Only Loadout

“Hell is empty. All the devils are here.”

Loadout is, if anything, bombastic. In a developer market obsessed with waist high cover and tactical realism, it certainly isn’t a game that will appeal to everyone. It can be loud, crude, ridiculous, infuriating, and juvenile at the best of times. You’ll hear the shrill screams of your characters’ final throes and find yourself either laughing or shaking your head when they raise a bloody middle-fingered salute. You’ll see this sort of thing a lot, as survival is something of a luxury in a game teeming with so much frenetic commotion. Make no mistake, staving off the reaper for more than a minute is a grand feat when considering the arsenal of skin-searing murder weapons. So if you’re looking for a game that rewards patience, brimming with constant tension and sweeping maneuvers, then you’ll probably want to avoid the exasperation and take a pass here. However, if the words: “penta-barreled, laser-guided electric rocket launcher” fills your eyes with a childlike sparkle and curiosity, then maybe you should just download the game right now.

Loadout separates itself from the trending monochromatic tones of modern shooters; rather going for a stylized cartoon brilliance reminiscent of Team Fortress 2 or Battlefield Heroes. But it has its own artistic cohesion and caricatured character design that definitely set it apart from these other titles and keeps it from feeling like a visual rip-off. It’s totally different. Don’t you see the difference? Well, never mind. The fluidity of the character animations is a sight that will make you grin at least once. As you leap and tumble across the colorful battlefield your character will inevitably begin looking more and more like a fine cheese, as bullets tear through your muscular frame like it was tissue paper. Limbs will be reduced to jiggling, fleshy bones, and your avatar will pump out a trail of blood so long that you’ll start calculating how many hearts you’d actually need just to stay conscious. The level of detail in the characters’ dissolution leaves a surprising amount of satisfaction to be had as you watch your enemy’s legs run off into the distance minus an owner.

I’m sure he’s fine.

There are five game modes in Loadout. Death Snatch is a raucous kill fest that scores teams based on how many glowing capsules they can claim (or deny!) from the dripping corpses of the fallen. Jackhammer is akin to capture the flag, if the flag was a giant thunder hammer, that also scores more points the more meat bags you make of people. Extraction begins a frantic race to score “Blutoniun” by finding and carrying the mysterious geodes to various disposals around the map. Blitz is a king of the hill mode that puts players’ taunting and grenade spamming skills to the test.

Finally is the only competitive mode in the game, Annihilation. I could try and allow my dry, unfeeling words to somehow describe this exercise in violent multitasking, but I don’t believe my sputtering would do it any justice. Simply imagine the prior four game types condensed into one, rolling microverse of idiocy and explosions.

Now the meat of the game (while also on the mining facility floor) is the extensive and frankly ludicrous amount of weapon crafting you can engage in prior to your bouts of ballistic jousting. Loadout provides you with a full armory of weapon parts to match and interchange to create your very own portable Frankenstein. There are hundreds of combinations of equipment and gun types you can assemble; all you need is your sadistic imagination and a few Blutes.

Like a mechanical Dr. Moreau you’ll twist barrels and weave ammunition systems into creations that should never have existed, cannons that could either roar and turn the tide of battle, or cough out lazy bursts of impotence. This is the true beauty of the game, the ability to assemble whatever crazy firearm you see fit to wield, no matter how contrary or garish. Would you like to use a fire-breathing, liquid cooled, beam rifle with a diagnostic scope? Go for it. How would you feel about a quadruple-loaded, automatic, mortar rocket that heals people? That’s nuts.  You want to build a bolt action gatling gun that fires bouncing pulse rounds? I wouldn’t recommend it. But can we build it? Yes, yes we can.

I like to name my guns after famous literary works.

It’s this level of creativity that keeps Loadout from being another run of the mill action game. There’s a certain degree of joy one gets out of rearranging these parts like you would Lego’s, combining innocent dabbling with a passion for warmongering. The ability to customize and name your own weapons to such a degree adds personality to those ruthless faces you’ll find at the end of your barrel. This section of the game stands up on its own and is just as enjoyable as the combat itself; but be warned, you might find yourself spending an embarrassing amount of your day tweaking and testing gun parts like a slug-fueled maniac.

It isn’t all sunshine and heat capacitors. Loadout’s actual game play definitely feels a bit lackluster when stepping back from the gory visual celebration, and it’s this shortcoming that often keeps you from extending your campaign of bloodshed after a few solid rounds. There isn’t much nuance to be had here, no higher strategy, the battles generally amount to two teams prancing about like doped-up ballerinas as they abuse their left mouse button until one, or everyone, is lying in pieces. A good ten minutes into your first game and you’ll immediately wonder if you’ve accidentally installed Bunny Hopping Simulator 2014. Players careen around jumping and rolling at breakneck speeds, making it extremely difficult to tell what’s going on or how best to hit your target. This sort of constant, twitchy locomotion might wear thin on both your patience and your eyes after awhile.

Another problem in allowing so much rampant variety are the imbalances between custom creations, and sometimes you’ll run into an enemy weapon that seems to have been designed by Ares himself, as it lays waste to you and your entire cadre. There are a couple of attachment combinations that appear to outclass others quite significantly and more than a few of the unlock-able items feel inferior when testing them out. But such is the inevitability of having so many options available to players.

Did I mention the game is free? I left this cute factoid until last because it seems like free-to-play games are now synonymous with the creepy neighborhood guy who gives out candy to kids. I mean sure, the candy is free, but what’s the catch? Are we going to find razors in the candy again?

Wait a minute, you’re not a detective at all.

Thus far the pricing system appears to be fair and gives you a feeling of progression if only playing for half an hour. Only aesthetic items can be purchased with real money dollars; gun parts and equipment can only be bought with in-game Blutes. Unfortunately that means that if you want to jack up your character to look like Detective Buckman here, you’ll have to fork over some serious cash. Fortunately, while the outfits are tad expensive, the weapons themselves are much easier to acquire. Gun parts usually cost between 800-2500 Blutes to purchase, with an average of 500 Blutes per match. You earn an extra 150-350 daily and a couple thousand every time you level up. This means that at minimum you’re usually able to buy a part every two or three rounds. The amount of options available to you in the weapon crafting portion of the game leaves you free to experiment or just build to your own devilish inspiration. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself more enthralled with the guns than the actual gun play.

6/10 (For the actual game), 8/10 (For the gun customization)

Even it out to a 7/10

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