Free-to-play games are the industry’s attempt to bring gaming for free to anyone that wants to play, and make money in the meantime. While a noble cause, these kinds of games can also fall short of being entertaining for more than a few sessions simply because of the lack of gameplay before you hit some kind of monetary roadblock. Loadout is a great game for those who do not want to pay but want to enjoy a fun and surprisingly obscene shooter.
This game has a comedic element that will make you cringe, and then laugh, but the game is addictive, as free-to-play games usually are. The personalization items to customize your character can have you looking very offensive to sensitive players if you want, or you can go the less offensive, yet still ridiculous, route by donning bizarre shirts, hats, pants, undergarments, and various accessories. Although there are only three base characters to choose from, it seems like there are many more because of the large variety of customization options, making this experience your own. One reason I have stopped playing other free-to-play games in the past is because everyone has the same base character as me due to the limited free options. This game doesn’t seem to have that problem.
The more consistently entertaining lewd quirks of the game are the death animations. After being knocked out, while laying on the ground, your character will sometimes raise their arm after a moment and give the middle finger before finally expelling their last breath. Another death has your body completely severed in half, while your legs keep running, spurting blood everywhere all the while. Your upper body may also be the last living part of you, continuing to crawl along dramatically while also draining blood everywhere. The funnest part about being severed in half is that you can control that half — whichever one it is — for a while before completely “dying.” The game is well themed to be entertaining with the personalization of the characters and the humor mixed in to all aspects of the game.
With the in-your-face themed entertainment value, this game has a lot going for it. For gameplay value before you pay, I feel it also has a lot to offer. The name of the game really describes the main draw. It’s ridiculously fun and addicting to customize your loadout, and customization is where this game excels. You have complete control over weapon creation, from the type of weapon (beam, launcher, pulse, or rifle), the usual elemental effect (including healing), trigger (spooling, 3-round burst, charged, etc.), and many other parts that can be used after initial weapon creation. Other players can pick up your weapon, notated by the name and a button prompt when they walk over it. This just further motivates you to make your weapon cooler than anyone else’s after trying out different player’s creations.
Loadout has a hefty campaign mode as well, just in case free-to-play games turn you off by being too PvP-focused, like they sometimes seem to me. Each campaign level has a specific bonus objective, like killing three enemies with your turret or deploying three health packs. They often have unique modifiers too, like the level in which you are too drunk to dive roll or sprint, making staying alive very difficult. On top of that, each level will be a random, suggestively titled game mode, like Death Snatch and Hold Your Pole. There are 55 campaign levels, with the ability to replay for more rewards and more random loot drops. I found this to be a huge draw for me. It seemed like there were limitless levels to play, each one different than the last.
If you’re itching to use your hand-crafted weapons against another player, you can head to The Arena for some PvP action, of course. There are different game modes here as well. Sometimes it can seem like certain weapon mods are too overpowered and spammed (like any online PvP game), so these matches can be frustrating. I did notice that there is a lot of activity and discussion on the Loadout forums, and I received a couple game updates just in the time I was reviewing it, so I would like to assume that the Loadout team listens to the community and is always tweaking things in the game.
Playing with friends is especially fun when you get into the details of everyone’s weapons and what could make them better. Party matchmaking is a little confusing and clunky, though. It took me a couple tries to successfully join up in the mode I wanted and the level I wanted before my friends and I finally understood the menu system. It does work, though. It just had a sharp learning curve. For such a fast-action game, party matchmaking is a small hurdle on the way to fun.
You forget about the microtransactions strictly because you are having so much fun playing through the levels and modes, customizing, and leveling up. You do earn blutes — the main currency — that, like other free-to-plays, is gained faster and easier than the separate, paid currency of space bucks. So, you earn both currencies, just at different rates. While you can’t buy weapon parts right from the weaponcrafting menu with blutes like you can with space bucks, you can obtain the same items with blutes via random loot crates from the store. It’s more fun somehow to buy loot crates and test your luck with what items they might give you, much like the appeal of the lottery or gambling. The balance of currency gain and the ratio of space bucks to blutes is acceptably balanced and rewarding for a free-to-play game.
Loadout isn’t some new breed of free-to-play, but it does a very entertaining job of balancing what you can play with when you can pay. Being a low level isn’t painfully boring, and gaining experience or good weapons doesn’t require real money. The fun level increases if you pay, but isn’t decreased by not paying. All in all, despite the free-to-play model that may make some players look away, Loadout is an obnoxious and discourteous third person shooter worth playing, even if it’s not a ‘must-play’ title, and you might even find yourself willing to fork over a few bucks to get that offensive t-shirt or kick-ass weapon mod just a little faster.
Loadout review copy free on PlayStation Store. For more information on scoring, read our Review Policy here.