At first glance, Loadout may seem pretty cookie-cutter. It’s a third person arena shooter that features game types comparable to Capture the Flag, Kill Confirmed, Control Point, and others. It comes complete with a nice selection of character customization options, and also offers weapon customization. So far, this sounds like several shooters you’ve already played. Here is the deal — you need to take another look at that weapon customization. That’s where you will find Loadout really stands out, as its weapon customization may gone where others fear to tread.
When you make a weapon in Loadout, you’re not just given a premade gun where you can only attach accessories to improve the gun that someone else made. Here you can start from scratch with four different chassis (Rifle, Launcher, Pulse, and Beam), and depending on how clever you are you can build an unstoppable death machine or just a very large noise maker. Once you get started, you’ll find that the main difference between the weapons you make is what types of projectiles they fire, how quickly they do it, how fast those projectiles travel, and how powerful they are.
Once you choose the chassis you can swap out items like the stock, scope, trigger, magazine, and barrel. The difference between this customization from other games is that no gun parts are limited to a specific chassis. You can have a pulse weapon (a chassis that shoots larger, slower projectiles) with a sniper barrel and scope, or you can have a beam weapon with a sniper barrel and scope. Using the various combinations you can make sniper rifles, assault rifles, gatling guns, rocket launchers, and have each of them customized differently. Each piece you put on a gun has positive and negative effects on your weapons stats, though, so don’t expect to build a weapon with a bunch of high-powered pieces and then easily go on a killing spree.
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but instead of saying bullets I’ve been saying projectiles. This is because you can change the type of ammo your gun fires as well. You start off with slugs: quick, mid-range bullets that can get the job done with steady aim. As you progress you can unlock Tesla ammo that can hurt your target as well as nearby enemies, Pyro ammo that does damage over time, and even healing ammo. On top of changing the type of ammo you can also change various properties. Does your ammo bounce off walls? Maybe travels in a corkscrew pattern? When it comes to launchers you have even more options, such as how the projectile is propelled, and you can even control when it explodes.
After you create your weapons you need to put them in a loadout slot. The loadout slot consists of two weapons and an auxiliary slot that can be used to things like bringing grenades to the fight, equipping yourself with a shield, and various other options. You can switch loadout while you are in a game, but only while you’re dead.
All of these options aren’t available from the start, and will need to be unlocked by spending Blutes – the in-game currency specifically for buying and upgrading your weapons. You cannot purchase Blutes directly with the other in-game currency, Spacebux, which is obtained by spending real world money. Therefore, you cannot buy your way to the top, technically speaking. Even so, Spacebux can be used to purchase XP and Blute boosts, which in turn should allow you to unlock weapon pieces and ammo faster as well as upgrade them; so the argument of whether the game is pay to win is still on the table.
Even with the XP and Blute boosts you would still need to spend a lot of time playing since each weapon option needs to be unlocked on each chassis individually — meaning that if you unlock pyro ammo on your rifle, you’re still going to need Blutes to unlock it on your beam. On top of that you have the XP aspect, which just doesn’t affect your character’s level, but also your weapons level. As your character levels up you will unlock additional weapon and loadout slots, but each attachment that you use on your weapon will get a piece of that XP applied to its overall level. When your weapons reaches the max XP for that level you can then upgrade them to make your gun parts more efficient. For example, the gatling barrel that gives you a high rate of fire may now give you an even higher rate while also increasing stability after you level up that component. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the weaponcrafting screen, and luckily you can craft and modify weapons while simultaneously searching for games.
There are two modes in which you can look for games, and various game types you’ll be playing once you get into one. Casual mode will try to match you up with other players around your level to play in various game types. There is a capture the flag game type called Jackhammer, with the twist being that the hammer (which is the flag in this case) is also a weapon. If you slam it down it will instantly kill anyone in a certain radius. This is cool, but at this time I feel the radius is WAY too wide. A decent flag runner has a major advantage over his enemies at this point, and I’m hoping that Edge of Reality (The devs) find a way to balance that out.
