Loadout proves there’s a fine between raucous hilarity and cringe-worthy gore. Embedded in a cartoon-y exterior is a violent, frantic melee that results in decapitations and copious amounts of scattered blood. It’s definitely a form of wild, no-holds-barred slapstick that, despite its kiddie, colorful presentation, might prove offensive to some gamers. On the other hand, if you’ve got no issue whatsoever with crazy violence and you’re more likely to laugh at a bouncing set of eyeballs (I admit, I did), then Edge of Reality’s highly customizable action extravaganza might be for you.
Special effects take center-stage in this wacky graphical presentation where brains can pop out of skulls and skin can disappear in the blink of an eye. It’s a strange blend of sick imagery and these airy, almost cheery visuals. It isn’t quite as sharp as I would’ve liked but then again, for a free-to-play game that puts a heavy emphasis on replayability and customization, I think it looks decent on PlayStation 4. The level design isn’t especially interesting, though, and I found the entire experience – despite the off-the-wall gore – to be somewhat empty. I dunno; I tend to get bored when the product focuses so strongly on ceaseless gameplay and effects.
I feel similarly about the sound; some of it is gut-wrenchingly hilarious while other effects tend to fall flat. It’s a relatively uneven technical presentation overall, which I suppose I should expect from lower-budget F2P titles. Even so, the soundtrack is effective and fitting, and it helps to drive the action forward at a relentless clip. Occasionally, the combination of the effects and the music results in an extremely visceral experience that will almost make you wince with its intensity. Other times, it’s just a happy-go-lucky romp through a blood-soaked battlefield…if that makes any sense whatsoever. In other words, it’s not a graphical or audio tour de force but usually, it works.
Loadout originally launched back in January 2014 for the PC. This third-person shooter is all about creating ridiculous weapons that can destroy your opponents with nasty stuff like fire and lightning. The interesting part is that the PS4 version changes things up a little, as how weapon parts are distributed has changed significantly. It’s not a drastic alteration – the gameplay remains the same, for the most part – but it does change how we approach our customization process, to some extent. As for that customization, that takes center-stage throughout the experience. Use your imagination and craft a weapon that’s a physical impossibility and a legitimate terror!
Sometimes, the crafting process is pretty straightforward; other times, it can be somewhat complex. It depends on the parts you have at your disposal and the type of weapon you wish to produce. For instance, you can start from scratch with only a gun chassis or you can simply toss an accessory onto an existing weapon. Then, when you factor in the different ammo types, you start to realize just how many radically different guns you can create in only a short span of time. And you don’t always have to go nuts with the firepower, either; a quieter approach can sometimes work wonders and a silencer isn’t a bad idea. Of course, the game is all about being loud and proud, which you’ll soon discover.
Getting back to the process of earning parts in the PS4 version: In the PC version, you unlocked parts from daily prizes, or you could earn them via experience and the tech tree. On PS4, weapon parts, gear, and safes are usually awarded at the end of completed multiplayer matches or campaign missions. Your currency remains spacebux and blutes (each used for something different), but don’t forget that many parts have a particular level and rarity rank. The rarer the part, the more it’ll likely boost your attributes. The best part about getting awards at the end of matches (as opposed to the PC way of gathering parts) is that you get a steady flow of goodies. You really get a ton of parts and even though not all are worthwhile, it’s nice to have so many options.
Sadly, and as I anticipated, the campaign mode isn’t really worth talking about. There’s no story and only five chapters’ worth of missions, none of which are all that invigorating. They basically just use the same gameplay throughout all of them: Waves of enemies come flying at you from all directions and you just gotta mow ‘em down. You don’t even get to see new locations, as you move through the same maps and game types available in multiplayer. The entire single-player experience just feels unrewarding, tedious, and tacked on. The only upside is that you will receive loot packs and safes while playing, which might be worth snagging. Oh, and you get some extra spacebux, too.
I don’t find the control to be particularly impressive, either. I guess they adapted the controls well enough to the Dual Shock 4 but aiming feels loose and unreliable, especially when zoomed-in, and the six available maps just aren’t that inspired. Sure, there are some hidden pathways and other goodies, and I like that you utilize varied movement (running, jumping, diving, etc.). But the four-on-four matches start to wane all too soon. There are five modes: Blitz, Death Snatch, Domination, Jackhammer, and Extraction. Blitz and Domination are similar, in that you have to control certain points on the map, while Death Snatch is basically a version of Deathmatch.
Extraction is more interesting, as you have to protect a teammate who runs around collecting blutonium, and Jackhammer is like Capture the Flag, except the flag is actually a hammer. And yeah, you can use that hammer to smash foes into pieces. But without the Ranked Mode, the “Coming Soon!” Annihilation Mode, and mediocre matchmaking, the multiplayer tends to feel empty. It’s too chaotic and not well structured, which turns me off. It’s this lack of polish that tends to give me a bad opinion of F2P games in general, and obviously, there’s always the issue of money. How much do you really want to spend on a mindless fragfest with lots of cartoon-y blood? Up to you.
Loadout isn’t a bad game; there just isn’t much to it. If you’re worried about how a PC game translates to the PS4 controller, you’ll be happy to hear there are minimal issues. The control isn’t perfect, though, and despite the better part distribution system, there isn’t much to talk about aside from weapon crafting. The multiplayer can be an absolute blast but matchmaking leaves a lot to be desired, there are only six maps, and without a Ranked Mode, the game takes a serious hit. If you’ve got some friends who would enjoy the experience, you’ll probably have some fun. Otherwise, there are better options out there.
The Good: An intoxicating (albeit unsettling) mix of violence and cartoonish presentation. Weapon-crafting is a huge highlight, and the focal point of the game. Creative types will be rewarded. Accessible and moderately entertaining, especially for 4 carefree buddies.
The Bad: Uneven technical elements. Campaign is a total waste of time. Only six maps, and they’re not especially well designed. Control isn’t perfect. No Ranked Mode is a big problem.
The Ugly: "Hard to find a worse campaign."
1/7/2015 Ben Dutka