Drive Back the Aliens in ‘Earthfall’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s been quite a few years since the original online computer games, Left 4 Dead game and Left 4 Dead 2 sequel, were released by Valve. They were both extremely fun to play, both solo and with friends or complete strangers. Taking on the role of a survivor in a zombie-plagued world, you would play through a number of campaigns that were divided up into chapters. The goal was simple—survive and reach the next checkpoint. Along the way, you’d collect new weapons, refresh your ammo, find health packs, and more. Of course, plain zombies weren’t all you had to go up against… there were specials that brought their own tricks and were smarter and more devious. Left 4 Dead 3, I believe, has been… left for dead. (Sort of like Half-Life 3… I think Valve must have mental blocks on trilogies.)

But fans of Left 4 Dead need not worry. If you’ve got an itch for first-person shooters where you can play solo or team-up, you’re going to want to give the new Earthfall a try. I got my hands on an early-beta release and have been playing it for a few weeks… and it’s fun. REAL fun.

I don’t know the entire story behind the setting. There were some missing scenarios that I’m sure will provide more backstory, but from what I have gathered from my initial playthrough… the Earth has basically become the victim of an alien infestation. You and three other survivors must move from safe house to safe house, collecting weapons, health packs, and ammo… along with quite a few surprises. No spoilers here, but there are some serious nods to another favorite of mine, Team Fortress 2, when it comes to weapons and equipment.

CharacterSelect

Before I provide some screenshots and thoughts on my experience, I need to mention that the game seems to require some serious processing power. I couldn’t run it in real-time at all on a 3-year-old computer running Windows 7—the experience was laggy and aiming was almost impossible. I did fiddle with the video settings, but by the time I got it running, the quality of the on-screen graphics was not great… and aiming was still an issue. I switched to my son’s new laptop and it ran just fine. (Of course, he wasn’t too happy to be sharing his laptop, but hey… research!) ]

VideoSettings

System requirements are as follows:

MINIMUM:

    • OS: Windows 7
    • Processor: Intel Core i5-4430
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 750 2GB
    • DirectX: Version 11
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 20 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: SSD Recommended

RECOMMENDED:

    • OS: Windows 10
    • Processor: i7-4770
    • Memory: 16 GB RAM
    • Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB
    • DirectX: Version 11
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 20 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: SSD

The game is rated T for Teen… blood, violence, and mild language. And if you (or your kids) are into achievements, there are over 80 of them to shoot for as you play.

There are going to be many comparisons to the Left 4 Dead series, and I think that’s okay. I was able to quickly jump in and get going because the controls are almost 100% identical. Unlike L4D, however, your goal (checkpoint) is always displayed onscreen so you can always find your way around (although sometimes the actual entrance is hidden, so you have to explore around the marker on the screen once you arrive). FYI: you can also configure the game to play with a controller if you like.

ControllerSettings

Scanning through the various “episodes” of each campaign (there were two I had access to play), I can see a storyline developing that sounds much more involved than the L4D storyline. I’m very curious to see where they take this game if there are plans to add more campaigns. Each character has a personality of sorts—you can pick these things up as you listen to the dialogue as you play along—and I imagine they will develop more fully as the story develops further.

When you begin the game, you’ll select your character. If you’re playing solo, you can grab any of the four you like. If you’re playing online, it all depends on when you jump into a game (Quick Play) or if you choose to initiate a game yourself (Create Game). I’ve played all four characters and while there are no differences (that I can see) in gameplay, there are some humorous bits of dialogue you’ll only catch if you play each of them through the various campaigns and episodes. Both Solo and Online modes offer the same campaigns and episodes; bots will control the other three survivors in Solo mode, and they WILL stick close to you and protect you. They’re also very useful for spotting enemies that you might miss. That said, Online mode has to be my favorite option because human players are so unpredictable in their actions. But if you don’t like online games with strangers, the Solo mode is just as fun. (FYI: you can use the Find Game option to find a particular episode you enjoy. My favorite so far has to be Campaign 2, The Diversion.)

OnlineChoose

SoloCampaign2

You can set the Difficult level as well as the “skills” of the bot players. I’ve not played much with the bot skills, but even at average they’re pretty good; as I said, they’re useful for spotting hidden weapons, ammo, distant enemies, and other surprises. And as you move through the game, a Lore Database will begin to fill out that provides some useful info on the aliens and weapons you discover—all of it is provided as journal-like entries that are fun to read.

LoreDatabase

All in all… Earthfall is FUN. It definitely drew me in, and I often found myself in a real panic mode as the swarms would surround us. For those familiar with L4D, you’ll find yourself smiling as you encounter items that must be activated (and the familiar resulting swarms that occur)… you’ll wish car alarms didn’t exist… and you’ll learn to keep your eyes out AND your distance from certain key enemies that bring their own special abilities. I’ll leave them for you to fall prey to… uh… discover.

Note: I was provided with a download STEAM code to play the beta.

Advertisements

Get the Official GeekDad Books!