Developer: Next Level Games
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Metroid Prime: Federation Force
was first met at E3 2014 with a very negative response from Nintendo fans. Many Nintendo loyalists were upset that the newest entry in the Metroid Prime franchise wouldn’t feature Samus Aran at all, but instead would place players in the role of a simple, Chibi-inspired Federation Force soldier. It also rubbed some fans the wrong way that the game was a first-person cooperative online shooter and not a 2D side-scroller in classic Metroid fashion. Despite the negative fan reception, I eagerly looked forward to the game as one of the first true first-person shooters designed from the ground up for the New 3DS XL.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force is rated Teen for fantasy violence. Beyond simply shooting Space Pirates and other enemy creatures, there is very little questionable content in this game.
After extensive time with Metroid Prime: Federation Force since its August 19th, 2016 launch, I can safely say that many of the initial complaints from fans are unfounded. As the first real first-person shooter designed to take advantage of the new thumb nub on the recently released New 3DS and New 3DS XL, the game can be intimidating right out of the gate thanks to extensive options for both single and multiplayer modes.
To start, players can tackle a campaign that features over 20 missions with varying objectives and gameplay. These missions vary in length from 30 minutes to an hour depending on difficulty and number of players. The campaign can be enjoyed solo but really shines when played locally or online with three other players. As later missions can be very difficult in solo play it is highly recommended to jump online and play this game with others. The game also features a PVP mode in the form of Blast Ball. Blast Ball is Nintendo’s take on Rocket League and features two teams of three Federation Force Marines pushing a large ball around a sports arena while attempting to take out opponents and force the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
Perhaps the biggest flaw with Federation Force is overcoming the two cumbersome default control options. The first features gyroscope aiming by moving the 3DS itself in the direction you wish to aim. The second control option is more like modern shooters and allows for aiming to be mapped to the thumb nub on the New 3DS/3DS XL and was much more comfortable for me. Shooting is handled via the shoulder buttons with R firing the player character’s main cannon and ZR firing the currently selected special weapon. The L trigger is used to jump/hover which is useful for jumping across large chasms and reaching higher areas. ZL is used to lock onto enemies which also engages a free aim mode that allows for even more precision during firefights. A third hidden option is available which combines these two control schemes into one and allows for free aiming via the gyroscope when locked onto an enemy. This was my preferred control method and was most comfortable on my hands for extended play sessions.
Combat in Metroid Prime: Federation Force is surprisingly fluid and enjoyable. At times up to six enemies will be attacking you at once and players can choose to fire standard or charged shots from their primary blaster or fired any of a dozen varied secondary weapons ranging from missiles to health canisters used to heal the player or their teammates. There is no melee option though with the available weapons and interchangeable mods that are available combat is varied enough that each player in a session can serve a different role in combat.
ods are scattered around the environment and awarded after completion of a mission. Based on a player’s performance he/she will receive first pick of the available mods offered after the mission. Perhaps the strongest thing about Federation Force is the way in which these mods are hidden within the levels. Some are found simply by blasting through an ice wall while others require seeking out a specific type of special ammo to open a door to the hidden mod. One such instance in particular had me hopping on top of crates, a la the new DOOM, to find a secret corridor leading to some powerups and a new mod. For Nintendo to implement a gameplay element that hearkens back to one of the best things about the newest DOOM title shows that they are still committed to making excellent games that can be enjoyed by players of all ages and that they are still in tune with what is so great about the industry.
Aside from mods, players can also unlock additional paint jobs for their characters exosuit/mech. After the first few missions I unlocked an Eagle paint job which had an almost Native American look to it once equipped on my character. Other than these unlockable skins, players can also change their character’s voice and armor color which also changes the color of their gun’s hud in the game.
Again, Blast Ball is Metroid Prime: Federation Force’s version of Rocket League. In this online multiplayer mode, two teams compete in a soccer-like arena as they attempt to score a goal on their opponents by pushing a large destructive ball around the arena while trying to disable their other team. Gameplay in this mode works in much the same way it does in Rocket League as both teams work to slowly push the ball down the field toward their opponent’s goal. However, power ups are also available which allow for additional speed and firepower. There is also a power up that temporarily disables the entire opposing team opening a small window of opportunity to score a goal. The one problem with both online modes in Federation Force however, is the lack of true voice chat. While other 3DS titles have had voice chat, Federation Force instead uses a system of pre-determined text responses much like those available in Rocket League. Simple commands like “Thanks,” “Let’s Go,” and “Help” can be mapped to a direction on the D-Pad to quickly call out for a revive in co-op or to issue commands to teammates in Blast Ball.
While the overall story in Metroid Prime: Federation Force is that you are a strike team tasked with picking up the missions that Samus Aran doesn’t have the time for, Samus is mentioned multiple times throughout the story which shows that Nintendo is aware of the popularity of the character and players’ desires to once again step into the shoes of the legendary heroine. Each mission has its own contained story which loosely ties into later missions. For example, some missions take place in an Egyptian-looking temple and require you to solve puzzles to access an artifact that the Federation Force is trying to obtain before the Space Pirates do. Another mission requires you to cage four large beasts while fighting off Space Pirates and investigating the resurgence of Pirate activity in the area. This almost episodic format to the storytelling in the game is perfect for Nintendo’s handheld as it allows for short pick up and play sessions while on the go.
Overall, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is excellent for what it is: a first-person shooter designed specifically to take advantage of the New Nintendo 3DS hardware. However, clunky controls with a steep learning curve and some experimentation/customization hold back would could be an almost perfect experience. Also a lack of true voice chat detracts a bit from the online experience but doesn’t make much difference in the overall scheme of things as the gameplay is fun and varied enough that most players can figure out what to do based on in game prompts and the text chat options that are available. Fans of first-person shooters looking for a great action title for 3DS should pick up Federation Force for their 3DS library as it effectively stands on its own as part of the Metroid Prime franchise.
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The Bottom Line
Metroid Prime: Federation Force is the go-to first-person shooter experience on 3DS. Offering something for everyone, Federation Force has a lengthy campaign, online co-op play, as well as a PVP Blast Ball mode. For fans of first-person shooters this is a must-own game for 3DS as it is by far the best in the genre on Nintendo's aging handheld.