Review: Metroid Prime: Federation Force (Nintendo 3DS)

Metroid Prime: Federation Force: Official GBAtemp Review

Nintendo 3DS 6,125 views 10 likes 48 comments
Reviewed by Alex McAuliffe, posted Aug 22, 2016, last updated Aug 22, 2016
Aug 22, 2016
  • Release Date (NA): August 19, 2016
  • Release Date (EU): September 2, 2016
  • Release Date (JP): August 25, 2016
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Next Level Games
  • Genres: First-person shooter
  • ESRB Rating: Teen
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
The first Metroid game in 6 years, does Federation Force successfully shake up the formula while still satisfying long-time Metroid fans?
Alex McAuliffe

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Federation! Assemble!

As controversial as games can come, Federation Force was certainly not the game anyone expected to be unveiled at E3 last year. The backlash in the community was and still is quite apparent, as numerous petitions to cancel the game gathered thousands of signatures. Nintendo remained steadfast, entreating fans to give the game a chance; and here we are.

Federation Force takes a different approach to the Metroid Prime formula. For those who don't know, the Metroid Prime trilogy focused on exploration, with a generally dark and encroaching atmosphere. Federation Force takes a different approach; it follows members of a squad of space heroes known as the Federation Force, whose duty is to keep the universe in check by disposing of planetary threats. Up to four players go on specialized missions, usually about ten minutes long, with a focus on puzzles leading up to a large fight at the end.

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I did have major problems with the matchmaking. It was rare that four players actually joined the match, which made me feel like I was losing part of the experience by not having all four players available. Too often, players would drop out of matches or simply stop moving, which puts other players at a disadvantage since the missions tailor to the number of players at the start. Connection errors were abundant. I imagine local multiplayer would be a better experience, but obviously I didn't have 3 other people with a copy of the game to play with. Playing solo is no fun at all, as it simply feels like a cut down, exploration-free version of Metroid Prime. However, I'm easily willing to forgive that as the title is clearly not designed to be a singleplayer experience. Solo players do get a boost to help them complete the missions, which is a big help in that area.

Mission Improvable

Most missions follow a specific and recognizable pattern. A little intro video plays, and after a short introductory puzzle, five minutes of short battles with small puzzles follow. Then, at the end comes a boss fight. Speaking of, the boss fights are mostly fantastic. They're reminiscent of some of the fights in Metroid Prime, and are even better than those given that you have four other people to coordinate with. Cooperation is a must to get things done right. The best moments came about in boss fights, when a teammate heals you up mid-battle, or when a tough monster finally goes down. It's co-op done right.

I also loved the MOD customization system. After a mission, players (in order of highest to lowest score) get the chance to pick a mod that was collected in battle. These mods can be added to the mech suit before battle. Up to three can be equipped at a time; they are basically little augments which, for example, revive you once you die, or increase missile damage. It provides an element of strategy without being too heavy-handed and difficult to understand. Similarly, the secondary weapon system works well. Every player has their basic attack, but weapons like missiles, repair capsules, and fire blasts can be customized according to a weight limit before battle. These can be quickly swapped between with buttons, and bring a little more depth and strategy to mission preparation.

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An obvious flaw is the lack of voice chat. It's a mind-boggling omission in a co-op focused multiplayer game. This isn't Mario Kart 8 where no real strategy is involved, and this isn't Splatoon where the matches are only three minutes long. Pre-determined emotes are available to assign to the D-pad but it's not enough to get around the awkward moments where everyone is trying to do something different, especially in puzzle sections and particularly complicated boss battles. Frankly, it completely hinders the co-operative nature of the game and turns it into more of a translation test.

My biggest complaint is the overall lack of variety in the missions. As I said before, they all follow a specific pattern, with the exceptions standing out from the rule. After each mission, continuing to play seems like a less and less attractive option. The combat is great, as I already described, but the puzzles are halfhearted attempts at injecting some fake variety into the formula which falls flat on its face. Half the time you'll be matched with players who already completed the mission and are just collecting ranks, which completely ruins the puzzle. The other half of players are people who can't tell left from right and seem to want to mess up everything you do whether or not it involves them. Other co-operative games have ways of getting over this problem, but due to the lack of voice chat it's completely impossible to communicate with these people. Instead, the solutions are spoon-fed to the players in an attempt to make up for this lack of communication.

Mighty Morphin' Mechs

Standard 3DS-grade graphics are in order for Federation Force. Not owning a New 3DS, the 3D was near impossible to use considering that it's natural to move your head a bit in an FPS game with gyro aiming, which is the only control scheme unless you have a New 3DS, in which case you can use the C-stick for aiming, or a Circle Pad Pro. I didn't have a major problem with the controls; in fact, I think the gyro aiming worked quite well. The control stick simply strafes and does not change the aim, but similar to the original Metroid Prime, if you hold down R then the gyro aiming is enabled. While it didn't work so well on the Gamecube due to its strange single-stick arrangement, it works quite well on the 3DS, since moving and aiming with the gyro is quite easy to accomplish. Targets can be locked onto with L, and from there you can strafe and sidestep around dangers and aim in different locations by holding R. It's a nice control scheme, and thankfully includes the C-stick option for players who dislike gyro aiming.

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I was a little disappointed with the music, or lack thereof, as the Metroid prime games have previously featured deeply engrossing soundtracks. There wasn't much to be heard other than the far too loud SFX volume and the occasional generic intense boss battle theme. Otherwise, the presentation was decent overall, with intuitive menus and management systems, and decent graphics to boot.

Launch Trailer

Verdict
Pros
+ Great combat system
+ Strategic customization
+ Tight controls
Cons
- Boring, repetitive missions
- Poor soundtrack
- Lack of voice chat
- Badly designed puzzles
7 Presentation
I wasn't impressed nor disappointed with the graphics, it being a portable game, however the soundtrack was all too nonexistent. Otherwise, the menu and character designs were decent.
6 Gameplay
While the controls and combat are spot-on, especially for a portable game, they can't make up for the repetitive puzzles and overall lack of variety in the missions. A lack of voice chat greatly takes away from the cooperative value of the title.
7 Lasting Appeal
There's a good number of missions to unlock and complete, and medals to collect on each, with some unlockable costumes. Points are taken off for a lack of variety.
6.8
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
An emphasis on bad puzzles and a lack of real communication turns Federation Force's focus away from where it should be: tough battles and strategic customization. It's not the game that most people were looking for, and it's certainly not flawless as a standalone title, but there's a lot it does well. Ambitious but ultimately underwhelming, the title unfortunately emphasizes the parts of itself which are the most problematic.
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