Edge of Reality started with a simple, brilliant idea. What if an arena shooter let you fit together your own guns before every battle? What if those guns could shoot lightning, release flames, or even heal teammates? What if this shotgun had a scope on it? What would a fully automatic sniper rifle look like? These are the questions that can be answered in Loadout, their new free-to-play third-person deathmatch game. Unlike many free-to-play titles hoping to jump onto one bandwagon or another, Loadout has a style and presentation all its own. Even so, its not entirely immune to the pitfalls of the free-to-play genre, and that may put off some players that otherwise would have latched on to its off the wall gameplay.
Credit where credit is due. Loadout is a blast to play, it’s fast movement through explosion-filled battlefields is tight in the same ways that games like Quake and Unreal Tournament were back in the glory days. Whereas in modern FPS games, a rocket launcher is an anti-vehicle measure or a killstreak perk, Loadout‘s variety of rocket launchers are a constant necessity in most game types. After playing a few games to build up your currency (more on that later), you can charge into battle with a electrified minigun, a cannon that shoots spiky projectiles, a healing shotgun, a flaming laser cannon, etc. All the weapons handle beautifully and rip apart your opponents in satisfyingly grotesque ways that keep to the game’s cartoonish visuals.
Developer: Edge of Reality
Publisher: Edge of Reality
Release: January 31, 2014
MSRP: Free-To-Play, $19.99 Steam Starter Pack
Loadout has a complete suite of the type of team-based modes you’d expect from a modern arena game. You have Jackhammer (A capture-the-flag equivalent), Blitz (Territories mode straight out of Battlefield), Death Snatch (Kill Confirmed from Call of Duty) and Extraction (A spin on Headhunter from Halo:Reach). It also features a more competitive mode wherein several of the gametypes are combined. It reminds me of Halo: Reach‘s Invasion mode, and is an admirable attempt to add depth to this type of game. Playing with these rulesets in the more fast-paced style that Loadout brings to the table is novel, and there is just enough variety in maps and gametypes to keep it interesting from match to match. The only glaring omission is the lack of any Free-For-All modes, which would seem to fit in perfectly with the controlled chaos on display.
Of course, Loadout is free-to-play, which means that development is ongoing and more gametypes and maps can be added as time goes on. It also means that there are a pair of currency systems in play. One of them is solely for cosmetics and can safely be ignored, but the other runs every facet of the weapon and upgrade systems. You gain experience points to level up with after every match, but leveling up mainly just gives you currency which can be used to purchase more gun parts, equipment, or character upgrades. In the beginning, this system seems fine, as the gun parts that are ready to purchase at the beginning seem relatively achievable. However, once your guns are set and you look at the upgrade tree, you see where the real hole for this currency is going to be.
The system poses a real problem for what is a solely competitive experience. Damage upgrades and equipment like new grenades and deployable turrets are prohibitively expensive to anyone just starting the game, which means that players with more time than you (and there is always someone with more time than you) will have a measurable advantage on the battlefield. Since this is a free-to-play game, you can pay for boosts to get you there faster, but you still have to put your time in with subpar weaponry and default frag grenades in order to earn the currency, and the matchmaking seems to have no problem pairing you up with a fully upgraded 100 hour beta test veteran during that time. There is also a Co-Op vs. Bots option, but I found that even the bots were decked out better than most starting players. There is nothing more frustrating than being forced to grind for gun parts in a game that is based almost entirely around gun customization.
If you know about the rough start for new players and have some time to build up your bankroll, than Loadout is a highly enjoyable shooter with style and gameplay that are worthy of praise. However, if you’re looking for a game that you can jump in and out of with ease, than Loadout pales in comparison to other free shooters on the market such as Team Fortress 2. There are too many hoops for new players to jump through, and many will most likely get out before reaching the satisfying awards that lay ahead of them. It’s a shame, because from a pure gameplay perspective, this is a modern update of shooters from the past that manages to shake off the retro label with ease. More developers should stop stealing from grimdark console shooters and instead pilfer from the fun ultra-violence found in games like Loadout.