Metroid Prime: Federation Force follows the exploits of a rookie Marine from the Galactic Federation’s Federation Force programme. Initially carrying out research of indigenous creatures, exterminating threats, and collecting data within Bermuda System, soon turns into an intergalactic mission that stakes the very existence of the Federation, and quite possibly life as we know it. This entry in the Metroid series is a first-person, co-operative shooter, which places you, and up to three other friends, in the Federation Force garb.
Though the game has received plenty of backlash in its pre-release, could Metroid Prime: Federation Force actually be an intergalactic adventure to remember, or will it be consumed by the black hole of mediocrity? Find out in our in-depth review… after the break!
Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Nintendo 3DS Family Systems
Developed by Next Level Games
Published by Nintendo
Released: 19th August 2016 (NA) 2nd September 2016 (Europe)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
Screenshots/Art Courtesy of Nintendo
Back in 2015, Nintendo’s unveiling of Metroid Prime: Federation Force was all the rage… emphasis on rage. Unfortunately, the news of the new game reared a very ugly side of many Metroid and Nintendo fans alike. I hate to say it, but even though I did have several quarrels with what I saw, the fact that so many people were so rabid made me a bit ashamed and embarrassed. I’m not trying to take any jabs at anyone, but some of the reactions were extremely vile and unreasonable, especially since no-one outside Nintendo played the game at the time. It went as far as people creating petitions for the game to get cancelled.
People were criticising it’s cartoon like aesthetics, the linearity, seeming lack of Metroid conventions, and how it is a spin-off, not a mainline game, among other minor things. Whenever I get a game to review, I always try my best to approach the game with an open mind, and explore each side of the ‘opinionated spectrum’. Now that I have gotten that little rant out of the way, let us continue with the review.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force puts you into the shoes of a new recruit in the Federation Force of the Galactic Federation. At first, your duties are more planetary errands, such as recovering research data and destroying minor indigenous threats, but then a spanner gravitates into the work. During one of the first few missions, Space Pirates, who the Federation originally thought were no longer a threat, crashed the party in an attempt to steal an artefact you were sent to retrieve. With the Space Pirates return to being a threat, your overseer sets your new mission to figure out just what the scourge of the galaxy are up to. Though the story isn’t really anything to write home about, it is a nice touch that there are logs and lore you can scan if you decide to stray slightly from the beaten path.
Rather than being able to explore a vast world with several different areas, Federation Force is set up very similarly to Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, another title developed by Next Level Games. There are three planets throughout the Bermuda System, Excelcion, Bion, and Talvania, and each one has several missions to complete. One of the popular criticisms of the title, is the fact how it seems very linear, and I would agree, to an extent, though it is something you can easily forget in the middle of the action. Plus, there are some missions which require you to do a bit of exploring, such as looking for rescue pods.
When you first start your save file, you are taken through some training to see if you are up to the task of being a marine. This is a good way of introducing you to the controls. There are two control schemes to choose from. In the first scheme, which works very similarly to Metroid Prime, and Prime 2: Echoes for Gamecube, you move using the circle pad, shoot using A, jump with B, shoot your AUX weapons with Y, and hold L to lock onto targets. When holding R, you can use the gyroscope you move your reticle. If you have a Circle Pad Pro attachment, or a New 3DS, you are able to use the second control scheme. The face buttons work as normal, but now you can use R to shoot, L to jump, ZR to use AUX weapons, ZL to lock on, and, most importantly, the C Stick or the second circle pad to aim. Though I mainly used the second control scheme, I found little to no issues while playing. The only small gripe I had was the fact that it can become a bit uncomfortable when using the C Stick, but this is because after a while, the grip can become slippery.
Though three planets may seem like a small amount, there is incredible variety with each mission, and where on the planet your drop zone is, there is rarely a moment you are repeating the same objective in different missions. There will be times where you have to escort minerals to your drop ship, protect a drill from enemies while avoiding toxic gas, power up recovery pods before they are destroyed, and even push ancient spherical bombs down a hazardous plain into catapults to bring down a Space Pirate ship! To tempt you to revisit already completed missions, each one will reward you with up to three medals based on your score. The main way of boosting your score is by completing the mission objectives and by blasting enemies, but there is another way to really boost your score. Every mission comes with two sub-missions, one presents you with a target time to complete the mission in, the other is a whole other objective, such as destroying all enemies of a certain type, or recovering an optional artefact… say, an egg. Most of these optional missions can be very difficult to achieve, especially the time limit missions, but taking all three is the key to getting all three medals. The medals then unlock extra MOD slots, new paint jobs, and increasing your AUX ammo weight limit. My only issue is the fact that you are unable to see the target time prior to completing the mission (even for a reminder).
