Back at E3 2015, Nintendo’s digital event turned a lot of heads with some interesting game reveals. Star Fox Zero, for instance, was a hit, and it shared the spotlight with the fascinating Super Mario Maker. Some people even got all hot and bothered about Fire Emblem Fates and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. One game that didn’t get a very good reception was Metroid Prime: Federation Force; as usual in our hobby, a sizable chunk of people made asses out of themselves pitching a tantrum about how terrible the game looked. Rabble, rabble, rabble!
Hey, I don’t want to lump myself in with the undesirable elements of gaming, but…well, sometimes even undesirables are right. Federation Force isn’t great and it leaves one wishing they had a “real” Metroid game to play.
So here’s a new one: a Metroid game where you’re not controlling Samus! Instead you’re placed in the combat boots of a member of the titular Federation Force, who is in turn placed in the cockpit of a giant robot suit called a Mech. It’s really “giant” in more of a theoretical sense, though, because the Mech doesn’t really feel all that huge or powerful while you’re driving it and the game’s environments tend to be human-sized; maybe the Federation Force members are part of a really tiny race of aliens? Anyway, you’re in a Mech and you’ll use it to accomplish various missions from the Federation Force.
These largely amount to clomping around in short stages, blasting whatever you’re told to blast and heading to extraction when you’re done. So there’s another new one: a Metroid game without any real Metroidvania elements. The Mech you start with is pretty much the Mech you’ll have, though you can find equippable Mods during missions that can slightly alter your capabilities. These form the core of Federation Force’s “progression,” such as it were; don’t expect massive changes or anything.
Really, not expecting much is kind of central to the Federation Force experience. With Tri Force Heroes, Nintendo took an interesting concept – multiplayer Zelda – and ran with it, producing one of the more innovative games we’ve seen on the 3DS. Meanwhile, Federation Force is just a pretty standard Metroid-themed shooter. None of the stages are especially inspiring and the plot probably isn’t going to keep you playing. Stages have fairly Metroid-y puzzles to mess around with which help spice things up slightly, but if you don’t have a full team of players they can become a little tedious since they’re often designed for having four people around to share the work.
Combat in particular feels fairly weak. As I pointed out to a friend while playing, it’s interesting in the context of Metroid that your character is so much less powerful than Samus even though they’re riding around in a supposedly giant robot. Your most basic weapon is little more than a peashooter that all but requires you to use charge attacks to get anything done, but even charging feels like it takes too long.
Meanwhile, there are special weapons you can equip before each mission, like elemental missiles and various flavors of explosive. The problem is that you’re strictly limited in how much ammo you can carry for these and you’ll almost certainly run out early on if you put them to any real use; this also damages the mod system, since ammo capacity-boosting mods feel vastly superior to most other options. Targeting foes and blasting at their weak points could have probably been a good time if more thought had been put into the basics of combat, but as it stands doing so feels like a chore – and it’s a solid chunk of Federation Force’s gameplay, so that doesn’t bode well.
Naturally, Federation Force is a multiplayer-focused game, and much like Tri Force Heroes it’s practically a requirement if you’re going to have any fun here. Like that game, if you don’t have some friends to get together with on voice chat or in person, you’re going to have a bad time. Typically games that do this sort of thing boast slightly lower prices, making them an easier sell to your game-playing pals, but not here, no sir; Federation Force is $40, cupcake, so get that wallet out. Hilariously, large groups of players end up being a little difficult to manage at times, since the player models are (relatively) enormous and it’s easy to get hung up in hallways and such. As mentioned, you never really feel like you’re riding around in a giant battle suit, but you sure can cause traffic jams as if you were.
Look, I hate to agree with the Internet at large about…pretty much anything, really, but in this case the peanut gallery has pretty much nailed it: Metroid Prime: Federation Force isn’t much of a Metroid game, and honestly it’s not really much of a game at all. If you’re hurting for a multiplayer game on the 3DS, you clearly aren’t looking hard enough, since Monster Hunter Generations, Super Smash Bros. and even Tri Force Heroes fill that void nicely. In that environment, Federation Force needed to do a lot to stand out. It doesn’t, so skip it.