Reviews// Metroid Prime: Federation Force

Posted 1 Sep 2016 12:32 by
Metroid Prime: Federation Force has an interesting but difficult history. Announced at E3 in 2015, it is safe to say that the game was not universally welcomed. People expecting, or rather hoping for a new 'traditional' style Metroid game, either in the Prime universe or in 2D style were rather annoyed.

Instead of an epic adventure starring Samus, players were presented with something quite different. A game that, to be honest, Nintendo could have done a better job of explaining. Over the subsequent months, trailers were similarly vilified. The game has now arrived and I have to be honest, I was not sure what to expect. I really do enjoy the Metroid series and would love another Super Metroid style game. However, I am aware that at this stage it is unlikely that one will be released. So where does Federation Force fit in? As an expansion of the Metroid universe, extremely well.

Federation Force is two games in one. Players control a mech in either campaign mode comprising a large set of varied missions, or 'Blast Ball,' a kind of team-based sports game. The game is played almost entirely first-person with a control scheme that takes a little while to get used to.

There are two options, motion controlled, using the 3DS' gyroscope or 'second stick' on the New 3DS or original 3DS with Circle Pad Pro. I do not particularly enjoy using motion controls in first-person games, I find the second stick to be far more accurate. Federation Force is no different and I would thoroughly recommend anyone with the New 3DS or Circle Pad Pro to choose that option as I found motion controls to be unsuitable, especially when combat becomes chaotic.

The music, one of the key components of what makes Metroid something special, is adequate in Federation Force. Outside of combat the music is excellent, but during missions it is rather forgettable.

Visually it would be best to describe the game as functional. The 3DS is really beginning to show its age at this point and Federation Force plays to its strengths. On the New 3DS on which I played the game, there was never any slowdown, but environments just looked a little sparse and uninspired.

The campaign takes place across several planets and space installations. Objectives are generally simplistic, but extra exploration is encouraged as 'mods' can be discovered to customize the player's mech. These mods generally increase weapon power, or provide greater defense. Prior to the start of a mission up to three mods can be selected, along with a number of secondary weapons befitting the Metroid universe (freeze or fire weapons, missiles, super missiles etc.). If playing in single player, the mech can also be equipped with three drones that provide cover for the player.

Federation Force is very playable in single-player, certainly more so than Triforce Heroes. Earlier missions feel like a bit of a grind and later ones quite challenging, but never to the point where I felt like I wanted to give up. However, the game has clearly been designed for multiplayer.

The fun of playing online is directly linked to the people you play with and Evan really irritated me. There has been an Evan in pretty much every game I've played online on the 3DS. Evan is the kind of person who is always the last to press 'ready,' he is always the last to walk through the next door, he is the last one on the ship at the end of the level.

People like Evan make online play really annoying, particularly for people who have limited time to play games. Fortunately, the last time I played with Evan he suffered a disconnection and was dropped from my team. I was really pleased, the rest of my teammates were playing really well together, we had beaten a number of missions and helped each other out during numerous tough spots. It really felt like Evan was holding us back.

But then I began to wonder, maybe Evan just had a bad connection and that was why he was so slow to do everything. Nah, Evan was just trolling us, he is the kind of player who makes other online games infuriating. In Triforce Heroes, players like Evan broke the game, generally because each level required a group to work together to solve environmental puzzles. In Metroid Prime: Federation Force, players like Evan are far less of a problem, generally because missions do not require the same level of cooperation. Instead, teamwork feels less of a necessity, or chore and more like a choice.

The diversity of mission types prevents Federation Force from becoming boring. However, the first few missions of the game are sadly not a very good advert for it. Things dramatically improve after about the fourth mission with a number of interesting concepts. I particularly enjoyed the mission where the team has to push a cargo train through a canyon, trying to find cover when a hazardous storm periodically strikes, whilst fending off space pirates.

Technically, the online generally works extremely well. I suffered a few disconnections, but these were few and far between. The online community playing Federation Force is tremendous fun to play with. As with other Nintendo games that can be played cooperatively, there is a system by which players can communicate with each other that eschews the use of voice chat.

On the bottom screen there is a selection of pre-set phrases and words. They work well enough to communicate and in some ways help to add to the immersion. Online voice chat, something that was available in Metroid Prime: Hunters, is absent, but to be honest I do not miss it. I dread to think what Evan would do with a microphone. Missions undertaken in groups are entirely cooperative, with the only competition coming from achieving a higher score. Coming first at the end of a mission is highly desirable because any mods found by the team are then shared out, with the highest scoring player given the first choice.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force greatly exceeded my expectations. I found the campaign to be very enjoyable and just about the right length, it certainly left me wanting more. I did find myself wishing that the game was available on the Wii U, as it would certainly benefit from improved visuals and a slightly less cramped control scheme. However, on 3DS it does work and deserves to be given time. Although the game is not without flaws, it is good to see the Metroid universe expand. I wouldn't mind seeing some more of the Federation Force.

+ Varied mission design.
+ Cooperative play is very enjoyable.
+ Well-paced.

- Controls are not always comfortable.
- Visually uninspiring.
- Difficult can sometimes be a little uneven.

SPOnG Score: 8/10

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