It's hard not to be reminded of Left 4 Dead's chaotic whirlwind as you play Earthfall, which is exactly what developer Holospark is aiming for.
Earthfall is a cooperative shooter that replaces the zombies of Valve's classic franchise with an alien menace, but otherwise it'll feel immediately familiar. Four heavily armed characters travel through environments getting into a series of gunfights as you travel towards a final, inevitable, finale. There's a director system to ensure the game changes with each replay, and even the special aliens feel like they slot into archetypes created back in Left 4 Dead 2.
It's been nine years since Left 4 Dead 2 released, and the shooting genre has evolved considerably, but how do you go about following up one of the most success co-op shooters of all time?
Earthfall is, wisely, steering clear of hewing too close to the original game and bringing in several of its own features and mechanics in an attempt to make it feel more modern, adopting some of the mechanics that have become popular in the last few years, but also getting more modern in a literal sense, dropping the action 20 years into the future and giving you a bunch of high-tech weaponry and gadgets to apply the hurt.
Automatics for the people
A lot of these new elements work well in my short play session, but most of this is juice. The beating heart of Left 4 Dead was the tight feel of the moment to moment gunplay, and the rest of the game was wrapped around it. It's essential that combat in Earthfall feels good if it wants to have anywhere near the level of long-term success that Left 4 Dead saw, especially when you consider that you'll be shooting aliens not just in one blast through the levels, but through repeated playthroughs. This is a game that Holospark are trying to build for the long-term, meaning you'll be getting intimately familiar with many of the levels and their angry extraterrestrial invaders.
Over the course of a 90 minute play session i was about to rock and roll with a host of different weapons: flamethrowers, sniper rifles, a host of assault rifles and even a few weapons that seemed more appropriate for an episode of Star Trek than here. Each of them felt satisfying to use. It's more complicated now, and the game feels like it has more a military edge to it: possibly the result of bolting scopes to many of the weapons. As it stands though, Earthfall feels like a refreshing take on the 'four people survive some bad situations' genre and while it's clearly looking squarely at the past by taking some of the DNA of Left 4 Dead, it looks set to make its own legacy when it releases on July 13th, providing users are still keen to get involved.