much faster than normal aliens and ran at breakneck speed towards my teammates, grabbing one with its circle-shaped mouth. Before I knew what was happening it was already carrying him away. While he was easy enough to save, it still gave me a different kind of excitement than just killing regular old aliens. Later in the game another whiplash came and took me completely by surprise, it’s easy to see how this can make for some fruitful cooperative franticness.
A second type of martian had revolving shields and could teleport around the team to flank us easily and a third, more common one would emit poisonous gas after it was killed. The different types of aliens, just like the variety of zombies in Left 4 Dead, kept me invested in the fight.
These different types mixed up the action a lot in the short demo I played at the ID@Xbox event at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. They have far more potential with more environments and scenarios later on in the game.
Earthfall is currently available on Steam Early Access and is getting a full release with new content on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 this Spring.