Metroid Prime: Federation Force on 3DS
From its announcement at E3 in 2015 to its less-than-warmly received story trailer, Metroid Prime: Federation Force has been a rough ride for Nintendo. Fans of the Metroid franchise came out of the woodwork to pick apart this bizarre addition, and for a number of pretty good reasons. The departure from the series’ protagonist, Samus Aran, and the focus on cooperative play rather than a solo experience was a hard turn from Metroid’s history.
Despite the backlash from fans, Nintendo pushed forward, and Federation Force is here. Putting players in the role of a marine within the titular galactic military, Federation Force follows a loose story that largely centers around the team running cleanup and exploratory missions to act on intel gathered by the Metroid franchise’s famous heroine. Players can run solo, or team up in local or online play for up to four marines to work together and tackle the missions.
The gameplay aspect of Federation Force is pretty familiar for anyone that’s played the Metroid Prime series. Players will have to run, jump, hover, and blast their way through a variety of different environments and creatures in order to complete their missions. The controls are a bit strange at first, especially tilting your handheld in order to look around or use precision aiming, but once you’ve got the hang of it, the whole thing actually comes together very well.
As you probably know, Federation Force puts a huge emphasis on cooperative play. Missions are not impossible to confront on your own, but the challenge will certainly be a tough one. Team play relies on a number of interesting things, including a shared pool of special weapons ammo that means you’ll have to work together to bring all the goodies you’ll need. A weight-based system also limits each player’s individual carry capacity, so choose wisely.
Federation Force’s greatest problem is, quite simply, its title. By putting the Metroid name on a game that’s not following Samus, Nintendo angered a lot of fans. Putting that aside for a moment, it’s almost a shame that the game should be so doomed by being within this universe, because it stands on its own as a pretty solid and enjoyable first-person shooter. Good all-around design, an innovative control scheme, and great co-op elements could easily make for a great game, but the weight of the franchise almost feels like it’s pulling this title down simply because it fails to live up to its history.
The most divisive departure from Metroid’s typical fare isn’t about Samus, or even the team play emphasis. What Federation Force really lacks is the sense of exploration and discovery that the series has included since its initial release over 30 years ago. While players are free to choose from available missions on the game’s three planets, each mission is still pretty linear and there’s little room to move around and look for anything off the beaten path.
Even without much of what has been loved about the Metroid games of old, Federation Force is still an enjoyable game. It’s not a great look for the much-loved franchise to deviate so far from why fans love it, but if you look past the expectations that the name brings, you’re still looking at a solid shooter that’s got some interesting aspects. Tough boss battles, tense firefights, and a great cooperative approach are all packed in for those who take the plunge.
The departure from following fan-favorite Samus is a bold move for Nintendo to make, but Federation Force pulls it off pretty well. Seeing things from a new perspective can be interesting in its own right, and Samus still has a clear impact on the in-game events as the story unfolds. Seeing the respect that the Federation has for her work from the eyes of an average soldier is a great way of experiencing the Metroid universe.
It may be a tough sell for the true devotees of the Metroid franchise, but Federation Force is a good game. Without the expectations of its title holding it back, I think it would have been a clear and easy win for Nintendo, and the fresh perspective on the setting, while divisive, still gives something new and entertaining. Metroid Prime: Federation Force is available now for $39.99 for digital download via Nintendo or through the 3DS eShop.
Score: 3.5/5 – Fair