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Metroid Prime: Federation Force Review

by John Rairdin - August 18, 2016, 9:00 pm PDT
Total comments: 30

9

This ain't your daddy's Metroid, but that's not a bad thing.

Metroid Prime Federation Force has not had an easy road to the market. From the moment it was revealed back at E3 2015, fan opinion struck back hard against this Next Level Games-developed project. Despite knowing virtually nothing about it, the fact that it didn’t star Samus and took on a different style from other games in the series made it an instant outlier. But now that the finished product is out in the wild we can finally measure this game on nothing more than its true, honest quality.

Federation Force is set directly after the events of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and deals with the aftermath of planet Phaaze’s complete obliteration. Suffering from the loss of Phazon as a renewable energy source, the Galactic Federation seeks out a new advantage over the omnipresent Space Pirates. Naturally, giant robots were the first things to come to mind. These prototype mechs are piloted by an elite group known as the Federation Force. With the Space Pirate threat still very prevalent across the galaxy, the Federation Force is dispatched to the Bermuda System to reclaim a Federation mining station. As you might suspect, the situation quickly takes a turn.

Your first mission takes place on the snow-covered world of Excelcion. After finishing it, you’ll unlock levels on Bion, a desert world littered with the ruins of a long dead race, and Talvania, an industrial world guarded by ancient security systems. Interestingly, you often unlock multiple missions at once as you progress. This adds a novel, non-linear nature to the game that is especially fun online, where even players who are still early in the game will have multiple levels to choose from. The levels themselves all feel unique and different – even those on the same planet. Some missions focus on exploring large environments to activate an uplink or find an item to return to your ship. Others rely heavily on solving puzzles to navigate an expansive structure, and some task you with fighting off hordes of enemies under varying circumstances. You may even occasionally find yourself separated from your mech, in which case you’ll have to sneak your way through enemy installations. The incredible variety of missions that the player is presented in Federation Force is something that caught me completely by surprise. Each one felt fresh, and new.

Before the start of a mission you’re given an opportunity to customize your mech in multiple ways. To start, you have the opportunity to equip mods, which alter your mech’s performance. One of my favorite mods enabled a 30% chance to not take damage from an attack. Another boosted the power of my charge beam by 20%. You’ll begin the game with a couple basic starter mods but the rest are found through classic Metroid-style exploration. Off the main path you’ll find hidden rooms, locked doors, and secret areas that contain random mods. These areas can often only be accessed via the use of specific weapons, which leads to the next stage of customization. After setting up your mech, your team is able to choose what gear you’ll take with you on a mission. Rather than Samus finding conveniently placed upgrades in ancient ruins, you’ll instead pick your arsenal from the Federation armory. All your favorite Metroid weapons are here: ice, shock, plasma, missiles, and super missiles, along with plenty of new items exclusive to Federation Force. Beyond weapons there are also defensive items such as shields, decoys, proximity mines, and energy tanks that can be fired at allies to restore their health. You only have a limited capacity on your mech however, so it's imperative that you implement strategy when loading up.

Federation Force can be played either single-player, locally, or online. Prior to play I suspected that, much like The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, the online mode would be by far the best way to play the game. I was delighted however, to find that great effort had been put into creating a robust and enjoyable single-player experience as well. When played solo, the game offers up a variety of changes to help balance the experience. First, you’ll have access to a special mod that gives you some extra fire power and reduces the damage you take. You’ll also have the option of bringing along up to three drones. These drones hover just above your head and help you fight enemies. It’s crucial to note that these handicaps are purely optional and can be removed to add more challenge to the game. Even with the drones enabled the game still presents a significant challenge. I’d generally recommend making use of them, at least for your first time through the game. When played online with less than four players, these drones are once again optionally available in an appropriate quantity to make up for missing players. It is worth noting however that while the game feels excellently balanced for one or four players, playing it with only two is quite challenging. You won’t have the firepower-enhancing mod present in single-player, and those drones, while helpful, can’t bring anything besides a standard power beam into the field with them. This increase in difficulty also brings into play a substantial complaint: there are absolutely no checkpoints. While early levels are often quite short and not too difficult, later levels can take upwards of 20 minutes. Dying on the final boss and being sent all the way back to the lobby to try again from the beginning can be extremely frustrating. There isn’t a simple retry button either. You’ll have to choose the mission and configure your loadout all over again.This is not to say the game isn’t enjoyable with this setup, but it requires much more planning when setting up mods and choosing a specific role for each player. There is no voice chat for communicating these strategies, only a selection of pre-loaded phrases that can be hotkeyed to the directional pad or selected manually. On the equipment screen, however, you’re able to see everything each player is taking with them. From there it’s relatively easy to see weak points in the team’s loadout and fill them as needed.

