Currently we’re completely spoilt for choice when it comes to free-to-play shooters. There’s so many on offer it can be hard to decide which one to play. Loadout is a new entry into the genre from Austin-based developers Edge of Reality. With talent that’s worked on games such as Mass Effect, Tony Hawk’s, Dragon Age and The Sims we were excited to get stuck in.
The biggest problem with most free-to-play games is the way they handle microtransactions. As the core game is free the developers try to make money through smaller optional charges. Sadly many games are being too heavy handed with these and in some games you almost have to spend money if you want to compete.
Loadout aims to be much more friendly and calls itself a play-to-win title. The game features two in-game currencies – Blute and Spacebux. Blute is earned through play and Spacebux are bought with real cash. If you’re prepared to fork out cash on microtransactions then you can boost your cash and use it to boost the rates that you earn Blute and XP. You can also buy Avatars and extra Loadout and Gunslots.
The key difference to many other games is that buying Spacebux doesn’t give you an advantage during battle. The boosts will let you level up faster and accrue Blute quicker but they won’t make you more powerful than other players who haven’t paid. There’s no super weapon or enhancements that is only on offer to players who pay which keeps things on a level playing field.
Spacebux can also be spent in the Outfitter store to change the appearance of your character. You can change their clothes and appearance to personalise your character. A final option is the ability to purchase taunts to torment your opponents during play. Sadly there are currently only 3 different character models on offer – two male and one female.
Before you jump into the game you need to spend some time crafting a weapon. This is the biggest and possibly best feature of the game. Instead of just a handful of weapons to choose from, Loadout gives you the ability to craft your own unique arsenal from billions of combinations. A really nice touch is that you can name your weapon absolutely anything you want.
Your first decision is what chassis to use this affects the category of the weapon. You could go for a rifle, rocket launcher, pulse or beam weapon. You can then customise the different parts such as the stock, magazine, barrel, scope and trigger. Initially you only have a limited choice but the more you play the more you can unlock.
Our first weapon was a rocket launcher that simply fired rockets. After a little play and some upgrades we had turned it into a much more powerful device. We added a scope for distance and modified the barrel to hold four rockets instead of one. Later upgrades saw us make it fire two rockets at once, on impact they bounced before firing off four cluster bombs. Later still we made our cluster bombs cause extra fire damage after impact.
Our second weapon was a beam weapon that could chain lightning around a group of enemies. As you make changes to your weapon you can see stats to see what effect your changes have had. Once you’re happy you can then jump into the test mode to see how the weapon performs before taking it out into battle.
Once you’re set you can enter the casual game queue on your own or with a party of friends. Matches in Loadout are designed to be played by up to eight players (4v4). Before a match begins you can chat to other players in the pre-match lobby while you vote on the next map and wait for everyone to be ready.
During play the action is viewed from third-person with an over the shoulder camera. Standard shooter controls apply with the addition of a quick diving roll to avoid enemy fire. Matches are hectic but hilarious thanks to the over the top deaths such as limbs being blown off and vital organs hanging out. You’ll see bodies running about with no heads and plenty of blood too. A cool feature is that fallen enemies drop their custom guns complete with name so you can pick them up and try them for yourself.
The game modes on offer are Death Snatch, Jackhammer, Extraction and Blitz. These modes are all variations on popular game mode types found in other games. Death Snatch is basically a take on Kill Confirmed where fallen players drop Blutonium vials and their team must collect them before the enemy to stop the kill from counting. Jackhammer is Capture The Flag but instead of capturing flags you steal the enemies hammer. Using it to smash enemy players gives you boosts.
Extraction assigns one player on each team the role of collector. This player must then search the map for Blutonium and take each one back to base to score. Blitz plays like Domination where you must capture points in order to score.
Coming soon, in addition to the casual game queue, will be a new competitive queue and custom games. The competitive queue will let players compete in Annihilation mode which is a combination of the different game-types. Here players must work in teams to capture points, collect Blutonium and steal the enemies hammer. Doing so raises your team and personal scores.
Your personal score can be traded towards upgrade injections to boost damage, defence or health. When your team score is high enough it will turn off the shields at your enemies base. Your team must then charge up the enemies hammer at your own base before using it to destroy the enemy base. It’s a crazy mode that requires a lot of team work if you want to do well.
Overall Loadout is off to a very promising start and the mix of shooter and humour is spot-on. The game will benefit greatly by adding more content such as maps and customisation options. The upcoming Annihilation mode coupled with Custom Modes should help keep things interesting. If you’re a fan of multiplayer shooter games then this is one free-to-play game that you should definitely give a chance.