The elevator pitch for Holospark Games’ upcoming game Earthfall could be adequately summed up in five extremely awesome words: Left 4 Dead with aliens.
That’s very much by design. It’s been nearly a decade since Valve’s beloved co-op survival shooter blew away gamers with its intense action and innovative AI. Holospark hopes to update that game’s riotous multiplayer by changing the enemy and adding a few new twists.
The otherworldly bad guys certainly don’t come in peace. Taking place 30 years in the future, Earthfall’s invaders arrive on our planet courtesy a meteorite slamming into the Pacific Northwest. When the government and military fail to act, average, everyday citizens take up arms in a desperate bid for species survival. In a hands-on E3 demo, we tested our mettle against these unwelcome visitors.
Joined by three AI characters (the game features drop-in, drop-out co-op play), we roamed across an embattled neighborhood in search of a power plant, blasting several different kinds of aliens along the way. The basic grunts – the equivalent of Left 4 Dead’s garden variety zombies – went down easy enough, but Earthfall slowly ups the ante with eight different types of aliens to deal with. Were it not for a few well-placed shotgun blasts, a horse-like alien called a Whiplash would have made off with one of our fellow survivors.
Eventually, we wound up in a warehouse, which we secured by blocking its three doors with barricades. These can be booby-trapped with explosive propane tanks and other dangerous items for added protection. Some levels prominently feature this sort of fixed position base-building – Holospark calls it the “hub and spoke” model, where players repeatedly return to one key position – while others emphasize narrative exposition and linear exploration. After surviving a rough encounter with another alien, this one pulsing out energy powering up other aliens, we left the relative safety of the warehouse and headed in the direction of the power plant.
Earthfall also channels Left 4 Dead’s vaunted Director mode by ensuring the alien scum always give players a proper challenge. The pace steadily intensifies; wiping out a mob with a flamethrower informed the AI to ramp it up a bit, and sure enough, we ran out of ammo right when we reached the power plant.
But good fortune awaited in the form of a generous 3D printer, which will let players craft over 20 different weapons and useful items like barricades and a movable turret. Ignoring the legal ramifications of crafting a gun without proper identification, we printed out an assault rifle and went about releasing water containment valves to flood an area filled with alien nests.
Clearly, the AI was intimidated by our incredible twitch skills, because the demo was about to come to a swift, brutal end. Upon exiting the plant we were greeted by a few new alien types, including one that releases a toxic cloud when defeated and a muscular, troll-like alien behemoth. We were ill-prepared for that one, which barged through the grunts to take out two of our teammates in a hurry. Reviving them just postponed the inevitable as our group was eventually mauled to bits by the imposing beast.
But that’s expected in a co-op survival game like Earthfall. With a cool new take on Left 4 Dead’s long-lost multiplayer hijinks, this shooter has got the goods to keep our planet safe. Keep an eye out for its arrival on Xbox One later this year.