Archives by Day

March 2023


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Nimble
Release Date: Oct. 11, 2019


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Switch Review - 'Earthfall: Alien Horde'

by Cody Medellin on May 4, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Earthfall: Alien Horde is a 4-player co-op shooter where a ragtag bunch of survivors band together to fight back against an alien invasion in the year 2032.

More than a decade later, it is bewildering to see so few games try to copy the Left 4 Dead formula. In an industry where a surefire hit inevitably leads to countless games trying to mimic the formula, the four-player, co-op zombie shooter has only seen a few takes on the formula, including the four games in the Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army series, the duo of Vermintide titles and World War Z. Earthfall: Alien Horde is another that put its own spin on the formula by changing out zombies for aliens, and after releasing on the PC and the current generation of consoles, it finally makes its way to the Nintendo Switch.

Like many of its brethren, there's no real narrative, just a premise to work from. In the distant future, when technological advancements aren't very far-fetched, aliens have invaded Earth. Almost immediately, governments have fallen, armies have been decimated, and most of the humans have been eaten. There are pockets of survivors, and you play as a group of four making its way to what's left of the state and battling the ever-populous alien horde.

Those who value story will find that Earthfall's premise serves no real purpose. There's no explanation of how these characters got together or what their goal is. There's a separate section for lore that provides some info about the world, but the inconsistent rate and criteria needed to unlock it all means that few will be able to see it all by the time they're done with the game. Worst of all, the characters in your party don't seem to have any personality; Valve's game completely succeeded in this area, despite also suffering from some of the aforementioned issues. In short, what you have here is a group of people devoid of anything interesting, except for their ability to shoot things.

Considering Earthfall's inspiration, you should have a good idea of the core game mechanics. This is a four-player co-op shooter where you essentially have to go from checkpoint to checkpoint blasting everything in sight. The game always throws enemies at you, barely giving you a moment to explore your surroundings. You can only hold two weapons at a time, but you can get some throwables (e.g., grenades), and your pistol always has ammo. The element of co-op is a big one, as the game lets you revive anyone who's fallen and lets you carry health packs to heal your allies to ensure no one gets left behind.

There are a few things the game does differently to give it some identity. Earthfall emphasizes setting up defenses, so you can deploy barricades and mounted guns to prepare for alien horde rushes. A few of the stages also have stationary heal stations and the chance to print 3D guns, giving you a good shot at always having the right weapon for a fight.

Like the mechanics, the enemies pretty much copy Left 4 Dead's bestiary. You have basic aliens that can slash but mainly act as cannon fodder. There are leaping alien dogs that pin you to the ground and gnaw at you. Some aliens explode and leave behind poisonous gas. Others carry you in their mouths and take you away, and lumbering giants require several clips to take down. There are a few new alien types, such as one that warps around the area and produces a protective shield that needs to be taken down first, but otherwise, this should all feel very familiar.

Clocking in at about 10 levels, there's a decent amount to do in Earthfall, and that is amplified by the prerequisite survival mode. The problem is that there's not much drive to make this worthwhile. Your guns may be numerous, but nothing feels useful enough to take down alien hordes. You may be able to kill a drone with one ax swing, and emptying a clip at a few bursting aliens works, but none of the weapons feel good. The aliens also lack the intelligence to feel threatening beyond their numbers. When you notice that all of the aliens rely on rushing you and beating you to death, you begin to wonder how they took over the planet and lament that the experience of fighting them is similar with bouts against the undead. It doesn't help that the push to keep you fighting is too aggressive, which turns every fight into a boring slog, since there's no time to gather weapons before you're shooting again. The goals are also rudimentary, like holding your ground against a horde or collecting items for a fetch quest. In short, the normally exciting situations lack excitement, and this is a big problem for a game that's heavy on action.

On the bright side, your AI companions are decent if you take their intelligence level to the highest rank possible. Do this, and they become awesome at efficiently dispatching aliens, keeping you alive, and rushing to your aid when you fall. They also do a terrific job of leaving you the best weapons until you decide to pass them up. They aren't so bad if you lower the intelligence level, but it makes them more prone to dying, and if you're playing solo, the last thing you want is your teammates falling, since the game relentlessly sends hordes of enemies at you .

While Earthfall can only be played solo on a single console, it features some much-needed multiplayer options. Local wireless play is perfect if you have enough people around with their own copy of the game and their own Switch. No matter what you think of the game's quality, this option solidifies the Switch's status as an excellent console for LAN play. Online play is also here, and the good news is that there's a community for the game, so it's fairly easy to find a game. The netcode isn't completely up to snuff, so you'll find some aliens and people warping around throughout a session. It doesn't completely kill the game, but you'll wish there was more polish in this area.

If you're looking at the game in still pictures, it doesn't look half-bad. The environments look decent enough, and the character models look fine, even if they look like a mashup of non-descript alien creatures. Start moving, and things begin to fall apart. Textures and other small objects have a habit of popping in. The frame rate tries to hold at 30fps, but it often drops into the low 20s because of too many creatures on-screen or the environment is trying to be too detailed. The lighting looks fine, as does fire, but those major aforementioned elements are enough to see that Earthfall needs more tweaks in this department.

As for the sound, it sort of exists. The voice acting is fine, and if it weren't for the subtitles, you'd never realize who's speaking. The music rarely kicks in, but it sounds fine when it does, even if you don't notice its presence most of the time. The effects are where the game suffers, as they're one of the main reasons why the weapons feel like they lack any punch. The same goes for the alien cries, which fail to sound menacing and take away any tension in the process.

Despite all of its flaws, Earthfall: Alien Horde is the only shooter of its type on the Switch. That alone gives it a base for longer than most lower-budget titles with an online component. If you're a more discerning player or one who has more options than the Switch, the pull isn't going to be that strong. Dull objectives, endless combat with frustrating foes, lifeless shooting, and a lack of polish in the performance area leave a game that can't match up with its contemporaries or the classics that it's trying to emulate. It'll work if you have nothing else available, but you'll also wish that other four-player, co-op, first-person shooters would arrive on the Switch platform.

Score: 5.5/10

More articles about Earthfall
blog comments powered by Disqus