On the bright side, should you meet with an untimely demise, you won’t feel like it occurred unjustly. The game controls fantastically, assuming you use the default controls. New 3DS owners will have the option of incorporating the C-stick to play in a more traditional twin-stick style. That pathetic nub, though, just isn’t up to the challenge of a first-person shooter. The Circle Pad Pro is also supported if you have one, but the best way to play is with the gyro controls. The game essentially controls exactly like Metroid Prime on GameCube but with one monumental improvement: you move with the Circle Pad and hold down the left trigger to lock onto enemies. However, because aiming is now tied to the gyro (much like Splatoon) you’re still free to move with the Circle Pad while freely aiming around the environment by holding down the right trigger and moving the 3DS. The game handles beautifully with this setup. It takes a little getting used to if you didn’t play the Blast Ball demo, but it’s the best way to play and the early struggle is worth it. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who absolutely hated the controls of the original Metroid Prime games prior to the Wii re-release. This fixes every issue I had with those controls.

Speaking of that Blast Ball demo, you can indeed carry over your profile from the demo into the full game. If you didn’t play the demo on the eShop, you’re in for a treat. Blast Ball’s simplistic gameplay is a ton of fun. It’s soccer with giant mechs, a giant ball, and lasers - what more could you ask for? The occasional lag can cause the physics to behave in a less than ideal way but for me, these moments haven’t cropped up very often.

The presentation and graphical style of Federation Force is jarring when compared to the dark, realistic feel of the home console Prime games, but it solves a problem that cropped up with the DS game Metroid Prime: Hunters. While technically impressive, the adaptation of the Prime style on DS resulted in hard-to-see enemies and characters. Federation Force adapts to that problem by presenting bulkier characters and it is better for it. The world and characters still feel very much like Metroid Prime, especially Metroid Prime 3 with its vibrant colors and gorgeous bloom effects. Beyond actual design, the presentation on a whole is absolutely astounding. The character animations for your mechs and the enemies are brimming with personality and each cut scene is produced with a degree of quality that absolutely holds up against the very best the series has to offer. All of this is further enhanced by a wonderfully orchestral score that blends motifs of the classic Prime games with a more militaristic style that harkens to something composed by John Williams for Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars. Play this game with headphones and thank me later.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force is absolutely a Metroid Prime game. It incorporates fresh ideas and presents them in unique ways, but it never forgets where it comes from. The co-op online shooter genre is a bold new venture for Nintendo, and one they’ve taken to with surprising aptitude. The odd lack of a retry button ads a noticeable hiccup to an otherwise wonderful experience, but it is one that is easily overcome with a little patience. The default controls improve upon those of the original Prime games brilliantly. All of this is wrapped up in a fantastic presentation that will keep you locked into the game’s story until the very end. Metroid Prime: Federation Force is, without a doubt, one of my favorite 3DS games of all time.

Summary

Pros
  • Beautiful presentation
  • Blast Ball is a fun bonus game
  • Fantastic soundtrack
  • Great single-player and multiplayer experiences
  • Unique, innovative take on Metroid lore
Cons
  • No checkpoints
  • Occasional lag in Blast Ball

Talkback

PhilPhillip Stortzum, August 18, 2016

I am picking this up tomorrow to review it myself. If you guys are looking for someone to play co-op with, find me on the forums. I posted a topic in the Matchmaking section of the forums.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/forums/index.php?topic=50408.new#new

LemonadeAugust 18, 2016

I really liked the multiplayer in Metroid Prime Hunters 10 years ago, so I would probably like this. But I dont really have anyone to play it with these days, so I dont see much point in buying it.

CircasurviverAugust 18, 2016

The reviews I've read say it plays great solo.

ClexYoshiAugust 18, 2016

My problem is that I'm effectively broke for now until... who knows how long... :C I'll probably hit this and Planet Robobot up around the same time after I finish with trying to replace my computer and keep my head above water.

KhushrenadaAugust 18, 2016

A 9.0? Awwww...... That's not going to create enough controversy to boost up forum activity like I was hoping. The only chance we've got now is for Ian Sane to come in and post that he doesn't care if it is a good game because he still wants it to fail so that Nintendo doesn't stick with cutesy art and non-Samus co-op adventures.

