Metroid Prime Federation Force has already been pronounced as ineffective and terrible, its very existence insulting to the franchise it purports to be a part of, before it has even released, by a fanbase that has pronounced itself judge, jury, and executioner. It was an unfair position for a game to be in- it was going up against the harshest of all critics: the fans.
The situation was going to be exacerbated if the game turned out to be too bad (in which case said fans would feel vindicated and get even more vocal), or if it turned out to be too good- in which case it would fade away into obscurity thanks to the antipathy of a fanbase that was not willing to give it much of a chance.
In which case, I suppose it is a good thing that Metroid Prime: Federation Force turned out neither too good, nor too bad. It just… is.
"The controls, for movement and aiming – the two areas where you would expect there to have been the most number of issues, given that this game is on the 3DS, a platform that does not necessarily lend itself to shooters – both work surprisingly well."
Developed by Next Level Games, who were also responsible for Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon, Punch-Out!! Wii, and Mario Strikers Charged, Metroid Prime: Federation Force plays like a perfectly serviceable team based first person shooter. The controls, for movement and aiming – the two areas where you would expect there to have been the most number of issues, given that this game is on the 3DS, a platform that does not necessarily lend itself to shooters – both work surprisingly well. Controls for movement and aiming are great (on the New 3DS, you can aim using the C stick too, to replicate a traditional dual analog control setup), and they facilitate some exciting play, unlike the other Metroid Prime games, which, save for their migration to the Wii, had some obtuse controls that led to slow, tank like controls.
Federation Force makes other concessions to being a shooter, too- the Metroid series is known for starting its players off with just a bunch of basic weapons, tasking them to find other ones in the game world, and using them to reach previously inaccessible places. Federation Force, instead, starts you out with a full fledged arsenal to begin with, and lets you pick and choose your loadout before each mission. Which brings us to the third major change Federation Force makes, which is its mission based structure. The final change, and arguably the biggest one, of course, is that it is designed to be a co-op shooter, designed for parties of four to play together.
Federation Force heavily pushes for co-operative play – at least ostensibly – with its missions, but the game’s design almost does not seem to reflect it. The game lacks any form of voice chat, meaning communication with your team mates is actually impossible, unless deciphering text strings is your idea of coordination. You can not only not chat with players in the middle of a mission, this also means that you can’t even all strategize your loadout choices for maximum efficiency.
"The game lacks any form of voice chat, meaning communication with your team mates is actually impossible, unless deciphering text strings is your idea of coordination."
The missions, too, seem to largely be designed for one player only- while you can definitely come across random difficulty spikes that are best tackled with squad mates, the game is on the whole almost trivialized when you have other team members, so that blind fire can be enough to get you through most of the sticky situations you encounter in the game. Adding to the problems is the fact that the game’s levels lend themselves to very little exploration with four players in the squad, since so much ground can be covered so soon- with just one solo player, there is still an element of exploration to the game. With four players, that’s all but gone.
It’s a shame, because the actual missions are well designed, with loads of branching paths, secondary objectives, stealth sections, and puzzles to add variety to the flow of the game. The trouble is that it is over all too quickly, and its lack of balance breaks any incentive to invest more time in it than is actually necessary. There’s always Blast Ball, which is the soccer like minigame that they’ve included, but I found it too shallow to spend too much time with it.
There are other problems with the game too, ones that are bound to annoy Metroid fans in particular- Federation Force is, to start with, a pretty ugly game, made even more so by its bastardization of the brooding and hostile Metroid Prime art style, which this game renders in bizarre chibi style. Given that Metroid Prime Hunters, a previous handheld only multiplayer focused spin off of the Metroid series, managed to recreate the original artstyle pretty well on the DS, there seems to be no actual reason for Federation Force to go with this artstyle- especially because it wrecks any and all sense of atmosphere that the Metroid series is known for.
"Federation Force is, to start with, a pretty ugly game, made even more so by its bastardization of the brooding and hostile Metroid Prime art style, which this game renders in bizarre chibi style."
The other big problem is how the game handles series lore- I personally actually enjoyed how Federation Force ties into the rest of the franchise, and it does make me intrigued for any Metroid games to come, which this game hints at pretty heavily, but I can see some other long time fans not appreciating some liberties this game takes with series canon, too.
In the end, Federation Force is a surprisingly competent shooter, that is definitely not deserving of all the vitriol that as poured upon it upon its reveal. It’s fun to play in parts, and it tries to set up future games in the franchise as well- but its fundamentally unbalanced, which trivializes it entirely, and as a Metroid game, it fails on some very basic levels. Play Federation Force if you must, and you may even enjoy it- just know that while it’s not too bad, it’s not too good, either. And for a game carrying the Metroid label, that, perhaps more than anything else, is the worst crime that this game commits.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS.
Controls surprisingly well; in single player, offers plenty of exploration; varied missions and objectives; generally fun to play
Terrible graphics; unbalanced for co-op play; loses all sense of atmosphere that the Metroid series is known for; very short; its handling of series lore is bound to rub some Metroid fans off the wrong way
Play Federation Force if you must, and you may even enjoy it- just know that while it's not too bad, it's not too good, either. And for a game carrying the Metroid label, that, perhaps more than anything else, is the worst crime that this game commits.