E3 2015 Hands-on Preview: Metroid Prime: Federation Force

Robert tests out the game’s Blast Ball mode and comes away impressed.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/19/2015 11:00 3 Comments     ShareThis

Let’s get to the biggest question everyone seems to have about this game: why is Metroid Prime in its title?

Watching the footage of Metroid Prime: Federation Force shown during the Nintendo Digital Event made the game appear about as far removed from any of Samus Aran’s previous outings as anything I’ve ever played. General consensus amongst fans seems to be much the same, as everyone expounding on Federation Force across the Internet is perplexed why Nintendo would arbitrarily attach the Metroid name to a game that has nothing to do with the franchise. In fairness, look hard enough and the connections are there. The armor that players wear is very reminiscent of what Galactic Federation soldiers wore in Metroid Prime 2 and 3. The squad of four in the trailer seem to be tackling an adult Sheegoth of some kind. I’m sure we’ll see more of these ties as Nintendo releases further glimpses of its gameplay, but if there’s one thing I can attest to that’s more important than the game’s title, it’s that Federation Force is really, really fun. First and foremost, it’s a 3DS game that finally scratches the first-person shooter itch that the console has had for years, a deficiency that I personally am thrilled to finally see being addressed. So while there’s little to tie Metroid Prime to Federation Force (at least, as of right now), there’s plenty of reason for fans to look forward to the game regardless, as it’s yet another creative take on multiplayer shooter titles, a genre that Nintendo is quickly carving a niche for itself.

Blast Ball was the focus of Federation Force‘s demo kiosks, where two teams of three went head to head. Breaking players into squads of gold versus indigo provided simple color designations that kept things clean and easy to follow, evoking the simplicity of Splatoon‘s good guys versus bad guys setup. Players are all suited in powered armor equipped with arm cannons and dropped into a large arena to do battle. Though this is a first-person shooter, the focus is not on attacking other players. Instead, the main objective is to shoot a huge, glowing ball into the other team’s goal. The ball is enormous, and each shot fired from the player’s arm cannon sends the sphere rolling toward the opposition, with the ball itself becoming something of a battering ram as it barrels forward! To be clear, just because attacking opponents isn’t a main objective doesn’t mean it should be avoided entirely; battling other players is an integral component of Blast Ball (thus making the ball’s offensive capabilities quite useful), but just don’t walk into the game expecting to spend every moment doing so.

Luckily, Nintendo has included a number of power-ups on the playing field to keep battles exciting and prevent repetition from setting in. Reminiscent of Mario Kart, these power-ups add an element of the unexpected and random to matches, temporarily boosting certain attributes or offering powers that will give players a brief edge over their opponents. From what I experienced there’s nothing like a Blue Shell to worry about, no instant K.O. that feels cheap, which means skill is valued over pure dumb luck in Blast Ball. The match I got to play was packed with drama, as the ball was in a perpetual state of tug of war between our two teams. Working cooperatively is essential to doing well in Blast Ball. Trying to go solo can have its benefits, especially if it’s to take out an enterprising foe that the rest of the team hasn’t noticed; aggressive opponents can get the ball moving toward the goal in a heartbeat, so keeping an eye open for those players and taking them out is very important. Beyond that, however, it’s smarter to try and help get the ball rolling where it needs to go. Shooting foes enough will make their armor break down, forcing a respawn that clears them from the battlefield and providing some much-needed breathing room. The entire match was intense, and after spending the last few weeks splattering ink on Wii U and wishing there also was an alternative type of shooter on 3DS, Federation Force has me pumped to finally get something in the same spirit of Splatoon on a handheld.

If there’s anything that Federation Force seems to be getting wrong, it’s in the graphics department. While it’s not an awful looking game, I’ve seen far more impressive 3DS titles. Blast Ball in Federation Force is visually underwhelming at this point in development. I’ll concede that it might be out of necessity, as Nintendo has online ambitions for this game and thus simpler assets might be essential to keeping the action flowing. Still, Mario Kart 7 and Super Smash Bros. (for the most part) run well online and haven’t sacrificed much from their visuals, so hopefully Nintendo can find a way to get the game looking sharper before launch. After all, the art direction isn’t bad, with a sort of cartoony, exaggerated take on the few Metroid elements that are present in this build of the game. It’s a nice departure from the usual armored space marines running around in other games, and fits with the general tone that Federation Force seems to be going for. It would be a shame to waste the design team’s hard work and give the game one more hurdle to have to jump in order to make a connection with players.

The debate over how “Metroid” Federation Force truly is won’t likely be settled any time soon, and it really ultimately isn’t even that important. Take solace in knowing that Nintendo is putting together something special with this game regardless of whatever name is in its title. I didn’t get a taste of the four-player co-op, but Blast Ball alone is a compelling multiplayer experience that takes aspects of Metroid Prime’s first-person gunplay and applies it to something new and different. It’s almost regrettable that Nintendo has attached this game to the Metroid series at all, because the confusion it’s creating right now is putting Federation Force at an unfair and unnecessary disadvantage. It’s a purely Nintendo concept, as it’s approachable, easy to learn and play, and (forgive me) a real blast. Splatoon has handily demonstrated that shooters still have plenty to offer players so long as they try to do something novel with the genre, and Federation Force is doing its best to further support that notion. We’ll be sure to keep everyone updated as more news hits about Federation Force as we inch toward its release, but try not to let the frustration of being denied a true Metroid game prevent showing the title any enthusiasm– if my time with the demo was any indication, it can’t get here fast enough.

3 Responses to “E3 2015 Hands-on Preview: Metroid Prime: Federation Force

  • 459 points
    Drew Ciccotelli says...

    I’m looking forward to it. I enjoyed Metroid Prime: Hunters for the DS and this looks like a good follow up with a cooperative approach rather than being a Quake/Unreal deathmatch inspired first person shooter.

    Thumb up 1
  • 1396 points
    penduin says...

    After seeing more of this game in action, I suspect I’ll have some real fun with it.

    I just really, REALLY wish it was a companion piece to Metroid Prime 4: Retro Shows Us What Wii U Can Do (working title). We got Pinball and Hunters when we knew Prime 3 was on the way. And at least those games had the decency to contain Samus. And upgrades. And exploration elements. …You know, “Metroid” stuff. One of ’em even contained Metroids! ;^)

    Thumb up 3
    • 459 points
      Drew Ciccotelli says...

      Remember how the N64 didn’t have a Metroid at all? We pulled through and then we got Prime. Not having Metroid is not that big of a deal at E3. If anything it would be worse for them to announce one then we have to wait for it for another three years.

      We all start to forget that E3 isn’t that big of a deal for Nintendo and the best news comes from when they have control. I know it’s hard to accept we aren’t going to see Samus this year but let’s trust that Nintendo puts the effort into any game they decided to put the word Metroid in front of.

      Thumb up 1

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