Nintendo has been fighting an uphill battle with Metroid Prime: Federation Force for a little over a year. Originally revealed at E3 2015, the title has been under constant bombardment across-the-board by both Nintendo and Metroid fans.
Part of the rush of unpopular opinions includes the fact that the last, true Metroid game – Metroid Prime 3: Corruption – released nearly ten years ago on the Nintendo Wii. Understandably, fans of the beloved series were vying for a main line game, not a spin-off.
However, putting aside those grievances as a Metroid fan, I’m more than willing to concede that Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a good game – simply not a good Metroid game. While the game notoriously lacks the elements that make Metroid a distinct and notable series in Nintendo’s portfolio, taken as a standalone work, developer Next Level Games has created a very experimental and often rewarding FPS.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a self-described spinoff of the Metroid series; while the games typically focus on notorious bounty hunter Samus Aran, this title highlights the oft-silent accomplishments of the Galactic Federation. Following the events of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the Galactic Federation has invested and developed Project Golem, ultimately leading to the development of powerful mechs that will bring Space Pirates to their knees. With the hulking robots in hand, the Federation takes to the Bermuda System.
While that, in itself, sounds like an amazing jumping-off point for series fans, the result is anything but. The Metroid series is notorious for taking on darker tones, stuff that is far beyond the pale especially for Nintendo’s catalog of happy-go-lucky titles. However, none of this translates to Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Be it the chibi style, team-based structure, or cryptic dialogue, the game ultimately feels like the “Pup Named Scooby Doo” to Metroid‘s “Scooby Doo.”
This isn’t the only Metroid mainstay thrown out the window — exploration, discovery and collection play only a remote part in Federation Force, your character rarely feels like they are getting stronger, series’ enemies feel weirdly proportioned, and playing alone feels discouraged. The amalgamation of all of these qualities will likely disinterest fans of the series that play the Metroid titles for those specific features.
But all of that isn’t to say that Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a bad game. After getting used to the somewhat stilted controls on the 3DS, Federation Force ends up being a fairly unique shooting title that experiments in all the right places.
After starting the Campaign, players are tasked with missions within the Bermuda system. And, while there were only three different environments, each mission felt substantially different from the last. While it would have been enough for Next Level Games to make each episode feel like a shooting gallery, players are introduced to puzzle, escort, stealth-based missions, all of which shake up the formula quite well.
In each level, players will be tasked to chase high scores to earn up to three medals per mission. The scores are based on how much damage you are able to do (charged shots net you 10x more points than normal shots), whether you can complete the mission within a given time, and whether you complete the option objective. The high score chasing adds some replayability to a fairly brief campaign — rarely you will be able all three medals on the first try.
While (as mentioned above) exploration doesn’t play a large role, there are hidden mods to find in each level. Mods let you alter your mech’s attributes, making weapons more effective, strengthening your armor, or perhaps giving you the ability to regenerate auxiliary ammo. Though dying will sometimes destroy the mods, the ease of collecting (and perhaps grinding for) them generally renders it as an empty threat.
While the game is largely meant to be played in a group, it is serviceable for solely single player if you so desire. The missions themselves don’t get any easier for single player gamers, however the Lone Wolf mod will double the damage you are able to produce. Additionally, players will be able to fill their team with drone-like companions that will shoot enemies from your side. While the game will typically be more difficult (in that it will take more time to complete a mission and there is no one to help you out of a fail-state), optional objectives are usually much easier to complete when running solo.
Meanwhile, I had a blast playing with random online players. Though there isn’t any party chat (besides Rocket League-esque chat options assigned to the D-Pad), cooperation and dynamic gameplay was often achieved between the group of random strangers. And despite the cooperative nature of the game, players are still encouraged to chase high scores — the player with the highest score will get first dibs on the communally found mods in each level.
At the end of the day, while I can recommend single player, the game feels made for multiplayer and is ultimately more fun in that mode. Luckily, Nintendo has provided means to not only team up with friends, but to join up in random teams with unknown players. Worth noting, while I’ve only played this on pre-embargo servers, the game felt fluid and I never experienced connection issues, even when in a large party.
The game is far from perfect though — one of the more egregious elements are the controls themselves. With the lack of a second control stick, players rely on the Circle Pad for most of their aiming and movement. Using the New Nintendo 3DS strangely doesn’t seem to fix the problem, as the C-Stick feels too rigid. In the end, I was left using a modicum of gyroscopic controlling. Within the first set of levels, you will get used to the control scheme but I could never say it feels good to play.
Also, for those who aren’t too interested in high score chasing, the game feels notoriously short. I’m curious how quickly the game could be run on solo, but each mission themsevles take no longer than 10 or 15 minutes to complete.
The packaged in “Blast Ball” mode is a nice addition to the mix, but is very unlikely to maintain a large audience. A Metroid version of Rocket League, Galactic Federation mechs take each other on in 3-v-3 robot-soccer games. With my time playing it, Blast Ball felt extremely slow paced yet chaotic in comparison to most other multiplayer titles.
All-in-all, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a strange beast. Typically, I recommend controversial games to fans of the series and genre, yet Federation Force is the complete opposite. While fans will likely be disappointed in what has become of their beloved series, newcomers (especially those who come with friends) will find a lot of fun.
Hidden underneath the wonky control scheme and irreverent use of the source material, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is overall a good game, held back by limitations of the console as well as bizarre design choices. Fans of FPS’s will likely enjoy not only the experimentation the game has to offer, but also the fun you will find with friends.