Loadout Review | PC | Edge of Reality Ltd.
It had been a long time of not watching blockbuster action movies before I watched Sylvester Stallone in his 2008 Rambo film. Yawning, I ended up idly picking the film from Netflix in the certainty that I’d be turning it off again in 10 minutes time. The reason I didn’t, and actually went on to enjoy the film, was that it was gloriously and unrepentantly violent. Bullets took people off their feet, shredding them as they flew. Explosives caused people to become startling fountains of bloody viscera. It was unexpected and glorious.
It had been a long time of not playing arena shooters before I played Edge of Reality Ltd’s new title, Loadout. Yawning, I ended up idly picking the game from Steam in the certainty that I’d be turning it off again in 10 minutes time. The reason I didn’t, and actually went on to enjoy the game, was that it was so gloriously and unrepentantly violent. Bullets took people off their feet, shredding them as they flew. Explosives caused people to become startling fountains of bloody viscera. It was unexpected and glorious.
There are too few opportunities in gaming life to really embrace the ridiculous, despite the affordances of a media that can literally set anything, anywhere at any time. Too often, in my view, games try to be extensions of real life – when really, abandoning anything that ties the game to mundane existence would be preferable.
Edge of Reality Ltd’s game has a lot of work to do in order to stand out in its field; a free-to-play 3rd person arena shooter, very much in the style of Team Fortress 2, Loadout could easily get lost in a sea of similar games.
Get shot too much in Loadout and you could end up headless – just a brain with two eyes glued to the front – but still alive. Or, you can find yourself running around with a chest cavity big enough to drive a bus through but still alive enough to grenade the unwary.
Loadout is at its most successful when it sticks one dying, bloody finger up at the conventions of gaming. The game hooked it from the very first spawn point. I noticed that I had been dropped in to a space occupied by green (friendly) and red (enemy) named characters. The seconds ticked down to game start and I went through the following thought processes:
1. Ugh. We’re all spawning together? That’s stupid.
2. Huh. We’re all spawning together.
3. Yeah! We’re all spawning together!
4. Double kill! I survived! I’ve only got one arm!
Dropping me into the game like that was brilliant and it set up the tone for what was to come, frantic, barely co-ordinated violence and its gooey repercussions.
Before you get to shooting action however, you have to choose your loadout – see, they didn’t just pick the name at random – as the game has a strong focus on you building a weapon (which in a stroke of genius, you get to name) to match your preferred play style, or role in your team. Any weapon can be modified to deliver arcing lightning death, burning fire or even healing if you’d enjoy being a medic. Additional upgrades are unlocked with ‘blutes’ which is a currency earned solely in-game and cannot be bought with microtransactions.
Yeah, there’s that word again. Microtransactions. After the travesty that was Dungeon Keeper, this should be enough to send shivers down any gamers’ spine. Thankfully, Loadout manages to do it right and prove that it’s not that hard to monetise a game without pissing everyone off. Are you listening, Electronic Arts?
First up, Spacebux – the currency you buy – cannot be used to buy anything that will give you a material advantage in-game. The upgrades are cosmetic only. Edge of Reality made a smart choice by opening up the weapon systems, but really restricting the cosmetic options available to you in customising your character. At low levels, each team is filled with 4 or 5 versions of the same fat-Rambo with the occasional chunky lady thrown in. As you play the game, you’ll realise it’s quite possible to make pretty badass looking avatars, but unless you cough up some money to support the game, you’re going to be left with the couple of goofy looking options you had at the start. It actually reminded me of Brink’s character customisation which was a strong element of that title.
Secondly, Loadout is a great deal of fun to play. You make progression in terms of unlocking weapon upgrades etc. because it’s a title that lends itself to sitting down to play for an hour or two every day. You get daily play bonuses of blutes so you can always be working towards creating a new weapon to try. Games don’t tend to drag on and (so far) the online community is decent without people getting butthurt over defeats. So you tend to play and play some more – leading you to want to give something back to the developer who made this decent shooter.
It feels different enough to Team Fortress 2 to stand a chance of making a splash for itself in the arena shooter world. I hope that it makes it and I’ll be really interested to see how the game progresses from this point. Why not get in on the ground floor and give it a whirl? After all, at this price point, what have you got to lose?
Don’t push me.
Loadout is available now for PC on Steam