Thanks to the efforts of companies like Electronic Arts, one could be forgiven for thinking that free-to-play games are anything but free to play, existing only to frustrate players and take their money. However, there are fine examples of games that aren’t secretly cash grabs. “Loadout,” a third-person multiplayer shooter, is the latest, and perhaps greatest, example of a good free-to-play model.
Edge of Reality’s model of “play-to win” rather than pay-to-win shines through in their game’s weapon design. As the title implies, “Loadout” centers around constructing a unique loadout, complete with fully customizable weapons and skins. The weapons and weapon customizations are unlocked using in-game currency called “blutes,” earned by leveling up and performing well in multiplayer matches. The only items that can have real money spent on them are character outfits and xp boost items.
While “Loadout” is a great example of a free-to-play model that is mutually beneficial to gamers and developers, this third person arena shooter is good enough to deserve discussion on its own. The game is a polished, fast-paced, funny, smartly designed arena combat experience, and the fact it’s free only sweetens the deal. The aesthetic of the game is bound to draw comparisons with Valve’s “Team Fortress 2,” but the game boasts its own originality.
Character design is exaggerated and surprisingly inclusive, while combat sees characters lose chunks of flesh as they get shot, get cut in half, burn vividly to death and flip off their opponents after collapsing to the ground. The objectively graphic nature of the game is rather brutal, but the cartoon visuals make it more funny than appalling, in a way that the fast-paced 8-bit action and synthesized music did for “Hotline Miami.”
The campy, cartoony aspect of the game shines through in its weapon design as well. Most games limit weapon attachments by class, but in this game, players can create all kinds of wacky combinations, such as a sniper rifle that shoots health beams, a penta-barrel rocket launcher with rapid fire or a pulse rifle that shoots balls of electricity at an alarming rate. Literally thousands of combinations of weapons prevent any stale gameplay after several sessions.
The second part of a player’s titular loadout is their character, which requires the game’s second in-game currency, Spacebux. Without Spacebux, players can be one of three standard character models. By investing real cash into the game, players can add costume pieces, including hats, masks, pants, tops and other silly accessories to create a far more personalized avatar. It’s a system in which one never feels strong-armed into spending money, but one in which invested players may want to stand out more and will feel inclined to toss some dollars into it. It’s a game that tries to encourage spending, rather than force it.
Gameplay in “Loadout” is equally varied. There are a decent number of maps, with game types that include capture-and-hold, capture-the-flag and kill-confirmed. The modes may not be the most original shooter game modes, but the gun variety and fast-paced run-and-gun combat means each match will play out very differently.
With its campy aesthetic, wide variety of crafting options and surprisingly fun gameplay, all wrapped in a laudable free-to-play model, “Loadout” is an amazing game and worth getting into. “Loadout” for the PC scores a 9 out of 10.