When we hear the words “free-to-play” we’re almost conditioned to be skeptical straight away. I’m willing to admit that’s the way I felt about Loadout when I first heard of it, but then I saw some screenshots, read some information and – finally – sat down and played it, and now I’m willing to admit that I got it totally wrong. Or, perhaps it’s Loadout that has gotten free-to-play very, very right.
The first thing to notice about Loadout, and something the developers seem very pleased about, is that you’ll never pay real world money for any kind of advantage in the game. There are two currencies: Blutes – which are earned from playing matches – and Spacebux – which can be purchased for real world money. The Blutes are the only currency that you’ll be spending on upgrading your weapon, with the Spacebux being reserved for purchasing character customisations, weapons slots and other items that aren’t necessarily required, but add that little bit extra to the experience.
Creating weapons is one of the main experiences in Loadout – as you may have guessed from the title – and you’ll be asked to create your very own weapon before you even head into the game for the first time. You can choose everything about the weapon, what ammo you’re going to use, what barrel, which stock, everything. Some of the stuff you’re going to have to pay for, using the previously mentioned Blutes, and some stuff you’re going to have to unlock by levelling up in the game before you’re even given the opportunity to buy them, but the fact that you can see them gives you something to work towards.
The fact that you won’t be spending real world money on weapon customisations doesn’t mean that there’s nothing in Loadout to tempt you into parting with your hard-earned cash. Before you even start looking into buying extra loadout slots, or any of the other functioning aspects of the store, I have no doubt that everyone will be tempted – just as I was – to customise their own personal character, complete with the look they want and the ever-important taunts. There are a hell of a lot of options, from hairstyles, accessories, clothes and more, and you’ll be constantly dipping into your Spacebux wallet for those sweet mutton chops you’ve always wanted but weren’t allowed in real life.
You’re not going to be spending all of your time in the menus though, and Loadout offers some of the most original and entertaining gameplay I’ve seen throughout all of the free-to-play games that are currently available. The humour on offer is akin to games such as Team Fortress 2, but the addition of high levels of gore make Loadout rather unique in its own right. When shooting your opponent, parts of their anatomy will come flying off of them as a visual indicator of just how much health they’ve got left. If they’re missing their head and running round the arena as just a brain and a pair of eyes, it’s a pretty good guess that they’re on their last legs and you should probably put them down before they get too far away.
Everything about the gameplay in Loadout is finely crafted to make you want to come back for more. The Blutes at the end of each match, the levelling mechanic, the unlocking of more items and progression through the tech tree. All of it is there to make you say “I’ll just have one more match, then I’ll go to bed, I promise”. Once those words have been uttered, the game has you, and you may as well accept it (and play three or fifteen more matches while you’re at it).
VERDICT: Loadout is the type of game that you honestly can’t believe you’re getting for free. The amount of fun you’ll have, the amount of customisable options and features on offer, will leave you with an experience that most wouldn’t mind paying for at all. The fact that none of the weapon upgrades are unlocked by paying for them is a move that ensures that if you come across a person with a weapon much better than yours, then it’s because they’ve earned it, not because they’ve got a fatter wallet than you.
Loadout is a game that shows that you don’t have to sell your soul to be free-to-play. It’s a joy to play, and I can only hope that plenty more people on my Steam friends list decide that they want to download it too. GodisaGeek match day, anyone?
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.