Metroid games, like any of Nintendo’s first party gems really, carry with them the weight of expectation. There’s the expectation that you’ll be dropped off on a lonely planet, left alone with a sense of dread and isolation as you blast your way through space pirates. There’s the expectation that you’ll grow in power as you unlock new abilities on your traversals, using your newfound abilities to carve through new paths as you backtrack through previously blocked off areas.

If those are your expectations for Metroid Prime: Federation Force, then its best you temper them. This latest space adventure from Nintendo isn’t a Metroid game in much other than name. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Taking many of its cues from another co-operative Nintendo spin-off, The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a co-operative game that’s built on the mechanics of its namesake.

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Instead of vast worlds to explore as Metroid’s stalwart heroine Samus Aran, players are confined to small, bite-sized missions across three planets. Playing as members of the Galactic Federation, an interstellar peacekeeping unit (that, like most peacekeeping units tend to do so using excessive violence), players need to shoot things, solve a few light puzzles and face off against a few bosses. For most of the game, the super-deformed members of the force will be snug inside their mechs, making the job of dispatching with the game’s myriad enemies monumentally easier. For the very few times that you’re outside of your tin can, you’re decidedly squishier.

The game’s 20-odd missions take place across three distinct planets. Excelcion is a frozen Tundra, Bion is a desert wasteland and Talvania is a gaseous and toxic planet. Each is home to a specific set of fauna that you’ll have to shoot at. Missions are varied and largely interesting. Trapping four hulking ice titans in cages is a lot more fun than your usual FPS fare.

 

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The game plays similarly to Metroid Primes of the past, so at least as far as controls are concerned, players will feel right at home. Utilising the same sort of lock-on system you’ll find in those games, targeting enemies is a breeze. Press a button, lock on to your nearest enemy, and you’re able to strafe around them like a ballet dancer. With guns. It ditched the stylus controls found in Metroid Prime Hunters on the DS, replacing them instead with a gyro-based aiming system that made me want to claw my eyes out. If you’ve played Splatoon, you’ll know exactly what to expect; move about with the 3DS’ analogue stick, while using the gyroscope to aim. It’s a control scheme I found awkward and cumbersome, but others swear by it.

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Thankfully, I have a New3DS, so I opted for controls that are reminiscent of traditional shooters, using the nipply C-stick as a second analogue stick. You can also set it up to use the gyroscope for fine-tuning your aim, allowing you to pull off headshots with ease. So you’re not just firing one gun all the time, you’ve got access to new weaponry that you’re able to rotate through your secondary weapon. Flame shots will melt ice in addition to doing damage, missiles will deliver a deathly payload, while a nanobot shot will repair your or your co-op partners’ mechs. Before each mission, you’re able to customise your loadout to a degree, loading up as much secondary ordnance as your carry limit allows.

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To make everything a little more exciting, you can find mods for your Mech hidden throughout levels, proffering you additional perks like increased damage output, an increased carry limit and auto-revival. There’s even a much-needed mod that’s only available if you’re playing the game solo, which doubles your damage output while halving the damage you take. It seems like cheating at first, but around half way through the game there’s a significant difficulty curve. It’s made all the worse by a lack of a checkpointing system, which means that an untimely and unfortunate death means restarting. While most of the levels are quick ten-minute affairs, some of them are especially brought down by the lack of checkpoints. When you kill a difficult, time-intensive midboss, only to face an even more difficult section shortly afterwards, death becomes frustrating as you repeat the cycle, over and over again.

Thankfully, that difficulty is mitigated to a large degree by playing the game with others. It’s easy enough to jump in to games with other players online, provided you’ve unlocked the stage you want to join. You can even play with friends by creating a lobby for friends only, but you can’t directly invite others from within the game, so you’ll have to organise your co-op sessions externally.

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There is an unfortunate lack of voice communications within the game, which does dampen the online experience a little. Communication is possible only through a series of predetermined, canned phrases, which is functional, but doesn’t help with strategising as much as it should. Of course, this is a Nintendo game so its omission isn’t exactly unexpected. You can also play the game as a local 4 player co-op experience, but all four players will need their own copy of the game.

It shouldn’t take you too long to work through the game’s missions, but there’s impetus to play through them all again. Some of the mods are quite well hidden, so it’ll take careful scouring to find them all. There are also sub quests on each level. Simple things, like taking out all of a specific creature or finishing the level within a specified time add a dash longevity.

Included in the package is the previously available 3DS freebie Metroid Blast Ball, which pits two teams of three against each other in a game of galactic football. Sort of. It’s a bit like Rocket League, only instead of using vehicles to propel a ball in to the opposite net, you’re using your mech’s blasters. It has all the depth of a puddle, and isn’t at all fun, so its easy to understand why its release last year – as the first glimpse of this new Metroid – left fans with very little in the way of expectation.

 

Last Updated: August 23, 2016

Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Summary
Metroid Prime: Federation Force isn't really Metroid game, then. But if you can set aside your preconceptions of what Metroid game is, you'll find a more than competent first person shooter that’s fun to play - even if it is let down by some odd design decisions and a lack of checkpoints.
7.0
Metroid Prime: Federation Force was reviewed on New Nintendo 3DS
64 / 100

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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