The 3DS Metroid that nobody asked for, Federation Force, received a free demo today for its 3-on-3 Rocket League mode, Blast Ball. And it’s not good.
Similar to Rocket League, two teams of three compete to sink a large glowing ball in to the opposing team’s goal. There’s also the option to play with 5 AI-controlled opponents offline. Unlike Rocket League, however, it’s not very fun. At all.
Blast Ball has a few things working against it, starting with the control scheme. In order to stay locked on to the ball, you have to keep your finger on the L trigger — this, combined with manual aiming via the R trigger (due to the original 3DS’s lack of a 2nd analog stick), makes moving the ball quite the nuisance. The controls became uncomfortable for me well before the end of my first match, so I can’t imagine playing it for any extended period of time.
The rest of the face buttons are used to dodge, activate power-ups (like faster movement speed), and fire your arm cannon in both rapid fire and charged shot flavors. You can use the bottom screen to shout a selection of generic quips to your teammates, like “nice shot!”, or view your current power-up, but that’s really all there is to it.
Although Blast Ball is just an optional side-mode, it’s safe to assume the given control scheme will reflect how uncomfortable it’s going to be playing the campaign.
The gameplay itself is also quite unfortunate. My main complaint is that shooting is your only form of offense AND defense, since getting hit by the ball can kill you. Your arm cannon is limited by an overheat meter, meaning you either use your shots to move the ball toward the opposing goal, or save them in order to sway its momentum away from your own. That sounds fine in theory, but the motion of the ball is unpredictable. In the few matches I played, playing defense boiled down to an uninteresting game of spray-and-pray bullet firing or sacrificing myself to the ball gods in order to prevent a goal.
Imagine if soccer (or futbol, depending on your region) replaced its traditional ball with a cannonball instead. Now also imagine that goalies explode whenever they block a shot, and their only defense against the cannonball is a straw and a handful of spitballs. Sounds entertaining, as long as you yourself aren’t the one playing it. And therein lies the problem.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force’s Blast Ball mode just isn’t fun.
It borrows heavily from Rocket League, but removes everything that made it enjoyable: the chaos, the adrenaline rush of zooming downfield and launching yourself in an attempt to score a goal, the communication between teammates, and just about every other reason it received numerous Game of the Year awards.
I’ll admit that when Nintendo announced a new Metroid and Federation Force is what they came up with, I was furious. Metroid has been given the shaft since Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and it deserved better than a seemingly half-assed multi-player game in which four players who aren’t Samus revisit planets from the series’ history. But as a long time fan of the series, I wanted to see it for myself in order to give it a fair chance. Blast Ball has done nothing to sway my opinion.
I know that Blast Ball isn’t the only mode available in Federation Force, as the core game is a four-player co-op campaign with nearly 60 missions, but it was enough for me to stay clear when it releases the day before my birthday on August 19th. And if my Twitter feed is anything to go by, I’m not the only person put off.
If you’re interested in experiencing it for yourself, the demo will remain free for everyone to play until “early September,” according to the PR e-mail I received from Nintendo this morning.
Have you checked it out yet? If so, what are your thoughts? How do you see it faring when it releases next month?