Nearly a year to the day since its PC release, Loadout is now blasting its way through the PlayStation 4, giving gamers yet another free-to-play option for killing time and, you know, the digital avatars of their friends and enemies. But now that you can play Loadout with a Dualshock 4 controller in hand, how does the experience translate to consoles?
Actually, I was pretty surprised by what Loadout has to offer. There are quite a few free-to-play games out there and, let’s face it, the majority of them either gate off so much content that they barely belong in the “free-to-play” category, or they just flat-out suck.
There have been a few notable exceptions, of course, many of which have already found their way onto the PlayStation 4. Games like Warframe, War Thunder, Blacklight: Retribution and even DC Universe Online do a nice job of straddling the gratis/paid line, giving players plenty of content to experience at no cost while offering up additional frills for those who feel like kicking a few dollars toward the developers.
In my hands-on time with the PS4 version of Loadout, I get the feeling that this arena shooter from the folks at Edge of Reality falls into that same category. There appears to be plenty of content for freeloaders, as well as a boatload of cosmetic items and unlocks to expedite the natural progression of the game. I’ll have to wait a few weeks to see if paid players seem to have a huge edge over those who can’t afford faster unlocks, but my exploration of the games offerings seems to point at that not being too big of a problem.
For those unfamiliar with the crass and over-the-top Loadout, players have the ability to jump into various third-person shooter online modes, as well as a pretty meaty campaign that basically boils down to battles with AI-controlled aliens set across the same kinds of modes you can play with other players. These missions are usually time or wave based, however, changing up the pace a bit and giving you yet another way to earn in-game currency and loot.
The first thing you’ll notice about Loadout is that it’s basically a playable version of a Spike and Mike animation. The characters are big, meaty and ridiculous. There’s lots of blood and gore, but the cartoon aesthetics keep it from feeling over the top. Your legs will sometimes run around after the top of your body has been shot off, for instance, or your character will hit the ground and, in death, give your enemies one final sing-finger salute.
What really sets Loadout apart from the pack, though, is its titular customization options and a unique spin on familiar game modes. There are three playable characters, each of which has a large number of items that can be unlocked and equipped to give them a more personal feel. Some of these items can be earned within the game, it seems, but the vast majority you can just purchase and throw on your character whenever you feel like changing things up. These items are all cosmetic, not stat-altering, which is a key item in the plus column when it comes to free-to-play games.
The weapon customization, though, is rather brilliant. You basically have one gun with hundreds of potential variations thanks to interchangeable parts. The guns body, for instance, can be a standard bullet shooting type, launcher, laser gun, etc. From there, you can fine-tune all aspects of your firearm, changing the scope, magazine, barrel, damage type. With a few quick changes, for instance, your three-shot burst machine gun can be converted into a sniper rifle that does electric damage. Your rocket launcher can shoot three explosive rounds or one massive rocket that freezes your enemies. Feel like playing support? Create a laser gun that heals instead of damages and help keep your allies in the fight.
Each customization option is available at multiple levels and you can unlock them in various combinations imply by playing the game. Don’t want to wait? Then fork over a few bucks and make exactly the gun you want. Boom. That’s free-to-play done right and, as I said, it doesn’t feel like anything outside of player skill grants too sharp of an edge in combat once you get past the first several hours of playing/unlocks. Get a few upgrades through natural progression, and you’ll be dishing out the damage in no time.
Only out for about 24 hours now, Loadout is actually running pretty smoothly on the PS4. I had zero trouble finding games in both the campaign and PvP modes and, once the fights got going, lad was almost never an issue. The controls are perhaps a bit more floaty than I’m used to, but that actually matches the cartoony feel of the game itself. Moving from Destiny to this, though, it took a few minutes to get myself adjusted.
As for the game modes, Edge of Reality won themselves some brownie points by trying something a bit different, rather than just putting in all of the same modes you’ve been playing across every other shooter known to man. Blitz, for instance, is a sort of roving control mode where a random flag (from the several peppered across the map) gets marked as the target. Control the area long enough, and your team gets the points. Claim enough in the allotted time, and you’ll win the round.
Extraction, on the other hand, is kind of like kill confirmed. When you kill an enemy, they’ll drop a vial of this blue liquid that the team’s designated collector needs to pick up and drop off back at base. How much will you collect before trying to make it back to base alive? Should you try to kill the other players, gun for their collector, or perhaps guard your own collector? It’s a nice strategy game that, again, puts a fresh spin on something familiar.
Even capture the flag is unique in Loadout, as said flack is actually a massive hammer that can instantly kill up to three guys who are foolish enough to get too close while you’re running back to base.
Anyway, at the cost of zero dollars to try it out, you don’t really have anything to lose. I doubt Loadout will evolve into my shooter of choice, but it certainly feels good for a few lighthearted romps from time to time. If nothing else, it’s a welcome change of pace after all of the hyper realistic, almost painfully dialed-in shooting on offer elsewhere.