It’s worth mentioning that this review will not take into account any of the controversy and fan backlash that surrounds Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Only the merits of the game itself will be given any thought. It’s only fair to the developers at Next Level Games that this title is given a completely unbiased review.
Make no mistake, Samus Aran is an incredible bounty hunter and has certainly lead the charge in making the galaxy a safer place, however, she’s not the only one participating in galactic protection. Metroid Prime: Federation Force gives gamers the opportunity to play as the unsung heroes of the Metroid Universe in their quest to stop the Space Pirates’ latest attempt at intergalactic terrorism. While this title does fit comfortably within the Metroid timeline (which will not be spoiled here whatsoever), it certainly does not play like a traditional Prime game. In fact, the only similarity is the first person perspective and the fact that each Federation Soldier is equipped with an arm cannon just like Samus. Non-linear exploration has been traded for individual missions that are selected from a menu. The game also puts a focus on cooperative multiplayer gameplay as well, which is completely new for the series. That being said, anyone willing to give this title a try will quickly learn that change isn’t always a bad thing.
Federation Force is simply a blast to play, however, the New 3ds certainly enhances the experience. The extra nub is used for controlling the camera while the circle pad controls the movement, which works well enough. Precise aiming thankfully isn’t needed too much, as the player can lock the camera onto an enemy when they are facing them. The gyroscope can be turned on for players that decide to use it, and it actually works quite well. The default control scheme moves the camera and the player at the same time, which is a bit awkward and makes combat more difficult than it needs to be. Having that extra control stick (or nub) makes a huge difference, especially during the later stages when enemies are surrounding the player’s team.
Speaking of a team, Federation Force was clearly designed as a multiplayer title. Going solo is a bit tricky in this game, even with the handicaps that are given to the player (increased damage and resistance being both of them). Most of the missions in the game have puzzles and branching paths that are suited to having three or four players either locally or online. These are the circumstances in which the game shines. It doesn’t get much better than teaming up with three other people to take down a huge boss or stop an onslaught of Space Pirates. Playing the game solo simply does not have the same effect. Unfortunately, online play does not support voice chat, meaning the only way to communicate with unknown players is through text commands like “good job” or “help!” Even with these limitations, the online play remains intuitive, as the objective is almost always explicitly clear.
Each of the game’s 22 missions has a unique objective, resulting in a lot of variety throughout the campaign. Some missions will be primarily combat focused, whereas others will require the completion of some physics-based puzzles. Mods can be collected in each mission and equipped with the player’s mech suit in order to provide extra benefits such as increased damage or missiles that split off into two once fired. Exploring the levels for hidden mods is cool and it’s interesting to try different mod combination depending on the current mission being attempted. The feature certainly isn’t deep by any stretch, but it’s still engaging enough to warrant replays. The uniqueness of the missions also helps to extend Federation Force’s longevity, as the game rarely felt repetitive.
Sound has always been a key player in every Metroid title, however, it’s entirely forgettable in Federation Force. None of the tracks add anything to the gameplay, which is extremely disappointing considering how much of the atmosphere was set by the music in previous Prime titles. The visuals aren’t too stellar either, as the cartoon-ish art style simply does not fit the Metroid universe very well. It’s not that the graphics themselves are ugly, it’s just the art directions that feel off. Seeing Samus represented in a chibi art style just feels weird, and even the Space Pirates look like they were ripped right out of a Saturday morning cartoon.
Outside the main campaign mode, players are treated to a competitive multiplayer mode called Blast Ball. It’s essentially Rocket League, however, instead of cars, the players control a Federation Force soldier. It’s a fun distraction at best and a repetitive bore at worst, with most players likely to drop it after an hour or two. Local play is certainly recommended for this game type. Gamers interested in trying Blast Ball can actually download it for free on the e-shop; no Federation Force copy required.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force is sure to please those with realistic expectations. Just because it plays nothing like a traditional Metroid title does not mean that it can’t stand on its own. The cooperative campaign is a blast in both local and online play, and while Blast Ball likely won’t garner too much attention, the collectible mods, and unique missions will easily entertain. It may be different to play, but it certainly isn’t difficult to enjoy.