Let’s address something important. Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a new Metroid Prime game, developed by Next Level Games, that builds upon familiar elements of its predecessors. It might not be the game Metroid fans had in mind, but its focus away from series heroine Samus Aran doesn’t make it a terrible game by default. There are some issues that stand out, but its squad based cooperative multiplayer offers a unique look at the Metroid universe that may surprise you.
Federation Force puts you in the shoes of a marine enlisted in the Galactic Federation. Alone or together with three friends online, you pilot a mech and complete 22 various missions that take place on three different planets. Missions vary between taking out a specific target, gathering an important item, or exploring an area before extracting. This starts out interesting at first when playing solo, but can slowly become dull the more you play through the later missions.
The problem is that some missions feel padded due to how slow your character walks. One mission felt like it took a long time to traverse the map towards key objectives. My walking speed would slow down significantly each time I held the trigger to charge a blast. I felt clunky, like I couldn’t move around as smoothly as I once could controlling Samus in previous games. This might make sense for the narrative, since you aren’t playing as Samus, but it didn’t make moving around feel good.
There are two controller layouts on the Nintendo 3DS. One mimics a style similar to the Metroid Prime games on Gamecube, while the other utilizes the second analogue stick on the 3DS. Both styles take some getting used to regardless of what your preference might be, though it doesn’t take as long as you might think. I ended up using the second analogue stick more often during my time playing Federation Force because it felt more comfortable on the handheld.
Before embarking on a mission, you have a set limit on how many items you can bring with you. This will be annoying for anyone accustomed to carrying 99 of every secondary weapon with them in previous Metroid games. The weight limit was just way too restrictive for me. It made all of the items and extra power ups I found from destroying crates and enemies useless since I couldn’t pick them up most of the time. Why the extra items couldn’t have been stockpiled back in my pre-mission reserves is anyone’s guess. Understandably, four players running around with 99 missiles on a mission seems unbalanced, but there are alternatives to making this work out a lot better in-game.
There’s also the issues I had with the Mods you equip to your character. By completing missions and obtaining medals, you gain the ability to equip mod chips to your mech, which improve stats like extra damage, health, and more. There are lots of different mods to use, but it takes a while before you can become fully geared up with the maximum number of mods. I felt the progression with how I customize my character was stretched out way to long, and that I was always going into a mission underequipped.
Much like the weight limit on secondary items, I felt restricted with the mods I chose to equip on my mech. One mod that was supposed to boost my attack and defense power when playing alone didn’t seem like it was very effective. This was made more troublesome when it was the only mod I was able to use for some time.
The environments in each mission are very reminiscent of the Metroid Prime games, though they lack the atmosphere that stood out so much in the past. Maps are full of areas to explore and secrets to find, but everything seems more out in the open rather than immersed in the environment. Most hidden items are found behind broken doors you can shoot with a charged blast, while corridors will almost always loop around back to an open area. Its clear levels were designed with multiplayer in mind first, despite being able to play through them alone.
And then there’s Blast Ball. A small distraction from the main game that offers a place to get accustomed to the controls, while playing a futuristic version of soccer. Interestingly enough if you played the Blast Ball demo for Federation Force on the eShop, you can transfer over your stats from the demo into the main game.
Not much has changed from the demo however, and there isn’t much depth to Blast Ball beyond leaderboards and online play. If you complete the main campaign, it’s a nice extra to check out a few times and then move on.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force has the basis of an interesting concept for the Metroid series, one that can definitely be approved upon with another installment. If you go into Federation Force expecting something you once got on the Gamecube, then you’re only going to disappoint yourself. This is a cooperative squad-based shooter focused on teamwork, not an isolated atmospheric experience. Federation Force doesn’t leave a black mark on the Metroid series, nor does it insult the legacy by any means. Instead it ventures off into uncharted territory with the hope of bringing something fresh and interesting to the franchise.
This review was based on a physical review copy of Metroid Prime Federation Force provided by Nintendo.