“Okay” can mean a lot of things. It can be a confirmation, it can be the end of a conversation, and it can allude to the quality of something. Sometimes it can be an “okay” that leans towards the positive side, and other times it can lean towards the negative. Earthfall: Alien Horde recently launched on Switch, after releasing on Xbox/PS4/PC last year, and is heavily inspired by co-op shooters like Left 4 Dead and Payday. And my consensus is that the game is, more or less, “okay.” But where does it fall on that spectrum? Ports to Switch really can salvage the image of a game and bring a once landlocked great to the portable crowd. Or, they can leave those hopeful for playing a major title on the go with a sour taste in their mouth if the port is not up to snuff. First Person Shooters with a lot of moving pieces are even harder to get right on the Switch, although Panic Button seemed to do a great job with Wolfenstein and Doom respectively. Does Earthfall embody a great port, or does it leave you wanting to phone home and play on a more powerful console? Let us dock the Switch into its shuttle and dive into this extraterrestrial, co-op shooter.
Left 4 Dead is one of my all-time favorite shooters, so I was hopeful that Earthfall would emulate some of those feelings. The journey from start to end in every chapter of the L4D series was well thought out and paced to give players moments of panic, moments to regroup, and moments of pure intense action. That’s what drove players to band together and keep everyone moving forward. Earthfall, while sharing a lot of core concepts, is like an unseasoned soup. It will put something in your belly, and has all the right stuff to make it a “soup”, but it is not really enjoyable. The game has split chapters across three campaigns, a variety of difficulties, four player support (with bots to fill), fetch quests, hordes, varied enemies, and a version of almost every key element of L4D, but from my point of view, it is missing heart. I felt no passion when playing Earthfall, and that makes it hard to get invested in the game. It is a shame because, I mean, I would love to have a new L4D-esque. But it is just plain bland. Unseasoned.
I played mostly in handheld mode, and like my overall feelings about the game, it runs “okay” as well. Frames drop when too many bullets are flying at too many enemies, but not to the point where it becomes unplayable. Shooting is a bit sloppy, especially so with the Joy-Cons which do not favor the genre. With bullets being sparse and accuracy being key, get used to missing a lot of shots. The aliens have a familiar variety, with their being your tank style alien, one that pins a player down, another that grabs and takes a player away, and then of course your spitting and exploding types. Sound familiar? I feel like there is no formula for how the onslaught of aliens is released. They are just sort of thrown at you instead. I understand that for the hordes, of course, but throughout the levels it doesn’t feel like there is any DNA behind these creatures. The AI is just weak. On both sides of the fence. When playing solo, I brought bot companions along that had the HIGHEST skill level, and failed more often than not to complete a level right towards the end due to being downed and companions being unable to pick up the slack. The complementing tasks are too ordinary for this overarching invasion story, too. Everything feels by the numbers, from the objectives, to the weaponry, and even the characters. It is all played so safe. One aspect that does stick out is the moveable items that help with hordes, like deployable barriers, auto turrets, and mountable machine guns. These at least add a different tune to the same-old-song.
Graphically, there is some obvious visual flaws. Draw distance is shoddy, environmental textures are muddles, and explosives and flamethrower fire are both shown in very low resolutions. Guns and lighting look pretty solid though, and I do like the general design of the aliens. There is also a lot of lore you can get into if you are, well, into it. The menus navigation is horrid, making players guide a pointer instead of the normal scroll method across the board.
Online play works well enough, but I only occasionally made it into games, and none of them had a full set of four players. I wish split screen was an option, but I am sure optimizing such an option to a system with less power would have meant even more drops in visual quality and performance. It is bound to be a more enjoyable experience with friends, maybe even more enjoyable on other platforms. But the Switch port, the one that does not let you pause while attempting to enjoy single player, the one that makes shooting feel dated and inaccurate, and the one that has grenade explosions that look like Minecraft explosions…that version is just “okay”, leaning negative to be specific. It is not a bad game, it is just not a good one, either. In space, no one can hear you yawn, but on Earth, these invaders surely can. Let Earthfall probe your Switch at your own discretion.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6/10
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