Quote from: Lemonade

I really liked the multiplayer in Metroid Prime Hunters 10 years ago, so I would probably like this. But I dont really have anyone to play it with these days, so I dont see much point in buying it.

It holds up fantastically as a single player game. So far the servers are holding up great as well and I've been having lots of fun playing with random people online.

LucarioAugust 19, 2016

So is it the same controls as prime hunters the stylus controls?, because i thought that was the best way to play.

SocarAugust 19, 2016

I knew this game would end up being solid! Too bad the rest of the reviewers don't see that...... :(


I'm getting the game. But I'd like to know if the jump button is only the shoulder button but not the B button?

TheXenocideAugust 19, 2016

One small complaint I would make is that the beginning tutorial gets a little long in the tooth, but outside of that, I've loved everything else!

LemonadeAugust 19, 2016

Quote from: John

It holds up fantastically as a single player game.

Hmm, ok then. I will have to look up some gameplay video and think about it some more.

nickmitchAugust 19, 2016

Quote from: Khushrenada

A 9.0? Awwww...... That's not going to create enough controversy to boost up forum activity like I was hoping. The only chance we've got now is for Ian Sane to come in and post that he doesn't care if it is a good game because he still wants it to fail so that Nintendo doesn't stick with cutesy art and non-Samus co-op adventures.

You sure? We could always pretend the score was the result of a bribe of some sorts. Maybe photoshop some pictures of Neil and Reggie?

OedoAugust 19, 2016

I played Tri Force Heroes exclusively online (and mostly enjoyed it) and planned to mostly do the same with Federation Force, but it's good to hear that they did a little more to make this game a good single player experience too. I might actually try to play it that way once just to see what it's like now.

KhushrenadaAugust 19, 2016

Quote from: nickmitch

Quote from: Khushrenada

A 9.0? Awwww...... That's not going to create enough controversy to boost up forum activity like I was hoping. The only chance we've got now is for Ian Sane to come in and post that he doesn't care if it is a good game because he still wants it to fail so that Nintendo doesn't stick with cutesy art and non-Samus co-op adventures.

You sure? We could always pretend the score was the result of a bribe of some sorts. Maybe photoshop some pictures of Neil and Reggie?

That's the kind of thinking that can get one promoted to moderator!

LemonadeAugust 19, 2016

Quote from: Oedo

I played Tri Force Heroes exclusively online

I liked Triforce Heroes, but the lag was a real issue. I only ended up playing half of the game

StratosAugust 19, 2016

Really impressed with how this one turned out. Gonna have to pick it up soon.

SorenAugust 19, 2016

So I saw that "insane" final boss fight. Gotta say it's just dripping in symbolism. What better way to ring in Metroid's 30th anniversary.

SteefosaurusAugust 20, 2016

Wow I gotta say I wasn't super interested because Samus isn't in this (much) right? Buuuut this sounds like it's screaming "buy a 3DS" huh... Sidenote, isn't it lovely to see kneejerk reactions proven wrong? :)

nickmitchAugust 20, 2016

Might pick it up since a lot of people seem to be upbeat about the single player.

OedoAugust 20, 2016

I've only played through the first five missions so I obviously can't make any definitive statements on the game's quality yet, but so far I'm with this review; the game, overall, is really fun. The one big gripe I have so far is that there's really no great way to communicate with your teammates how you want to approach a mission. I don't know if my teammates want to explore a bit and look for all the mods, try to get through a level as quickly as possible to get the time limit bonus (which is required to get all the medals for each mission), or if its their first time playing a mission and they're fine playing it either way. It's a shame because getting all the medals does add a nice layer of replay value to the game, but if you're replaying a mission trying to get through it within the time limit and your teammates are exploring, it might get a bit frustrating. There's also no way to tell if your teammates want to replay a mission and try to get all the medals after your first run through it, or if they want to move on the next mission. They could have solved both these problems to some degree by giving you the ability to communicate your objective through naming the lobby you create (or even giving you some basic labels for your lobby), but as far as I can tell there's no such option in the game. It seems like a pretty odd oversight. So far the controls work well enough, but I also get the feeling that they might become a bit of an issue later in the game when the missions become more difficult. Like I said though, the core gameplay overall has been really fun and I've been enjoying the game right from the first mission.

Quote from: Lemonade

Quote from: Oedo

I played Tri Force Heroes exclusively online

I liked Triforce Heroes, but the lag was a real issue. I only ended up playing half of the game

I ran into more of it than I would have liked as well, but there were only a few instances where it was so bad that it made the session unplayable for me. It sounded like it varied quite a by region though, so maybe I lucked out a bit in that respect.