The level design itself is pretty amazing. You’ll be trekking frozen outposts, ancient cities, icy lakes, polluted factories, and more, throughout the Bermuda System. The way some of the levels are designed almost make it feel almost like they aren’t linear, it all feels very natural… or at least how those areas would be like in real life. The atmosphere all feels so similar, though you do not have your usual themes of isolation and exploration, it still all feels pretty exciting with each and every step. The videos you see may make it seem like the visuals aren’t the best and probably remove from the atmosphere, but remember, those are blown up images, Federation Force looks absolutely fantastic when playing on the 3DS!
There’s never a dull moment during your missions. In one mission, you have to infiltrate a Space Pirate weapons factory, but doing so requires you to exit your mech. This brings some stealth gameplay into the mix as it is vital to stay out of the pirates’ sight, seeing how little damage you can tolerate without the mech. Once you have passed the pirates, you have to take on a factory-esque obstacle course of sorts to deactivate the field, then escape quickly. Once you escape, you have to re-enter your mech, then defend yourself from waves of pirates as the factory self destructs. Even the escort missions have a lot going on. In one, you are transporting power cells on a rail to the drop ship, however the area is prone to electrical storms, so you have to enter shelters before one hits. There are also splits in the rail which lead to dead ends, obstacles to destroy, as well as pirates and indigenous creatures to fend off from destroying the power cell!
There’s a bit of strategy that plays in some of the missions through the use of AUX ammo. Before each mission, you are given a selection of different AUX ammo types to load up on, these include Missiles, Freeze Shots, Repair Capsules, Decoys, and more. You also have a weight limit on how much ammo you can bring, some ammo types are heavier than others, so you have to pick wisely which ammo you bring on your mission and how much of it to bring. There isn’t really any ammo that is required on missions, though some ammo types can make it easier, especially Repair Capsules, which can be shot to restore health of you, or even machines you are defending. If you run out of ammo, you can replenish it by collecting the powerups dropped from boxes, you could even fuel up on a different type of ammo mid-mission once you free up some weight.
You can also equip up to three MODs. MODs are little electronic chips which are hidden throughout the Bermuda System. Some are easy to find, whereas other may require a little more effort. Equipping a MOD will provide you with a useful effect. These effects range from increasing the power of AUX weapons, or decreasing damage you take, to giving you an extra chance, or even increasing the maximum weight you can carry. There are plenty of MODs to collect, so there are limitless combinations you could use to enhance your mech. You may want to be careful though, as some equipped MODs may break if you fail a mission, destroy your mech, or even quit a mission early.
It is pretty obvious that the game is built with co-operative play in mind. Up to four people can play together online or locally, unfortunately there is no Download Play option, so each party will have to own the game. I was able to try out some of the online play, and I can safely say that that, for the most part, the online play works flawlessly. It’s really easy to set up and join a room, and I experienced little to no lag with the gameplay. When playing online, you can divvy up the AUX ammo between each member, this can help to give each person a role during the mission. One member can focus more on support with the Repair Capsule and Shields, another can work with elemental damage with the Flame and Ice Shots, and another can focus on distractions using the Decoy and Slow Beam.
Though you can use a range of pre-determined phrases, and you can tap the map to set a marker for others, some missions would benefit from voice chat, as more specific strategies are needed. For example, in one mission where you have to trap giant Ice Titans, me and another player knew to shoot the beast to get their attention and lure them into the trap, but the other player was a total gun nut and kept shooting the Titan, luring it away from the cage. Suffice to say, we ended up all as titan food! If you are more of a lone wolf, it is still possible to play though the entire game on your own, though doing so may be more difficult. When playing alone, you get the option to equip up to three combat drones, who aid in shooting down enemy targets. You also get access to the Lone Wolf MOD, which doubles the damage you deal, and halves the damage you take, but only when you are on Solo Play.