Other game types include a Kill-Confirmed type of game called Death Snatch, a control-point style game called Blitz, and another game mode called Extraction in which you need to collect Blutes and drop them in a processor. Any game type can be played on any of the maps that come with the game, and this can be a problem as some maps are much better suited for certain game types. For example, the map Fissure is great when played on Extraction; however, I felt Jackhammer on that map was not that fun. The map was just too large for that game type.
The other mode is Competitive mode which only offers one game type: Annihilation. Annihilation is a combination of all of the other game types. The only game type that is not represented in Annihilation is Extraction, but maybe they will find a way to cram that in too.
The core objective is to destroy the enemy base, but to do that you need to collect at least 10,000 points to take down their shields. Your primary method of point collection is to steal the enemy’s Jackhammer over and over. There’s more to it than that, though.
Now, at this point I realized something about Loadout: They do a terrible job explaining how to actually play the game. When I first played Annihilation the only thing I knew to do was steal the Jackhammer, but there are a bunch of other aspects to this game mode that, frankly, I’m still a little confused about. There are two control points on the map, and from what I can see the only thing you get from taking one is an individual buff that you keep until you die. I’m not sure if you get additional blutes or if there is another advantage to making sure we get the control points.
Something else that confused me was the upgrade system specific to this game type. When I started I saw three terminals sitting in front of me which I had no idea what to do with. Eventually, I found out that you are supposed to upgrade yourself while you play with either higher damage, higher shield, or higher healing output. This lead to me having a TERRIBLE first game because players were beating the tar out of me due to their upgrades. I figured out that I needed to use the Blutes that I collected from killing other players (like Death Snatch) as currency for the upgrades, but not before a rough first match. There are aspects to Loadout that can take the game from being fun to frustrating. First off, players have too much access to grenades. Every player starts off with two (that is, if you didn’t swap out your grenades for a shield) every time you spawn. Then, if you run out of grenades, you can pick more grenades up from crates around the map. There are usually so many crates that you don’t even need to look for them; you will probably run into one by accident. The grenades pack a nice punch too, so this leads to a LOT of spam in some games — especially game modes like Blitz where players know exactly where to aim grenades to clear out a lot of players. Seriously, once a point goes live it’s not uncommon to see a hail of grenades and missiles flying right at the point at any given time.
Weapon balance is also an issue, one I’m not so sure can be fixed based simply on the nature of the game. I wouldn’t say all combinations are out of whack, but I’ve seen certain combinations that just feel unfair. For example, I’ve seen players that use a combination of pulse sniper rifle that can be a one hit kill almost every time. At first I just attributed this to player skill, but when I was able to pick up one of their guns and use it I found that, due to the size and shape of the player models, it was pretty easy to pull off these shots.
The trade-off with high powered weapons is usually that the rate of fire is slow, which is understandable. What I think the developer missed is that being shot by other players doesn’t affect your aim, so if you engaged with a player with one of these high powered weapons, as long as they can keep their nerve, they can take your hits and then plug you with one hit from their high-powered weapon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the game is too broken to play — but when I get killed by a player that is jumping around getting one shot kills almost effortlessly, that takes all the fun out of the game and it just becomes frustrating.
For the most part Loadout is free-to-play. The pay aspect mostly comes in with character customization. You start off with one of three models, and from there you have an array of customizations you can make from changing pants and hair to swapping out taunts. You get a base set of customizations you can make, and you need to pay for additional ones with Spacebux. Most customizations come out to be $5 and lower, and some of the most expensive stuff I saw were taunts. More usefully, you can also buy additional weapon and loadout slots. Leveling your character only gives you so many of those slots, and if you want more you need to pony up the cash. We are talking somewhere between $5-10 for a slot, which I thought was fair. It’s on par with other games that I’ve seen where you can buy player slots.
I would have to say I have fun playing Loadout even though there are several aspects that can suck the fun out of the game and leave you frustrated. With a game that allows players to go as deep into crafting as this game does, there are bound to be balance issues that occur. Hopefully, over time Edge of Reality will balance the game properly to help preserve the fun and keep cheesy players at bay. Loadout is free-to-play on Steam and I can’t give you a reason not to try it out. It’s fun playing with a group of friends, and even when you do come across some of the things I mentioned, I think the overall fun will outweigh the aggravation you come across.