Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, and Xbox One

Under the right circumstances, Earthfall is a surprisingly fun co-op shooter. When you’ve got a full party of three friends online with you and everyone is on the same page about working together in a co-op shooter along the same lines as Killing Floor 2, Call of Duty’s zombie modes, and Left 4 Dead, it can be a lot of fun.

Playing through each of the 10 or so levels in order is exciting and can offer a few hours of quality bonding time with friends. But this is really the only strict circumstance in which Earthfall excels.

Fighting with friends

In Earthfall there are four characters to pick from before you start a match. They all look different but are equally boring and devoid of personality. Thinking about it, I can’t recall a single one of their names and if it weren’t for screenshots I’d have forgotten what they looked like. They’re all identical in terms of actual gameplay.

Playing with a full group of yourself and three friends is absolutely the best way to play, but you can join random games online or play with three bots as a solo player as well. The AI is mostly capable of fighting by your side and reviving you, but simply being passable in a game built around teamwork in 2018 doesn’t seem commendable.

Aliens not zombies

The biggest difference between Earthfall and most other co-op shooters of this type (such as Call of Duty’s Zombies mode and Left 4 Dead) is that Earthfall is technically about aliens attacking the world instead. The result is what mostly feels like a palette swap rather than an actual reinvention of enemy designs.

In Earthfall we’ve got the fodder aliens that shamble around slowly until they spot you, then take off at a brisk pace. There are large bloated aliens that erupt when shot and poison the air. We’ve got big bad guys that pounce on top of you, pinning you down (this happens far too often) and preventing you from doing anything until you’re rescued. There are even enemies that will kidnap players and force teammates to rescue them before being taken off the map.

By the end of the game things start to get mixed up in terms of number of and types of aliens you encounter, but it never really feels like the game’s evolved or changed much. Your strategy is always going to be just run around, kiting small groups, and blowing away sack of alien blood the entire time. It has its moments of mindless fun, but it’s still mindless all the same.

Every level in Earthfall is built around a series of objectives. For example, one of the early levels has you pushing a car to a garage, then searching for a battery to repair it, and other levels might ask you to do guard certain points from alien swarms. Objective-focused gameplay isn’t a bad idea inherently, but when the levels feel repetitive across the whole campaign and then lack variety upon subsequent playthroughs, it’s not a good formula for a co-op focused game that should be designed to play repeatedly.

Establishing the resistance

One facet of Earthfall that had a lot of potential to be interesting is the light base-building/barricading feature. You can erect fence-style barricades to create chokepoints and funnel hordes towards certain areas or to block off entrances and save precious minutes. But unfortunately the idea never really evolves much beyond that.

Earthfall was already in Early Access for a long time before its full release, so perhaps more time post-launch can lead to more advancements. Community-focused features like Steamworks integration, more characters/cosmetics, or even just some more levels would help a lot. But overall it feels like the game buckles down on delivering something that’s already been perfected elsewhere.

Playing Earthfall solo, with random people online, or even with friends for repeat missions is a mixture of bad AI, tedious gameplay, and repetitive designs that make it hard to look past the issues and enjoy the great visuals. When played briefly in groups there’s some good stuff here, but I’m not sure I’d ever recommend someone play Earthfall in place of the recently released Vermintide 2 or classics like Killing Floor and Left 4 Dead .