In recent years, we have been inundated by free-to-play online multiplayer action games of all sorts; from far-out sci-fi titles like Warframe, Planetside 2, and Firefall; robot action titles like Mechwarrior Online and Hawken; to realistic vehicular combat such as the titles from Wargaming.net. Maybe the genre is getting too saturated and there are too many titles coming out that it’s getting harder to play every one of them, but at least each of the notable ones are unique enough to stand on their own. Here’s another name thrown into the hat, and it actually does quite well with its premise.
Loadout is a multiplayer shooter by Edge of Reality, which is now free-to-play on Steam. Its premise is that of an over-the-top action game where players can come up with their own outrageous weapons to bring into battle. The expansive customization is what lends this game its name and selling point, being able to come up with your own loadout and going to battle with it. You can either enchant, amuse, or annoy other players with your appearance, then blast them away with whatever you have in your in-game arsenal.
From its cartoon-ish looks to its crass depictions of both raunchiness and straight-up gore full of gratuitous dismemberment, one may think that it’s unrefined at best. However, the extent of being over-the-top that this game takes actually makes it a fun experience. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and yet it caters just as well to hardcore competitive players as well as it does with casuals. Its cel-shaded graphics makes it look like a cross between Borderlands and Team Fortress 2, but a bit more crude in mannerisms. As for the audio, it does have good enough music that sets the tone, but its the sound effects that hit it home. You might even catch the Wilhelm Scream a few times during the game.
Most of the character customization options are bought with Spacebux, which can be bought through your wallet if you’re playing through Steam. As the developers would say, it’s not “Pay to Win” but “Pay to Look Awesome”, which is quite encouraging for players who may not be that enthusiastic about dropping money on it but still want to have fun playing the game. You also get a tech tree to track your experience and help with gaining expertise over your chosen weapon types.
There is also another in-game currency called Blutes, which is derived from the fictional Blutonium, which is like its own version of Energon from Transformers. Blutes are used to buy upgrades for your weapons, and this game boasts up to 44 billion possible combinations. Whether it’s an exaggeration using an arbitrary number or a theoretical amount derived from a factorial counting all the components and weapons available, it does sound quite impressive.
This is the party piece of the game; the loadout, hence the name. You get to make your own weapons, starting from the chassis of Rifles, Launchers, Pulse, and Beam weapons. You can change the stock, trigger, magazine, barrel, scope, and payloads of each weapon you work on and come up with something that you can take to battle. Each component changes the properties of the weapon, so you can either ramp up the damage, go for firing rate, or add extra effects to your shots in order to do things like increase splash damage, or perhaps even turn your gun into a healing blaster to support your teammates.
You can then join various gameplay modes, from casual modes to the competitive mode that matches you up with other hardcore players for rank and blood. You can form parties with your friends and battle in up to 4v4 against either other human players or against bots. Once you enter the lobby, everyone can then vote on which map to play, each with their own game types such as Blitz, Extraction, Death Snatch, and Jackhammer. There is variety in the map pool, from ones with lots of elevation and gaps, to those with wide open spaces, catwalks, and hallways.
This game had been in closed beta for a long time, and yet there are still a good number of technical issues present. For instance, the matchmaking system is still wonky and tends to get players disconnected seemingly at random. It seems that the developers are having difficulty with the influx of players who have been coming in upon launch. There are also a few other things like how it tends to jump into windowed mode whenever you get into a game, which can be alleviated by pressing Alt+Enter, but it’s still a bit annoying.
Also, there are some game-breaking bugs such as this.
Players can be at ease though in knowing that the developers are active in fixing problems. Within its first 24 hours after its official launch, a lot of the matchmaking issues were fixed with subsequent updates, which is something that any online game must upon receiving the initial influx of players eager to try out what the game has to offer. There are currently three regional servers — North America, Europe, and Australia. They all have pretty good latency for players who choose the closest one to them, so there aren’t a lot of issues with in-game lag.
Loadout is definitely not an ordinary shooter, as it’s a collection of many things rolled into one. It has comedy and violence of both cartoon and adult variety, and a whole lot more in between. It seems that Edge of Reality knew that the genre they were getting into is already quite saturated, so they had to stand out from the crowd to not be deemed mediocre. They did so by being very over the top and giving players a ton of options, which is more than enough for something that’s free to play and a tremendous fun to play with friends.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8.5/10