As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time. All feedback on this concept is welcome.
UPDATE 31/01: Now public servers are live, the lag seems to have improved considerably. However, the match-making system appears to be down as I have not matched with another player for a full hour. We will thoroughly test this over the weekend and produce an update piece.
2014 will unquestionably see a more-considered movement toward the F2P game becoming a mainstay in the household. Titles like Warframe, Blacklight Retribution, War Thunder, World of Tanks amongst others are already hugely successful and enjoying high figures of active users.
Naturally, success breeds emulation, duplication and multiplication. And just a few weeks into the year, the first major attempt at infiltrating that market has already reared its head. Edge of Reality feel confident that Loadout is ready to move out of Early Access, officially launching the game today.
This F2P hits hard and early with outrageous characterisation, immensely generous flexibility and ferocious violence. But after a few hours of play, we have serious concerns as to whether this is really ready for public consumption. Despite the fantastic ideas engineering it, Loadout struggles to handle its core business: Online multiplayer.
Billed as a hybrid of Team Fortress 2 and Borderlands, Loadout is an online multiplayer game that is completely team focused. The game will launch with four game types, each one objective based. The game type is randomised when you set up a match and you’ll either be thrown into Control Point Blitz, Death Snatch, Extraction or Jack Hammer.
Sure, the game encourages users to play all modes, and this obviously makes it much easier for testing. But once the game launches, people will soon establish their favourites and will quickly become frustrated when an option to select their preferred mode isn’t available.
Control Point Blitz is similar to King of the Hill, in that you and your team mates must occupy territory space and raise your laundry up on a flag pole in order to score a point. Most points win.
Death Snatch is Deathmatch, but with a twist. Kill an enemy then steal their Blutonium vial to score points. However, you can take your allies vial in order to stop the enemy from scoring. Tactical warfare at its finest.
Extraction features one person on each team as the designated Collector. That person must collect Bluetonium deposits, then take them to Grinder Bins all over the map. The role of Collector switches between team mates as players die, so success can only be guaranteed by good teamwork.
Finally, Jack Hammer adds a spin to the Capture the Flag formula. Capture the enemies hammer then return it to your drill base. However, that hammer can be used to squish enemies and its score value will increase the more kills you get on the way to a capture. Clever.
Despite the creativity in game modes however, that’s not where Loadout really defines itself. The game has a very in-depth, dynamic and flexible levelling up and weapon upgrade system that rivals just about anything you’ve seen in a multiplayer game before.
In Weaponcrafting you can set the base model of your gun, – whether you want it to be a Rifle or a Launcher, for instance – then add all manner of modifications to completely customise it, adjusting the chassis, equipping iron-sights, or changing the burst of fire. When you’re done, slap a name on it and you can take it into battle.
According to Edge of Reality, there are around 44 Billion possible weapon combinations. A bold claim, and a mind-shattering prospect for online multiplayer, especially since you can pick up your enemies weapon when they die and use it against them. But to begin with, you’ll be relatively limited in what you can change without purchasing some in-game credit, or having any battle experience under your belt.
Obviously the Weaponcrafting element of Loadout will grow in significance the more you play and the more options become available to you. But players can also earn daily rewards, as well as gain the tools to upgrade by levelling up characters and accessing the Tech Tree or by completing in-game contracts to earn stars.
Weaponcrafting is an impressive, flexible gun-making tool that can enable you to make something as wacky as a Minigun Rocket Launcher or a Sniper Rifle with shotgun-like tendencies. Your imagination can run completely amok and produce exciting results on a real-time battlefield against other human players. In that regard, Loadout is so very special and will create some truly incredible battles.
Unfortunately, getting into and being involved in a match happens to be the part that lets the whole thing down.
Despite having a mostly uncontested, healthy internet signal, I found myself regularly struggling to find a game. When I did find one, I was often being booted out and when I wasn’t being booted out, during the action, I suffered horrendous, insufferable lag that rendered the whole match entirely unplayable. Even bot matches, which may include one other person, coughed and spluttered every few seconds.
Sometimes the action was seamless and I would have absolutely no problem trading fire with an opponent in a fair fight. But 8 times out of 10, there were full-on, complete screen pauses of at least several seconds, sharp lag-spikes and frame-rate hiccups that completely tainted the whole experience.
My team mates were balling and screaming that they had no support, and I continually had to tell them that we simply couldn’t move. When I could move, I was basic target practice because the game would have lagged me to the centre of the map where I was exposed and vulnerable. It seems the lag spikes vary dramatically and affect others at different intervals.
I looked to see what others were saying and many advised tweaking the graphics settings. Sadly, this made no difference to the performance of my games and the problems persisted no matter what resolution, screen size or depth of quality I picked.
Despite my enthusiasm for the game, how much I want to support the ideas and want to tell you how great it is, right now, it’s unplayable. At this point, putting it out in the public domain could be an instant death sentence for Loadout. First impressions count for a lot, and rather than being remembered as the game with immense customization, depth and versatility, Loadout runs the risk of being remembered as the title that lagged. And in a highly competitive market, that will go down like a lead-balloon.
For perspective, Loadout is just coming out of Early Access with a limited amount of users and it’s lagging this heavily. Just imagine how bad it will be when the entire population of Steam wants to play later tonight.
Server Stability is a must – especially for a game that is majorly online only – and until that’s fixed, I cannot recommend Loadout. I will be returning to the game several times post launch to assess the ongoing network stability, and we’ll obviously be producing Patch Reviews whenever they’re released. Right now, however, there’s far too much work that needs to be done.
I just hope people will be forgiving and open to giving it a chance in a few months time when the issues are ironed out. There’s a wealth of potential here and a lot of fun to be had.
Areas for Development
- Network Stability
- Improve Frame Rate
- Some graphics break up during action and audio stutters
- Improve Hosting Conditions
- Randomly blown up at the start of each level
- Network Stability
- Give players option to pick mode they want to play
- Some bots refuse to die and are practically impossible to kill.
- Sometimes game forgets my loadout choice and asks me to input after each death.
- Random kickings to the title screen during games without warning
- Character models don’t draw properly until further into a game
- And Network Stability
Technical Competency – 6/10
Audio/Visual – 8/10
Network Stability – 1/10
Overall – 4/10
While full to the brim with fantastic ideas and bustling with replayability, Loadout is riddled with lag spikes, random quits, crashes, frame rate hiccups and continual disruptions in service. As this is an online only game, this makes the Loadout experience largely unplayable, leaving us with a title in an unacceptable state.
While Loadout has all the potential in the world to be a massive success online, this is an example of a game that has launched a few months too early, a mistake that could seriously impact the game’s potential growth and expansion over the next few months.
(These grades assess our playthrough, taking into consideration how many (if any) bugs were encountered, whether there were any interruptions in gameplay and the product’s final technical state. These scores, coupled with the Final Analysis and Areas for Development, are suggestions for future patches and updates which the developers could (and in our opinion, should) explore. These scores are separate to our DLC/Expansion Reviews but link into our Patch/Firmware Reviews.)
(These scores are not designed as a grading system to determine the entertainment value of a product and should not be treated as such..)
Issues you’ve encountered
- Matchmaking Error – Tells some players they’re in a game when they’re not
- Lag and latency issues
- Other players earn XP and rewards for kills you make, despite game acknowledging you made killing blow
- No guns and character models displayed
- Cursor bugs in fullscreen
- Inability to join friends in matches