Loadout is one of the newest of the “Free-to-Play” games to launch on Steam, but with one exception. Loadout actually does Free-to-Play right.
I think it’s fair to say that multilayer arena shooters have pretty much died out, but Loadout seeks bring new life to the genre. Somewhat unusually, developers Edge of Reality have opted for a 3rd person shooter for their flagship title, most likely due to the extremely fluid system of movement in Loadout, which often results in players rolling, jumping and tumbling over each other as they nail the other with dozens of rounds of ammunition. Upon entering each 4v4 match you will find yourself and the opposing team spawning in a circle around each other, and as the countdown reaches zero you must survive the ridiculous barrage of explosions and blood that ensues.
It is fair to say that Loadout is a bit silly then, yes.
As the title may suggest, perhaps the most important aspect of Loadout‘s appeal is the.. well.. the loadouts. It features an incredibly diverse weapon customisation system which makes most military shooters look feeble in comparison. The gun type, barrel, ammo, fire pattern, range, weapon-spread, scope, clip – even the triggers can be swapped out and tested through the weapon customisation lobby. Somehow the weapon customisation system manages to be diverse yet easy to understand, and you can create the perfect weapon for your kind of play-style, although it might take some tweaking to figure what you prefer. You name all of the weapons you create. Some of the weapon attachments seem a little gimmicky and feel like filler as I can’t imagine I’ll use some of them ever, but this may just be my personal preference. For example, I don’t think playing a sniper class in a game with such a fast play-style would be particularly useful, but in my heart I know there are already many, many dubstep-remixed Loadout sniper montages on YouTube without even looking.
The gameplay is solid. Double tapping the directional keys will cause your character to do a rather flamboyant roll which becomes very important to remember if you don’t want to burn to death (you might want write that down somewhere), although this can occasionally lead to mistakenly leaping off a cliff or two, which is also very bad (you might want to write that down too). The result of this frantic mash of players bounding about the map and rolling all over the place creates a very fun and fluid gameplay experience as you constantly have to adjust where to fire and where you’re being fired from. The outlandish nature of the movement system in Loadout is a major appeal and makes it very fun to play, especially with or against friends.
The quirky caricatured art-style akin to that of games such as Ratchet and Clank and Team Fortress 2 works well with the brutally wacky sense of humour Loadout has and still runs great even on my rather under-powered laptop. But let’s get this straight; Loadout is definitely an adult game. In essence, even giving the players the ability to name their own weapons immediately makes this an 18+ title, but it’s minuscule features like this which personally I adore.
Four main game modes are available to play. There’s Extraction, in which you collect an element called Blutonium which is scattered around the map and drop it into one of the several drop-off buckets to earn points for your team. Death Snatch, a kill confirmed game mode. Blitz, which is a control-point type game, and Jackhammer, which is capture-the-flag, only the flag is a giant supercharged hammer that you can crush your enemies with. The innovation in Jackhammer in particular by putting a spin on the popular CTF game mode is admirable but unfortunately leaves the other three game types feeling rather uninspired. Extraction can be particularly frustrating and is the weakest of the lot, as it often results in players forgetting to collect the Blutonium required to win the match and would rather opt to just shooting people. There is also a more competitive game type called Annihilation, which is a mash of all of these game modes put together, should you wish to play longer matches.
The damage models on the three playable characters (Axl, T-Bone and Helga) are spectacularly gruesome, and taking damage will often leave your character with flesh hanging off of your limbs, exposing plenty of bone. Being set on fire will leave your skin being completely charred off. This goes as far as being able to run around with your head blown off with only your eyes left. The ridiculousness of the level of violence has some comedic value, but there’s only so many times getting your head blown off can be funny.
There are only a small handful of maps included at the moment but more are said to be on that way. The map design is generally good, taking advantage of different elevations for fire-fights to occur and include many traversable paths across the battlefield. They look really nice I must add, but they can be quite small which can result in rather unbalanced matches when a player leaves your game. Thankfully with the Loadout community being so active at the moment, it doesn’t take long for someone else to join and for the violent murdering to resume. Hooray! With the game being free-to-play on Steam and not graphically demanding, hopefully this will keep bringing in fresh new waves of players.
After blowing many many people’s faces off with a fiery rocket launcher rather crudely named after my friend’s mother, I decided to investigate the currency system. There are two main currencies in-game: Blutes and SpaceBux, with Blutes being the main currency. After each match you are rewarded Blutes that can be spent on gun modifications and equipment for your loadouts, whereas SpaceBux can only be bought from the Loadout store and are used specifically to buy cosmetic items for your characters. Additionally, everyday the Loadout gods dish out a “Daily Prize” to each player in which you must pick from one of three containers randomly to be rewarded some Blutes or occasionally a random cosmetic item, giving players that additional incentive to play daily. I suspect that the cosmetic items you receive are all low-value items, but something is certainly better than nothing if you don’t intend to spend any money in the store.
The Free-to-play model in gaming has undergone some very heavy criticism recently especially in the mobile gaming market, but it is important to stress that Loadout never forces you to buy anything. With the paid SpaceBux currency used only for character customisation, you can still play the game and compete with people who may have spent money in the store and remain on a level playing field. That being said, there are options to buy Blute and XP multipliers should you wish to level up faster and reap the benefits of a higher level, providing things like more loadout slots which aren’t especially advantageous to the gameplay.
Is it balanced? Well yes, kind of. With a game like this it’s honestly really hard to tell. The gameplay is fast-paced and with there being so many variables to consider, I honestly couldn’t tell you. All I can really say on this matter is that if you stand still while being fired at, you’re going to die pretty quickly no matter what weapon your opponent has. The game has been in a closed paid-beta since 2012 so most of the major tweaking has been done and as such it feels very polished.
That being said, I’ve had issues with some of Loadout’s features. Melee attacks for example are ridiculously powerful and ridiculously easy to do. To me it seems rather counter-intuitive to have a game focused on weapon customisation only for two or so melee attacks to kill enemies quicker and easier. However I am aware that the devs at Edge of Reality are constantly updating Loadout, which is a massive positive to hear and should you yourself believe that anything is overpowered or not balanced you can post on the Loadout forum where the devs frequently visit.
Despite all of this, Loadout‘s mechanics are very simple which I think adds to its appeal. You have two guns and a piece of equipment to use. That’s it. No silly perks or items of camouflage – it’s just silly unadulterated fun and ultimately I will be playing a lot more in the future.
PS: There are currently 63,000 results for “Loadout Sniper Montage” on YouTube. I knew it.
- Diverse weapon customisation
- Fluid gameplay and movement mechanics
- Fun art style
- Gimmicky weapon attachments
- Slight balancing issues
- Uninspired game modes
OS:Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
Processor:Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD equivalent or better
Memory:2 GB RAM
Graphics:ATI Radeon HD 4350 / NVIDIA GeForce 6800 / Intel HD 3000 or better
Hard Drive:4GB HD space
Sound:DirectX compatible Sound Card
Other Requirements:Broadband Internet connection