Review: Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS)

Force or farce? We crack into the latest adventure set in the Metroid universe!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 09/30/2016 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
It's Metroid Prime without Samus done right; great recreation of the look and feel of Samus's Retro Studios titles while establishing its own identity; wonderful production values; Blast Ball!; solid online and local co-op
Poison Mushroom for...
Controls are a little shaky; super-deformed characters will be divisive; the GF troops lack Samus's charisma

Metroid has been in a state of limbo ever since the debacle that was Other M hit store shelves. That game was divisive at best, repugnant at worst, with many fans crying foul in particular over the utterly bewildering characterization of Samus as a weak, unconfident shadow of her usual self. The wait between that game and a proper followup has been excruciating, which made swallowing the news of Metroid Prime: Federation Force all the harder. A new, first-person Metroid game taking place in the Prime universe… and Samus isn’t the star.

This seeming bait-and-switch by Nintendo, revealing a Metroid game after years between releases only for it to be a spin-off, rankled many. Honestly, who wouldn’t be a little annoyed, what with the sudden revelation that the wait for Samus’s return was going to be prolonged even further? Yet, while I can respect that annoyance, and even shared in a bit of it myself, the outright disdain some folks had for Federation Force before it even dropped was a bit much. The Blast Ball demo that was shown at E3 was a fun diversion, and if nothing else was an honest demonstration that the full game was going for a different tone than the series has been known for. Federation Force as a whole largely succeeds at doing just that; providing a fun, if imperfect, traipse through Samus’s world from a new point of view.


Federation Force is meant to showcase the Galactic Federation and an elite squad of troops designated to take command of advanced mech suits that mimic the firepower and abilities of Samus’s Power Suit, but at about twice the size. They’re more lumbering and bulky than Samus, and as a result the action here isn’t quite as limber and electric as previous Prime games. Not that the pace is crawling, mind; developer Next Level Games has instead found a means of mimicking but not copying Samus’s unique style of fighting and exploring in a way that’s faithful to the gestalt of the story they’re trying to tell. Players are free to twirl their 3DS systems in their hands using motion controls to aim their firepower, while a more traditional twin-stick layout is available to those with C-Stick peripherals or a New 3DS. The somewhat slower sensation of controlling the mech suits felt like a natural design choice, here. I did have some qualms with the sensitivity of the C-Stick on my New 3DS, and I never felt the motion controls quite worked perfectly, but overall Next Level Games did wonders with the more limited buttons of Nintendo’s portable console.

I’ve made no secret about this in the past, but I’ll say it again here: I’m not big on co-op in my games. I can appreciate when it’s done well, but the second I have to snag another person to play anything, I’m immediately turned off. Thankfully, Federation Force’s co-op is implemented perfectly; it’s there for those who want it, but can be ignored by those who don’t. Playing both ways, though, I can attest that fans of each style of play will be pleased. Exploration of the game’s setting, the Bermuda system, is broken into missions. These bite-sized chunks of sightseeing work well on a portable like 3DS, and whether I played locally, online, or on my own, it was a joy to work through each mission, racking up high scores and poking around every inch of every locale.


If there is a gripe to be had about co-op, I’d say it’s the usual one that fans and critics levy at Nintendo games of this ilk, which is to say there’s no voice chat online. It’s maddening when one wants to give orders in a flash and is instead relegated to hoping that a teammate will have the time to read a message while avoiding incoming enemy fire. Beyond this now typical Nintendo design sin, the actual gameplay online rarely if ever suffered during my play through, which is always a positive. The sound production in Federation Force is top notch, but while I won’t say the game’s graphics are anything less than great, I always feel like something is a bit off with Next Level Games’ visuals. There’s a washed out quality to some of the assets that creeps in here and there, and sometimes I feel like others are lacking detail. It’s a nit pick that I can concede might just be a “me” problem; again, overall Federation Force is a stunner, graphically.

The blasting of baddies is what one would expect of a Prime game; kinetic, grinding, and fun. The lack of proper scanning is a bit of a letdown, but lore and storytelling is peppered in through a number of different ways, and considering it’s not a proper Samus adventure anyway… well, suffice it to say the compromise here works. It was also great to be able to customize the mech via a weapon loadout between missions and the various paint jobs available (including ones unlocked with Amiibo). Rounded off with the competitive Blast Ball multiplayer mode, which plays a lot like soccer with arm cannons, and Federation Force brings a lot of gameplay to the table– which is especially impressive given how hard it can be to find games stuffed to the gills with content straight out of the box, these days.


The love and care that Next Level Games put into Federation Force is evident throughout. It’s lush with detail, offering gameplay that is evocative of the Prime series while still establishing its own identity. The game makes no attempt to pretend it isn’t a spin-off of the Metroid series, and I think that if fans can look beyond their own desire for another Samus outing and embrace Federation Force for what it is, they’ll find a very respectful new take on a beloved formula. This is a portable Metroid that has been meticulously designed for the platform that it’s on. The control schemes might not be perfect, but the gameplay doesn’t suffer from it, and I kept coming back until I’d made my way through every mission. I will say that the game suffers from a lack of a compelling lead; the marines are pretty much ciphers, and after spending all these years with a memorable character like Samus, I found them lacking. I will conclude by saying, though, that if you’re looking for Samus in this game, well… no one ever said she doesn’t show up at all…

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