I think we can all agree — there are more than enough shooter games on shelves today, both physically and digitally. Unless a studio opts to inject some innovation and creativity into their game, it risks becoming nothing more than another shoot em’ up headed for the bargain bin.
So when I received the chance to get some hands-on time with Loadout, a third-person shooter from Edge of Reality, I was glad to find it was implementing some radical ideas. Focusing on deeply customizable weaponry and equipment, bodily deformation from injuries, and a unique aesthetic, Loadout encourages you to customize its multiplayer-exclusive experience to your liking.
Within moments of my demo, I was well into the gun creation system, customizing the six attributes that can be adjusted on any weapon creation. A plethora of choices are available in each category: Propulsion, Stock, Chassis, Scope, Barrel, and Ammunition. Each decision you make has a direct effect on the functionality of the gun, its abilities, range, damage output and so forth.
If you want an assault rifle that shoots pyro bullets which cause your opponents to burst into flame upon contact, you can have one. If you want a scoped rifle with optic sights and an energy-filled plasma beam option, you can make it. If you want a rocket launcher that shoots team healing missiles, yes, you can even do that too.
I was told that the number of possible gun combinations is in the thousands, which I imagine will make for some variety-packed rounds of multiplayer.
Though, it doesn’t matter how in-depth the gun creator is if the multiplayer isn’t any good at implementing your battle-ready customizations — not to mention making it fun. Luckily, the sheer diversity of projectiles I found launching in my direction (including the ones we were lobbing ourselves) was staggering.
The first of the two modes shown was very objective-focused, in which the goal was to capture crystals around the map and return them to any of the collection baskets before the opposing team beats you to it.
The second game type was about the collection vials, which fell out of bodies once they were killed on the map. The goal is to propel your team to victory by collecting more vials before the other team and prior to time running out. If you’ve ever played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3′s game mode “Kill Confirmed”, then you’ll quickly find yourself at home playing this mode.
Many of my matches were played using a simple assault class, with a focus on quick attacks and a balance of mobility and firepower. My weapon of choice was a semi-automatic rail gun equipped with pyro bullets and a standard iron sight.
There were other classes I didn’t get time with, but familiars like the engineer will be available as well, and like the medic, can swap their weapons ability to deal damage with the ability to heal engineer-related tech.
In terms of gameplay, sprinting around the tight, symmetrical maps while popping off limb after limb and collecting crystal shards was fun and fast-paced. As the scores climb quicker and quicker, the speed and twitchiness of the action follows suit, resulting in some intense breath-holding finishes.
But probably the most entertaining tidbit from my time with Loadout was the brilliant use of the bodily-degeneration system that reacts to the damage you receive during matches. Based on where you take damage, your body will be affected accordingly.
Put simply, take a powerful rifle shot the arm and you’ll find yourself shuffling around armless rather quickly. In a similar and humorous fashion, take a non-lethal shot to the head and you’ll be guiding you’re skull-less soldier around comically like nothing ever happened — bloody neck-bone sticking out and all.
But when the time comes that you do receive that fatal headshot, the cartoony blood will gush like a fountain. All the more rewarding, since the game incorporates a large variety of animated deaths that were all too satisfying every time you earned one.
Roll this up into visuals reminiscent of a very gritty Team Fortress 2, and you’ve got a fun, intuitive shooter that’s worth keeping an eye on as it approaches a summer 2012 release date. If you’re very interested, the game is currently in a closed beta phase, but sign ups are available on the developer site.
Oh, and it’s completely free-to-play.