It’s no secret that Metroid Prime: Federation Force isn’t the game that fans of the series wanted. However, this Prime spin-off attempts to stand on its own as a multiplayer cooperative first-person shooter. And yet, despite similar shooting mechanics, Federation Force has little to do with Metroid outside of its branding. Samus Aran is often mentioned in the debriefing that occurs before every mission, but it’s nothing more than a transparent attempt to tie her into this spin-off title.
From the very beginning, the blocky, child-like art style feels a bit off. The big-headed soldiers have awkward movement, especially when compared to the fluid animations of the recognizable enemies from other Prime games. On the other hand, everything looks great in 3D through the first-person visor perspective.
Shooting is similar to other Metroid Prime games. The left trigger is used to lock onto enemies, saving players the trouble of having to track enemies on the 3DS game pad. Motion controls are used to line up more precise shots and they work surprisingly well. When locked onto an enemy, the right trigger allows for free-aiming within the confines of the locked target. Therefore, you can focus on individual parts of an enemy without having to worry about keeping him in your sights.
Players take control of Federation Force’s newest recruit, utilizing a mech suit to rid the galaxy of its biggest threats. The 15-hour campaign consists of completing 22 relatively short missions across three planets, each with significantly different biomes. Exelcion is a frozen mining colony, Bion is a desert wasteland, and Talvania is a gas-filled planet that is home to a power plant. Since you’ll regularly be tackling missions between the three planets, the environment does not feel repetitive. In fact, Federation Force’s missions are its strongest aspect, full of variety and new gameplay elements.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force isn’t a simple run-and-gun shooter, and each mission is vastly different from the previous one. With that being said, many of them are unbelievably frustrating. The game’s biggest flaw is its lack of any sort of checkpoint system, which is almost unheard of in modern games. Failing a mission will result in you having to restart from the very beginning — this happened to me more times than I want to think about. Even though none of the missions are longer than 20 minutes, it still felt like a devastating blow when I had to restart. In the later missions, it becomes easier to make stupid mistakes which result in “Mission Failed”. The frustrations never end, especially in solo play.
In one memorable mission, I had to push a cart full of supplies to a destination while avoiding enemies and an electrical storm. I needed to balance seeking shelter from the storm, dealing with endless enemies, and pushing the dreadfully slow cart. Trying to do it solo proved to be very difficult, as well as infuriating when my cart was destroyed 15 minutes into the mission. It felt nearly impossible alone and was much easier with teammate.
The entire game features cooperative play for up to four players, and that is absolutely how it should be played. Going in solo only results in being significantly underpowered compared to enemy hoardes and some of the stronger opponents. A lot of missions involve multitasking, which can be very difficult to handle alone. If anything, Federation Force feels like Nintendo’s answer to Destiny in the sense that players must work together to take down enemies and bosses, while simultaneously completing an objective. There are mods to be collected which allow for things like upgraded missiles and greater healing — these are essential for solo play.
Playing with allies will be the most efficient way to complete missions in Metroid Prime: Federation Force due to the fact that the primary weapon is fairly weak. The weakness of this cannon is a recurring problem throughout the game. Most importantly, it just isn’t that fun to use. Tapping the A button repeatedly releases energy balls, which only take off slivers of damage from mid-level enemies. Every Trooper and Space Pirate you fight will require a good amount of shots and they can be difficult to take down in groups. The charge shot can take most of these guys out in one hit, but it takes just a little too long to get fully powered up.
There are a number of secondary fire options for the energy cannon such as missiles, super missiles, fire blasts, ice blasts, and even the ability to “slow” an enemy. These can be utilized to take out larger enemies and manage crowds, but their quantity is very limited. This results in having to stockpile them for when they’re really needed, which forces the player to be too reliant on the weak primary weapon.
If you’re interested in Metroid Prime: Federation Force because you like the exploration aspects of previous Metroid titles, this is not the game for you. Each mission, while unique, is fairly linear in nature. Objectives are very clearly marked and often times getting to the end of the mission is a very quick process. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not synonymous with what we already know of Metroid.