The cartoon/chibi style aesthetics are another factor which have put off many fans, I’ll admit that I wasn’t a big fan of those either. Though the art style contradicts with the theming of MEtroid, it strangely just about works with this game. Luckily, all the human characters are wearing helmets, so you don’t see any cutesy facial expressions. It almost reminds me of the backlash behind the appearance of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, the cartoony look put people off when it was announced, but the detail was to the point and fit the game perfectly. With Federation Force, the same can be said, the visuals still feel like you are playing a Metroid game, from the details of the environments and buildings, to how intimidating the Space Pirates, Ice Titans, and other beasts look. Just look at this beastie!
Another common complaint is how the game supposedly lacks general conventions and tropes of the Metroid series, I can say that this is both true and untrue. It comes to a bit of a disappointment that certain crucial elements like isolation and exploration are lacking, but we have to remember that this is a spin off, not an actual mainline game. Also, I have always considered the Metroid games an experimentation series, nearly every game feels like an experiment of sorts, and Federation Force is the biggest experiment yet. Let’s just hope that this is a one off, or at the very least, doesn’t become a staple for the Metroid series. Though the game lacks in the themes of isolation and exploration, there are still many aspects which make it a Metroid game. There are returning species (including Space Pirates, and Metroids), the Galactic Federation returns, the environments and technology are similar, and even Samus makes several appearances.
One thing which definitely does bug me personally, is the fact that there isn’t really any gear you can upgrade like in previous games. Instead, you are given a selection of AUX ammo to choose to use at the beginning of a mission. So don’t expect to find any hidden paths which can only be accessed when you have unlocked something new. One thing I do love though, is all the music. It still adds to the atmosphere of the environments, plus the mode select music is super awesome!
It’s actually really interesting to play a Metroid game through the eyes of a different character, and it is great to see what sort of things the Galactic Federation get up to while Samus is out on her own adventures. It’s also clever how the game brings in Samus quite often. During briefings and debriefings, your supervisor will talk about research Samus has collected, and how that helps you on the mission, there are also times where Samus will contact you herself.
The difficulty of Federation Force is fairly appropriate. It starts off being easy enough, then steadily increases in difficulty, some of the boss fights can be tough. Only problem is that the only true challenge exists in a couple missions and most of the optional missions, so don’t go in expecting that the game will be a true challenge. There is a Hard mode you unlock once you have completed the main game however. Though I have only tested Hard Mode briefly, the difference in difficulty didn’t really seem to vast, maybe the damage enemies receive and deal get a boost, but thats about it. Like I said, I’ve only tested it briefly, so I am not really able to make much of a comment on it.
The game also has minimal Amiibo support, scanning either the Samus or Zero Suit Samus figures will grant you the ability to carry more AUX ammo of certain types, and most Amiibo will unlock a new paint job based on that character. Other than Paint Jobs, MODs, and Hard Mode, there isn’t really much else to unlock, so the only other thing which motivates you to go back an replay levels are to get all three medals and improve your score. Luckily all the missions barely feel tedious, so you’ll be more than happy to replay them/
The game also comes packaged with Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, a game that is very similar to football. You play in 3v3 matches in your mech, where the aim is to shoot at an oversized and electrified ball into the other team’s goal, think Rocket League with space guns instead of cars. You have the choice to play it alone against AI players, play with friends locally using Download or Local Play, or play online. This is the exact experience you get from the free Blast Ball demo that was released last month on the eShop. Seeing how Next Level Games were the team behind Mario Strikers, you’d expect there to be some variety in gameplay, but from what I have played, that really isn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, Blast Ball is a pretty solid game and can be quite fun if you want to have a little break from Federation Force, some matches can get pretty intense. Just don’t expect to be constantly going on Blast Ball all the time.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force may not be the best Metroid game out there, but that doesn’t stop it from being fun and challenging for the most part. Though some elements are missed, such as a sense of isolation, and non-linearity, it still has fantastic level design, that Metroid atmosphere, and some Metroids. Though it is disappointing that the game isn’t as deep with the plot and atmosphere of previous games, it does a very good job of existing as a spin-off title.
If you still find the differences from the main Metroid series unacceptable, don’t like the Missions system from Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, or if first person shooters just aren’t your thing, then it may be best avoiding this title. If you are a fan of the Metroid series and are willing to try something new from it, or if you are looking for a fun sci-fi FPS to play with your friends, then we would recommend Metroid Prime: Federation Force!
Final Rating – 3.5 out of 5
Metroid Prime: Federation Force releases exclusively for Nintendo 3DS Family Systems on the 19th August 2016 in North America, and 2nd September 2016 in Europe.
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