Developer: Edge of Reality
Publisher: Edge of Reality
Release Date: January 31st
Launch Price: Free-to-play
There are games that pride themselves on pushing the medium forward in regards to providing a strong social message or attaining respect for reaching a stature of high intellect. There are also games that have you blow stuff up, have you drop trow to expose your pixelated genitalia, showcase cadaver-esque death animations with enough gore to make a butcher uneasy, all the while blowing pretension to the wind. Loadout is more of the latter, and developers Edge of Reality ain’t apologetic about it. It has been part of Steam’s Early Access and has been in some sort of beta since 2012.
Loadout is a free-to-play third-person multiplayer shooter born out of the weapon-customization creativity of Borderlands 2 and the cartoonish run-and-gun sensibility of Team Fortress 2. There’s no getting around it; the game is arguably the offspring of the ideas of other established entities, but with a focus on customization to how you want to play offensively or defensively and with a much edgier vibe.
Therein lies the main attraction to Loadout. The game’s creators boast billions of different equipment customizations possible to create the perfect loadout. You can elect to create an explosives connoisseur, a cautious sniper, a support/medic operative or a balance of everything using a skill tree system. While the “Billions of options” aspect is more about exponential combinations in changes to a weapon’s stock, sights, ammo, projectile type et al, the freedom to create your own classes is a welcomed idea. Such customization comes with collecting “Blutes” from game matches, meaning the best stuff comes with hours of experience.
There are 5 different types of game modes to Loadout. The first is Blitz, which works are your standard Domination-like mode of capturing a strategic point while fending off enemies. Second is Death Snatch, which operates as a Team Deathmatch where you have to pick up your enemy’s dropped vial of “Blutonium” to count to your team’s score. Extraction has two sets of team with one “collector” each scavenge the map for Blutonium ores to collect and return to bins while the teams attack and defend each other. Jack Hammer is like Capture the Flag, but the flag is a hammer you can use as an offensive weapon. Annihilation combines Blitz, Jack Hammer and Death Snatch together, incorporates new powerups and contains the objective of destroying the enemy’s base.
When it comes to the combat in Loadout, agility takes precedent over precaution. Outside of very particular snipers, the majority of play is running around and trying not to get eviscerated or burned to a crisp. Diverolls will help drastically when you need to avoid a huge volley of blue shock orbs. Paired that with a huge jump at the end and you can avoid oncoming rockets or grenades aimed at your feet. Afterward, you can return fire, kill your enemies as they pour out a gory fountain of blood and taunt them in a number of different way (including The Carlton). Loadout doesn’t take itself seriously, putting the onus on being funny.
Speaking of funny, the humor of Loadout isn’t very high brow; the game is immaturity at its finest. There is optional nudity, clothing-optional outfits, taunts that include girating suggestively using your gun as a surrogate penis among other crudities. It is not for the faint of heart. Even the weapons are designed with a cartoonish nature, offering oversized rockets, colorful blue orbs and lazer beams of doom. It gives Loadout its own way of standing out among the crowd, ever if it looks visually like other free-to-play shooters.
As successful as the game is at being funny, it’s not nearly the most fun you’ll have playing a third-person online shooter. The maps are very limited in number, which becomes evident after you play for more than two hours. Additionally, the level design for some of these maps are not intuitive. Committing suicide due to not making almost frame-perfect jumps on certain maps will be commonplace for Loadout players young and old.
It doesn’t seem to have that lasting appeal that an absolutely great shooter has. Loadout is for a niche market that will love to see what things they can create using the game’s vast customization options. Competitively, the game suffers from min/max loadouts later on that will ensure limited variety at higher levels of play. Stylistically, it’s trying to capture the success of other free-to-play shooters by emulating their art style. Mechanics-wise, it uses the movement style of popular third-person shooters of years past. Loadout is good, but it feels like a lesser experience of better games, paid and free.
The #1 concern of every free-to-play game is just how exactly the pay model affects the game’s balance. I am happy to report that, outside of x2 temporary rate increases to both XP and the in-game stat point equivalent “Blutes,” the game does not run on a directly pay-to-win model. Those boosts do speed up the process in which you can upgrade your equipment, however. Most of the income generated is from purchasing clothes, taunts and other aesthetic purchases.
Overall, Loadout is an enjoyable experience from developers that are trying to branch out beyond their history of licensed games and third-party ports. A good game to play casually ever so often, but not one to call home about. If it fits your particular needs in a shooter, you’ll fall head over heels for it. For others, you may have fun now, but maybe not so much down the line. Try it out, at least; it’s free!
+ Loads of weapon, utility, costume and equipment options
+ Funny, albeit crude, take on the shooter genre
– The level design for the maps have some issues
– Doesn’t have lasting appeal
= What pay-to-win elements that exist are light in nature (XP/stat rate increase)