Platforms: Steam PC, PS4, XBO
Release: Early 2017 (Steam Early Access)
PAX South 2017 featured gigantic alien statues beckoning newcomers to check out HoloSpark’s upcoming cooperative first-person shooter Earthfall. Earthfall draws heavily from Valve’s Left 4 Dead series, and aims to fill the co-op void left behind after Left 4 Dead 2 released back in 2009.
“I’ve been banging on my buddy at Valve for two years to make Left 4 Dead 3!” laughs Russell Williams, CEO of HoloSpark. “I love PvE. It’s much less stressful to play as the heroes where you’re not getting shot in the head half the time.”
Earthfall’s gameplay is immediately familiar to anyone who has played Left 4 Dead. You choose one of five survivors of a near-future alien invasion and start with only a pistol. You and up to three friends (or AI) journey across the alien-ravaged Northwest and find new weapons and seek out objectives while monstrous aliens continually harass you. Earthfall uses a more advanced version of the AI director that Left 4 Dead famously employed to keep the action varied and unpredictable in each mission.
Like Left 4 Dead the action will be broken up into multiple campaigns, and each campaign will include several maps with a variety of objectives. Aliens feature simple grunts as well as advanced units that force you to change tactics, such as volatile exploding aliens, stealthy hunters, and a massive tank-like creature that takes all four survivors to take down.
Earthfall will also feature its own additions to the genre, such as placeable defenses. Players can find automated turrets (like in the film Aliens), as well as mechanical barricades to bar doorways, allowing only the survivors to pass but blocking aliens (for a time at least). You’ll also find and power 3D printers that you can use to create weapons.
Levels will range from standard “go from point A to point B” to completing objectives in a specific area. In the PAX demo I played, we had to repair and refuel a van to get the hell out of dodge. This included finding tires in a nearby junkyard and pushing the van into the garage. Meanwhile the aliens never stopped pouring in, and we foolishly got caught outside during a massive wave.
Williams teased out a deeper story than this genre usually portrays. “If these aliens are able to travel between the stars, why are they running at you to eat you? There’s a reason for that. Every campaign you will learn a new piece of information.” The story in Left 4 Dead was mostly left to notes on the walls of your safe house, so I’m pleased to hear about a stronger focus on the story telling.
When asked about any PvP components, Williams remained realistic on his team’s goals. “We’re a relatively small team on an aggressive timeline. We really want to nail this experience and make it great, then we can build on that.” He teased the story again, which should make PvP easier to integrate in their future plans.
Williams was clearly passionate about what he hopes to be a new co-op franchise. “Eventually when we do Earthfall 2, we look at Alien versus Aliens. Now we’ve got rifles and we’re marines, but now there’s a million of them! But right now our goal is to make this a great game.”
Earthfall is coming Early 2017 to Steam Early Access.