Insert what seems to be a standard Left 4 Dead joke here!
Back in November 2008 Left 4 Dead was released and I played this game a lot. It was addictive and fun. I played it pretty much solidly from what I remember until November 2009, this is when Left 4 Dead 2 was released and initially I was in the camp that simply thought it was just DLC, but, I still played it a lot! Two absolutely awesome games and who didn’t have a laugh at trying not to disturb the witch only for a heavy-footed playmate to set her off and lets not even think about trying to get that gnome through that level!
“Simon! Why are thinking about Left 4 Dead when the title says Earthfall” I hear you ask, well the simple fact is that Earthfall is to Left 4 Dead what Fortnite is to pubg. Well, sort of, Earthfall wants to be to Left 4 Dead what Fortnite is to pubg but sadly, misses the mark and I am left thinking about Left 4 Dead instead.
This fact is a real shame as the E3 trailer for this game got me all excited for another Left 4 Dead feeling game, so, I’m going to start off giving this game a full 10/10 score and take off a point every time it displeases me as I go along and see where I end up. I’ve not done this before so I have no idea where it’s going to end up!
Right from the get go, the first thing I noticed was a lack of introductory cutscene, you are just sort of thrown in walking down a road talking about finding a supply cache. I know this doesn’t matter to some but I like a good opening to get me up to speed, they could have at least thrown some of the video used in that E3 trailer in to set the scene for me and get me in the mood. I then noticed the big story sin here, you basically unlock the lore as you go along and it lives as readable content on the main menu. I have a strong dislike for this sort of storytelling, if I wanted to read, I would buy a book, I want to play a video game and have the story onscreen as I go along. Basically, aliens have taken over the world and you are fighting them… after a few hours, that’s all I have.
I normally like to play the first level of any game no matter the type on my own to get a feel for it before diving in with other players, so I dived in. I picked Jonas of the 4 characters to chose from as he looked to be a slightly older chap with a bit of a belly, so I related to him quite nicely. I dived with the first level of the first chapter, you know what, I really enjoyed myself. I had fun and those old feelings from 2008 started to come back to me, it was all so similar. I then got knocked down because I was goofing and then, all my AI teammates got knocked down too. It turns out that the levels don’t have any save points, so when you all get knocked down it’s all the way back to the start of the level. The levels themselves are also quote short and if you up the AI teammates up to skilled (so they don’t get knocked over all the time) and just get on with the job at hand, it’s going to be about 15 minutes per level, so with a total of 10 levels, you are looking at around 4 hours of play. You can stretch this out searching for all the aforementioned lore and the like. I did have to restart the breakdown level also as I got stuck in a tree coming out of the junk yard which was pretty annoying. The game ran fine for me, on an Xbox One X, but some people have reported slowdown in intense moments.
Another problem then reared its head, I’m over a week in and I am yet to play the game online with another human being, it just never matches me with anyone. I’ve read that this seems to be a common problem with the game, which is again a big shame. I’m sure this will be fixed in a future patch, but, it’s not in the preview stage, it’s a released game so should ideally be finished. I actually feel like “unfinished” sums this game up better than I am no doubt going to in my final verdict.
Let me take a moment to talk about the enemies you face as you go along, you have your standard bread and butter aliens which run up to you, sometimes in bulk and try to slap you to death. There is then a selection of specials. Some of these are ripped straight from L4D. There is the big one that runs up to you and explodes covering you in his inner goo which burns, and that runs up to you and then runs off with you (If playing with AI teammates, it’s 50/50 as to if they will get you back, I suppose the same could be said for human partners but I can neither confirm nor deny this) and there is one that runs up jumps on you to pin you down and scratches your eyes out. There is also the giant beast which takes a lot of fire power to bring down. These 4 are quite familiar to players of L4D. There is a weird brain looking thing that floats around called an Enrager, these just make all enemies in their radius cause more damage and make them harder to kill which does make for a challenge if time if you are being swarmed, but they can be done away with very easily if you can see them. Finally, there is Blackout who is a little bugger with a shield that zips about and shoots energy at you. I think this guy was pretty cool. Often you will perform a required action in the game, such as opening a garage door which will warn you that “this will attract the swarm”. If you have just had a swarm which seems to happen if things have been quiet for a little while, then only 2 or 3 will pop up, sometimes just appearing out of nowhere, once literally appearing on a roof and dropping to the floor in front of me and my turret. It’s all so random and not the good computer random, just sort of weird random.
Also, why is there no Witch counterpart? She is sorely missed, if you are going to be as blatant as this game is, they should have at least… paid homage… to the Witch!
Weapons wise, there are around 10 main weapons in the game, to be totally honest I liked just finding the combat shotgun and the powerful revolver for my pistol and I was set and didn’t feel the need to try another one out. There is a neat thing where in some places you can 3D print a select weapon and I really liked being able to barricade certain areas. I also love mines! You can also pick up a mini gun or flame thrower on some levels as well as an auto or manual turret to be placed, not to mention a little surprise later on. It’s a perfectly serviceable selection, however, when shooting they often just don’t have the crunch or impact you feel when playing some other shooters, when I shoot the leg off an alien and he topples over, I want some feedback but it’s definitely more a “plip than a plop” situation and I want more plop!
Earthfall is a game with such potential and clearly aimed so high that it is disappointing that it didn’t achieve, well, any of it really if I am to be brutally honest. It has a charm, I enjoy playing it, but it misses out on what it wants to be and it’s a shame. I must point out that it is a budget game, I paid £24.99 for it, and it feels like a budget game, the poor thing doesn’t even have an entry on wikipedia! They were never going to follow Valve and maybe after a series of tweaks and patches it could be a lot closer, but right now, it isn’t. I have a wanting to go back to L4D on backwards compatibility as I picked it up in a sale a little while ago. It all makes me wonder what this game would have been like if a big publisher with an experienced developer had released it, it could have been something a bit special. Due to the silly amount of games currently in my backlog, however, this is going to sit around for a while now, which is a shame.
The Final Verdict.
I mentioned it while talking about the multiplayer issue, the game to me just feels unfinished. If it were in the preview program I would fully understand as if it were a cookie, this game would need more time in the oven and I still feel the game has a lot of potential to be something that is great fun. Hopefully it will get some patches and I will get back to it once it’s had a few patches or a mate asks me to join them for some co-op where I would imagine it would add a new level of fun, but right now, I am forced to stick with:
*Funnily enough after playing I had 6.5 in my mind as clearly, I’m a soft touch, but the scoring method I used here brought me down to 5 and I couldn’t argue with myself to raise it due to its charm alone…