Metroid Prime: Federation Force Review
To say that fan perception of Metroid Prime: Federation Force has been less than positive, is perhaps one of the biggest understatements one could make. Many Metroid loyalists have struggled to embrace this multiplayer focused spin-off at a time when the series future seems uncertain. However, when removing all the baggage surrounding it, the questions becomes, is it a good game?
Federation Force is a co-op multiplayer first person shooter/adventure. You and up to three other players take on various missions throughout the Metroid universe. The mission structure can vary quite drastically with some focused on progressing through a level defeating enemies and others focussing more on solving puzzles. Some will give you time to explore the environments, while others put the pressure on you to complete it as fast as possible. If you have ever played a Metroid game (in particular a Metroid Prime game) each mission effectively feels like if you broke down individual objectives you would need to complete in a full adventure, and put them in to little bite sized experiences more suitable for playing the game in short bursts. It does a surprisingly decent job at keeping some of the key Metroid themes, while still being a different experience than your standard Metroid adventure. You are also ranked on your performance each mission, with rewards for good performance, providing players with reason to replay missions, especially in order to help out friends who haven’t progressed as far through the campaign.
Upgrades are a staple of the Metroid franchise, however, the way they are handled in Federation Force differs to suit the games structure. Instead of continually gaining new abilities or powers, players collect “mods” which range from weapons, support items or character buffs. These mods are primarily unlocked randomly as you play through missions and earn achievements. Each player will be able to equip a limited number of mods each mission, with a focus on trying to build a well-balanced squad that is geared for the specific mission. Players also have to be conservative with their mod use as most mods will break if you die while you have it equipped, discouraging players from just taking rare or extremely useful mods on every mission. The mod system gives the missions a similar feeling to a “raid” you might experience in an MMO, with the need to earn and collect specific gear in order to take on particularly challenging missions.
While the missions can be tackled solo, thanks to the assistance of a special mod that powers the player up to be able to take out the enemies on their own, the game is clearly designed and at its best when playing with four players. Mission layout and structure is clearly designed for a full squad of four. Playing with three other friends is a bunch of fun, as it is difficult for a single person to carry the entire team, ensuring each player feels engaged and like they are contributing to the success of the mission, with the side effect being missions can sometimes feel a bit too tedious when playing by yourself.
The game controls slightly awkwardly, however this is primarily due to the 3DS hardware rather than any flaw of the games design. Personally I found the experience way more enjoyable when I used the motion controls to aim than playing using the circle pad and nub on my new3DS XL.
The story of the game is surprisingly interesting, helping to build the lore of the Metroid universe. You play as a member of the “Federation Force” (which are effectively the Metroid equivalent of a grunt/soldier) as they patrol the universe trying to take care of any remaining space pirates or creatures threatening the galaxy. Often a particular mission will be linked to the actions of the franchises iconic heroine, Samus Aran, with you either required to clean up after she has completed a mission or scout ahead in preparation for her arrival. It isn’t Pulitzer winning story telling by any means, but it is still quite engaging, especially for fans of the franchise.
Other than the main game, there is also Blast Ball, a soccer inspired 3v3 multiplayer mode that has teams shooting beams at a giant ball to try and knock it in to the opponent’s goal. The modes concept actually seemed like it could be a ton of fun, however it falls flat in execution due to a few poor game design decisions. The main issue is the cooldown on your blaster, as it occurs far too regularly and lasts longer than it should, more often than not leaving you defenceless from protecting the goal and preventing you from capitalising on key opportunities. Combine this with boring arenas and power ups and what could be exhilarating party game is ultimately quite dull.
While I admire Next Level Games attempt at trying to find a graphical style for the game that would better suit the 3DS’s hardware, the game still ends up looking fairly bland and unremarkable. The chibi style character models will probably stand the test of time better than full scale characters, however they still look silly and just feel out of place in what is an otherwise serious game. The music is suitably atmospheric and sets the right tone in any given situation, outside of the game they probably won’t resinate strongly with listeners, but in context of any given mission they do their job.
Federation Force is an alright game. It is for the most part a well-designed co-op shooter. Looking for a fantastic single player experience? Or the next great Metroid title? This probably isn’t the game for you. However, if you and a group of friends are looking to pick up a new multi-player 3DS title, or you are just a Metroid fanatic interested in how the game builds on the Metroid lore and have an open mind, then the game is worth your time.