When Metroid Prime: Federation Force debuted at E3 2015 (yes, well over a year ago), it was met with some harsh criticism, as some players were simply insisting that it was a light spin-off from the series, instead of the sequel that so many people wanted. Hell, some folks were even lambasting it worse than the off-shoot Metroid: Other M, it got so bad.
Still, I remained optimistic. After all, the game was retaining its core first-person shooting mechanics, and Blast Ball, the side game included with the main adventure, looked like a great deal of fun. Metroid Prime: Federation Force could very well offer something unique for the series – and perhaps give it the boost it needs as the series could make a potential move to the Nintendo NX next year.
And yet, somehow, I couldn’t help but feel that the game could be something more. That’s not to say that Federation Force is terrible, as it certainly has its moments. However, that awe-inspiring feeling of exploration and greatness generated from the previous Metroid Prime games seems to be missing here, replaced with a banal, generic space exploration theme that never really matches up to the same levels of previous entries in the series. It’s painfully average, when the development team could’ve been striving for something greater.
First off, while there are secrets to find here and there, the exploration theme has been summed up to a pretty dry result. You simply work your way to objectives, find switches, use grapples that automatically take you from point A to point B, and, well, repeat. The game does very little to motivate players to stretch their legs and see what dangers make their way around.
That’s not to say the gameplay doesn’t really have diversity, as there are some cool “mods” that enable you to try out new abilities with your suit. However, they don’t really relate well to the core of the Metroid franchise, they just feel like secondary items that don’t really offer much from your core weapon set. Again, they offer a little bit of range, but not nearly enough to make up for their inclusion.
Also, I got a little frustrated by the controls. While most of the movement is handled with your 3DS set-up, there are times that you actually have to utilize motion-based support, when you’re standing still and aiming at enemies. This is pretty bad, especially when all you want to do is lean back and enjoy a gameplay session. You’d think that Nintendo would’ve already learned its lesson from messing up StarFox Zero with motion play, but apparently that isn’t the case.
The rest of the gameplay is pretty good, but it never really comes together as it has in previous Metroid games. Part of that is due to the frustrating aiming mechanic, which locks onto an enemy but does very little for accuracy if they’re moving faster at a crawl, and the dash technique, which all too often combines with jumping and results in you getting hit anyway. I think the developers could’ve easily revamped the gameplay, taking out the motion-based aiming and giving dash its own function button.
The game does feature co-op support, which enables four players to join together for a session, but, honestly, online isn’t worth it that much. We spent many times in frustration trying to join up with others, only to end up disconnected. There was one session that worked, but without any support for voice chat, it felt kind of pointless, as you meandered around trying to figure out some sort of strategy through gestures. Ugh. We didn’t get a chance to test out local, but more than likely, that would be the better option because, hey, we can hear each other screaming out commands. (Followed by, of course, “Who made you the leader?!”)
Blast Ball is a fun little side activity, providing plenty of sporting thrills to go alongside the somewhat dull space adventure. It’s good if you can find a few players to go up against, but, otherwise, the AI is pretty much a mixed bag. Definitely save it for those local meet-ups if you can track down others that own the game.
As for the presentation, Metroid Prime does look pretty good, utilizing a fairly good 3D effect with a solid frame rate. There are times that the graphics can look a bit fuzzy, and some enemies have a lacking design to them, but the worlds are pretty well done, and the weapon effects do have a bit of dazzle to them. The sound is okay, too, but we could’ve used more ambient music, and maybe a bit more diversity in creature noises. Most of them sound the same, sadly.
So Metroid Prime: Federation Force just feels weird to me. I’m glad that Nintendo is still paying attention to the franchise, but this off-shoot never really comes together like it should. The controls can be frustrating; the team mechanics never really take hold as intended (mainly due to the lack of voice chat); and the “mods” system doesn’t support as much as it should have. Even with a pretty good presentation and the inclusion of Blast Ball, it just ends up being a mediocre effort – and that’s the last thing you want to say about a Metroid adventure.