Game Title: Metroid Prime Federation Force
Developer: Next Level Games
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
Download: 9,781 Blocks
NA Availability: Retail | Digital Download
EU Availability: Retail | Digital Download
Metroid started off as a side-scrolling platformer, but a lot of today’s Metroid fans recognize it as a first-person shooter. I also recognize it as such. While Metroid Prime was born in 2002 on the Nintendo Gamecube, my entry to the franchise was on the Nintendo DS handheld, in the form of Metroid Prime: Hunters. After enjoying that game, I went back and played the original games to experience what came before.
As far as handhelds go, I was always hoping that they would continue what they started with Hunters and make another handheld FPS Metroid game. While I wouldn’t call Hunters the absolute peak of the series, it provided a fun FPS experience for the original DS that could easily be used to make something more doable on their current handheld, the 3DS.
What we did get was something that fans did not expect and that many vocal fans made it clear they did not want. A Metroid FPS has released on the Nintendo 3DS and I’ve finally obtained a copy to play and review. Here is my review of the FPS game, Metroid Prime: Federation Force!
The story of Federation Force takes place after the events of Metroid Prime 3. Instead of playing as bounty hunter Samus Aran, you play as a Marine of the Federation Marine Corp. After getting through training, you are sent out on various intelligence and investigation missions in the galaxy, collecting artifacts about ancient cultures and fighting off Space Pirates that are found in various parts of the galaxy.
The biggest critique from the userbase about Federation Force is that you don’t play as Samus Aran like you do in all other Metroid games. However, I feel that a bigger problem is the story, itself. Each mission shows itself as its own little thing that’s going on in the galaxy, but the story really never hits home outside of the times when Samus shows up for some part of some mission. But there’s really no overall gigantic plot point that really grips you into feeling it’s a good story.
I think this is mostly because Federation Force and Hunters are both just supposed to be used to set up a possible Metroid Prime 4, setting the basis for Samus as well as the basis for the Federation Marines, speculating that they would be working together on a far grander scale once Prime 4 is developed and released, be it on the 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Wii U, or another system entirely.
Somewhat its own thing, Federation Force is what is called a Co-Op First-Person Shooting game. At its heart, it’s a first-person shooter like other Prime games, but it has a particularly strong focus on Co-Operative play, much like how Hunters was primarily focused on Deathmatch-like play. But I’ll go more into that in a bit as I do have a good bit to say regarding that focus.
Progressing through the game is a matter of doing the tutorial and tackling missions. In regards to missions, you travel through a number of planets and you will have a specific set of missions to tackle on those planets. Most of the time, these missions will be made available all at once, allowing you to complete them in any order you choose. And once you complete them all, new story events will spawn and the next set of missions will appear, and the process starts over until all 22 missions the game has to offer are cleared.
When you go through each mission, you’ll be running around in FPS fashion inside a mech loaded with weapons. You can fire off weapons and sub-weapons at enemies, exit the mech (in a very Fallout 4 Power Armor-like fashion) to navigate tighter stealth areas, but all in all, you’re going to be doing a lot of puzzle solving above all else. While an FPS would make you think you would mindlessly be shooting constant enemies, Federation Force surprises in that it is as much a puzzle game as it is a first-person shooting game.
And we have some typical modern FPS elements like hidden items in the form of Mods. Mods are enhancements you can equip to your mech to give you special abilities, like more damage, automatically reviving after dying, or quicker recoil from sub-weapons you can find and equip.
Aside from Campaign Missions, you also have Blast Ball and Multiplayer that you can take part in. Blast Ball is a soccer-like game where players run around a field, shooting at a large orb, trying to get it into a score area on the opponent’s side of the field. But as I said before, imagine it like soccer but with FPS mechanics with shooting the ball instead of kicking it. And Multiplayer lets you do Co-Op missions with other players, local or over the net.
And that Co-Op focus is where things start to showcase themselves. Federation Force is clearly meant to be played with friends helping you. The first 2 mission sets are easy to navigate by yourself, but once you get around Mission 10 or so, things get substantially more difficult. Many missions are clearly set up specifically so that it will be incredibly hard to complete them without Co-op. They are beatable, but many of them are crazy hard because of the timing available to you in those missions. If you plan to play this game solo, take advice from me and don’t. You’ll have a bad time.
And that focus is what I most did not like about the game. I’m a night owl and am awake when many people in my country are asleep, so whenever I went to play the game and found that I needed Co-Op, very few people were around to help me. So I toughed it out and did the campaign solo, and ended up hating a lot of missions because of it. I can understand Nintendo’s wish to encourage co-operative play, but you shouldn’t develop a game and make it incredibly hard to play solo, especially a first-person shooting game.
Now, the length of the game is also something to make note of. There are 22 missions to play in the game (and Hard Mode once you beat the game). It took me around 15 minutes to finish each mission. So not accounting for replaying missions in case you do Co-op, the game should last you at least 5-6 hours, and most likely will last longer unless you never fail any of the missions. That’s a pretty decent amount of time for an FPS game, so I have no complaints there.
Controls are pretty intuitive for the game and allows for an easy way to play, whether you are using an older 3DS or a New 3DS. Obviously, the New 3DS allows for traditional dual analog FPS controls with the Circle Pad moving you and the C Stick moving your aim. However, if you use an Old 3DS or a 2DS, it’s just as easy. On those models, you hold R while moving and can use the Gyro features to tilt the system to move your aim. The Gyro feature works really well and, in my opinion, works even better than the New 3DS C Stick aiming.
Now aside from that. The basic control scheme goes: Circle Pad to move, L to lock onto a nearby enemy, R to enter Manual Aim mode, B to fire and hold for a charge shot, X to cycle through items/subweapons, Y to fire/use items and subweapons, and A for interacting with terminals and other puzzle-related stations in the field.
The controls are something I really liked because they made New 3DS players have their own traditional control scheme, but the Gyro aiming makes it easy no matter what model of the system you have.
Graphically, no real complaints. The game has a very chibi-like design, but the graphics work well. The actual graphics themselves look nice. There are occasional jagged edges on some models but for a 3DS game, it looks quite nice.
I can’t say any part of the soundtrack really jumped out at me, but I can’t say I hated it, either. The music is what it is.
Performance gets a thumbs-up from me. Load times are nice and short and the frame-rate stays nice and steady from start to finish. It’s a well-optimized shooting game for the 3DS.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force isn’t quite the Hunters sequel I wanted, but it’s something I’m glad to take. While the story never quite hits the mark and there’s far too much focus on co-op play that makes it hard to actually play and finish by yourself, the overall experience is pretty nice, with a good variety of missions, customization options with paint job and mods, and a well-optimized presentation. It’s definitely worth a look for FPS and 3DS fans.