Metroid fans seem wary of the upcoming cooperative spin-off, Metroid Prime: Federation Force, because it lacks the series exploration-focused gameplay, but perhaps most of all, because it won’t prominently feature the series’ iconic heroine, Samus Aran. In fact, the game’s E3 trailer garnered a substantial number of downvotes on YouTube. I recently got the chance to play the game, and while its baseline shooter gameplay may not seem like the Metroid game fans asked for, what I played was at least a competent experience with solid team-based mechanics.
Federation Force lightly surrounds itself with the series’ lore, putting you in control of a marine from the Galactic Federation–the same organization that Samus Aran was once a part of. You and up to three other players embark on missions across various locales across the galaxy, some of which fans might recognize. The presentation also retains the ominous and atmospheric musical tones heard from early Metroid games.
Federation Force unfolds in a first-person perspective with a visor overlay and a blaster in tow in a manner reminiscent of the Metroid Prime series. However, the aiming controls have been altered to accommodate the 3DS’ control scheme. Free-aiming, for example, now utilizes the gyroscope, meaning you can aim simply by tilting your 3DS. The series’ other controls and features–such as the ability to lock on and strafe with the left shoulder button–also remain intact.
Unlike past Metroid games, Federation Force has a customization system. Before a mission, players can select from a stock of items, such as missiles, elemental weapons, and repair capsules. Depending on the items each player takes, they can fill out specific roles within their team. These roles become even more defined by the game’s mod chips, which are passive buffs with different effects. For instance, a squadmate can take all the repair capsules and equip a 50% heal buff mod chip to rejuvenate their squadmates during a mission. With a variety of mod chips to collect, the possibilities for customization and strategy seem promising.
Our first mission was to investigate an abandoned power station that had somehow reactivated after years of disuse. I chose to specialize on shock-based weapons to better fight mechanical enemies. The mission led us through a series of corridors, filled with agitated security robots. We eventually reached the power station’s generator and had to destroy its core while acid flooded the map and more robots attacked. Take a look at the footage from the tense battle below:
My squad’s second mission was to eliminate a Space Pirate warship that was trying to destroy a skiff we had recently landed on. Under the pressure of a 10-minute countdown timer, we had to simultaneously use a catapult to launch bombs at the warship and fend off waves of incoming Space Pirates, all while the skiff slowly crumbled beneath our feet. Check out our struggle to catapult bombs in the footage below:
These mission scenarios gave the cooperative action a sense of excitement and demanded that each squadmate play their part. While one player had to ward off attacks from incoming enemies, the others had to focus their attention elsewhere to eliminate an even larger threat. And even when these tactical roles were set among our squad, the responsibilities would shift dynamically as we reacted to every tense new development.
Besides the engaging missions and customization options, I didn’t see firm evidence of how Federation Force takes advantage of its universe. It’s true that the Galactic Federation hasn’t been the series’ focus in the past, but a story from their perspective represents an exciting possibility. It could provide more insight into the conflict with the Space Pirates and the Metroid universe at large, which may be the only way for this game to redeem itself in the eyes of fans.