So far Federation Force has been a step up in that regard. I haven't run into any issues so far (at least that I could perceive). The time I've spent in actual missions is probably only between 1-1.5 hours when you add it all up so it's a small sample size and I'm sure it will vary by region again to some degree, but it's been very smooth for me up to this point.

buttleAugust 20, 2016

A 9?  I am super suspicious. 

PhilPhillip Stortzum, August 20, 2016

Quote from: buttle

A 9?  I am super suspicious.

Back when I was on the writing staff, some suspicious things happened.  :cool;

jarodeaAugust 21, 2016

Cool to hear the game turned out well, but I mainly play single-player and it doesn't sound like it's enough to be worth a purchase.  Going on my Gamefly queue though so I'll see if I'm wrong about that.

Quote:

This increase in difficulty also brings into play a substantial complaint: there are absolutely no checkpoints. While early levels are often quite short and not too difficult, later levels can take upwards of 20 minutes.

Will someone please teach Next Level Games about the concept of checkpoints?  I loved Luigi's Mansion 2 for the most part, but the later levels did become a slog and I haven't gone back to replay it due the lack of checkpoints.

Ain't nothing suspicious going on here. John really enjoyed the game. I think that he explains why very well in the review.

So uh, let's not go lobbying these "suspicions" about a web site run by volunteers that do this for fun.

PhilPhillip Stortzum, August 21, 2016

Quote from: NWR_Neal

Ain't nothing suspicious going on here. John really enjoyed the game. I think that he explains why very well in the review.

So uh, let's not go lobbying these "suspicions" about a web site run by volunteers that do this for fun.

I think we were both joking (or at least I was).

But seriously, "Oh no. Someone liked a game enough to give it a high score and provided reasoning behind it. OBVIOUSLY something suspicious is in play because the reviewer enjoyed a game that others have had a hard-on for crapping on since announcement."

KhushrenadaAugust 21, 2016

Quote from: NWR_Neal

Ain't nothing suspicious going on here. John really enjoyed the game. I think that he explains why very well in the review.

So uh, let's not go lobbying these "suspicions" about a web site run by volunteers that do this for fun.

Hmmm. Replying to slapdash unelaborated accusations about the review being somehow suspicious by stating there is nothing suspicious going on?


SUUUUUU-SPIcious! The conspiracy is real, I tell ya! Unless, of course, it isn't.

Mop it upAugust 21, 2016

Funnily enough, I wasn't suspicious until Neal's post.

Ian SaneAugust 22, 2016

I don't see a lot of reviews for this yet and I was shocked to see it's already been released.  So is this one of those situations where the publisher did not provide review copies?  That's usually not a good sign, typically in anticipation of poor word of mouth.

I think there are probably two approaches to reviewing this and they both have an audience:
1. How good is game on its own merits without the context of it's IP?
2. How good of a METROID game is this?

For me number 2 is what matters.  I'm not interested in Metroid games that don't play like Metroid games.  I never bought Hunters for that same reason and I'm also really not that interested in a multiplayer shooter on a handheld either for that matter.  This is probably not a poorly made game so 9 review is completely fair if the reviewer had a great time with it.  But I can also tell from the review that I wouldn't be interested in this game.

Quote from: Ian

I don't see a lot of reviews for this yet and I was shocked to see it's already been released.  So is this one of those situations where the publisher did not provide review copies?  That's usually not a good sign, typically in anticipation of poor word of mouth.

Review copies were provided. However, you can see the problem by looking at the time when the review went up (12:00am ET on Friday).

In Federation Force's case, I guess Nintendo figured the bad WOM was already baked in and it created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

RafaelDBSeptember 03, 2016

Once Again, another Terrible review from a Dumb website
New IGN everyone (only worse)

KhushrenadaSeptember 03, 2016

Quote from: RafaelDB

Once Again, another Terrible review from a Dumb website
New IGN everyone (only worse)

What's so terrible and dumb about the review? What is your reasoning for this stance?

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Metroid Prime: Federation Force Box Art

Genre Shooter
Developer Next Level Games
Players1 - 6

Worldwide Releases

na: Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Release Aug 19, 2016
PublisherNintendo
RatingTeen
jpn: Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Release Aug 25, 2016
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Release Sep 02, 2016
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
aus: Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Release Sep 03, 2016
PublisherNintendo
RatingParental Guidance
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