Wot I Think: Loadout

It’s time to look at Loadout, the cartoonish free to play arena shooter. What manner of computer japes might be had within?

Let’s see wot I think, below.

I like it. Very much. It plays well, and I will even forgive it for being third-person. I like that the capture the flag variant is a hammer, which you can use to brutally smash people into gore. Now that’s a fresh take.

And it’s refreshing to see an old-fashioned arena shooter, I have to say. Browsing the forums and so forth it’s clear that for a number of people playing Loadout this is their first classic-style deathmatchian multiplayer game, which is a thing that makes me feel wistful, old, slightly nauseous.

Yes, Old Men, Loadout is a run and gun of the Oldest Skool: crazy weapons, leaping about in broad and circularly connected maps. Chasing after a dude and landing a rocket at where he is going to be a fraction of a second from now. Yeah, that good stuff! You can practically smell it. These Loadout level designers are making like it’s 1999, and the consequences of that are entertaining in a way that echoes Quake, Unreal, and their many imitators of miscellaneous quality.

“Boom!” I say. It’s fast, there are a lot of particle effects flying about at any one time, and it’s not shy about gibs. In fact it’s not shy at all: you can run around with your (pixellated) cock hanging out, and you can get shot up so badly that your guts slop out of a gaping hole in your back. It’s all cartoon slapstick, of course, so don’t worry about the body-horror. The game modes, too, hark of an old era, with “DEATH SNATCH” attempting to jazz up the trad formula of just trying to kill as many enemy players as possible.

Fortunately for 2014, Loadout doesn’t ever feel less than modern. The distinction between “Casual” and “Competitive” game styles (with the latter closer to organised teamplay, and with one melting pot mode of play) gives a formalised nod to how people play these games. With many such options, it’s a surprisingly slick game, glossed with contemporary design flourishes. That’s perhaps due in part to how much inspiration the game takes from Team Fortress 2 (it even has the female announcer, albeit rather more deadpan than Valve’s war matron). This connection means that it stands squarely in the realm of cartoonish combat and pacey, flagrant physics-bending. That’s not to say it’s a Fortress style game, no, because it does not have a class structure. Instead it relies on customisation. And that’s a formidable aspect of the package. Indeed, it’s in the name.

Each player packs two or more weapons in combat, and you’ll be required to knock them together out of a number of prefabricated parts before you jump into the fight. There’s a fair old range of possibilities here, with different stocks, barrels, magazines, ammo types and so on for the selection of different weapon types. This has a sort of do-it-yourself Borderlands MILLIONS OF GUNS effect, where players are able to create a vast range of stat-driven weapon instances, with a broad range of effects and, consequently, applications in combat. The components for these are unlocked with points derived from playing, to avoid the ol’ pay to win.

Characters can be customised too, leading to a tonne of possible expression for creative types. And, hell, customisation is always entertaining, so why not?

Well… There is an issue. Or two, actually. The first is that to get at all the cosmetic customisation stuff, you’re going to have to spend some serious money. Sure, there are some options that come with the free build, but the game is also not shy about asking for your dollars in the form of game cash – which you’ll need to access anything more than a handful of haircuts. Let’s be clear: I don’t have a problem with the free to play model, at all. I think it’s given us some awesome free games lately – Planetside 2 has been a particular pleasure – but I do think a couple of quid is too much for imaginary trousers. Especially when there are so many I could buy. That means I just won’t spend money at all. Perhaps that doesn’t matter to the devs, but I like spending money, so it matters to me.

And then there’s DLC. The starter pack, which contains a few extras and some additional game cash, is £15. Perhaps unsurprisingly – that’s about how much you’d be expecting to pay for a game of this kind, in the current market – however a new suit pack, which is purely cosmetic, is £30. And that’s the current cut price. It’s normally £68! Boom, indeed. A bundle currently allows you to pick up the both DLCs for £40. So that’s £40 for the “entire” current game. Except there are loads more ways to spend currency in the game itself. Yes, F2P is clever, it is allowing ways to spend money. Except that pyschology seems to be having a reverse effect on me. If I can’t see a limit to the spending, I don’t want to spend a penny.

That’s clearly a subjective quirk, or the free model wouldn’t be booming.

The second issue is that the weapon customisation is such a huge part the game, but in truth only seems to have a limited window of success. Presumably there are, as with so many such systems, a very small number of optimal weapons and tactics, however, even though people claim to have found them, it’s impossible to tell whether that is simply Best For Them. Due to the sheer number of possible builds, given the massive gun Lego you are provided with, you are best off not really experimenting, but instead getting really good with a couple of standard setups. You might come up with some comedy weapons, but the funny isn’t going to be fun for long, because you just end up losing.

In a very real way this weird counter-intuitive skill vs build thing doesn’t matter, because there’s still a large red barrel full of entertainment to be had through the doors of Loadout, but it feels like a design failure of some kind. It’s almost as if having a bajillion different weapons is counter to how this kind of game should work. I rather feel like I just want a couple of weapons I can get good with. And I can do that, if I don’t experiment with the loadout. But experimenting with the loadout seems like the main event, so… Gosh, that’s confusing.

Any other weak grumbles? Well, I’ve also experienced a few problems with matchmaking. It takes ages to set up a match, and then there’s no modifier for experience, so newbies get thrown straight in with people who have 500 hours on their timer. It’s a small issue, really, but a genuine one, particularly while there is no custom game option (that’s in the pipeline). It won’t affect you getting a game, however, because Loadout is constantly packed, and there are even bot options. Regardless, the freeness and the general mayhem of the game means that there’s a tonne of people playing at any time of the day – it’s riding high on the Steam most played lists.

In conclusion, then: Loadout is a riot. Loadout is free. It does not, however, provide a model that is conducive to me wanting to spend any money on it. The loadouts of the name are fun to make, but ultimately lack the variety they believe themselves to have. These things seems like a failure for a free to play game, but perhaps I am simply not its cash audience. Perhaps I am just one of the players it wants to come aboard for no pennies, to fill its servers and to talk about the game to the people who listen. Maybe that’s you.

Is that you?

Loadout is out now.


  1. Arathain says:

    Jim writes ” Yes, F2P is clever, it is allowing ways to spend money. Except that pyschology seems to be having a reverse effect on me. If I can’t see a limit to the spending, I don’t want to spend a penny.

    That’s clearly a subjective quirk, or the free model wouldn’t be booming.”

    It is a subjective quirk that I share. I am exactly like this. I have no issue buying things in a F2P game, in principle. I’m having this problem with Planetside 2 right now- I’m enjoying it. I’d be happy to spend something to kit out my favourite class and vehicle, but the price is so high for each piece of gear that I’m just not going to spend anything.

    • lomaxgnome says:

      I agree on this point, but I’m pretty sure there’s good data out there now that shows people just aren’t that much more likely to spend money on cheap stuff in f2p games, so as a company they will be better off getting more money out of the few who will spend than trying to reach for a larger market that is most likely never going to spend anything at all. The 20/80 rule that applies to most markets seems to be more like 5/99 for f2p games.

    • King Eternity says:

      This is madness! You even understand what is going on in your brain, and yet don’t overcome it!

      Here is what you do: just tell yourself “I like this game, I am going to buy it” and drop $60-$80 into station cash. It’s that simple! You are denying yourself the enjoyment of the best multiplayer FPS ever made.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      lomaxgnome is right.
      F2P games are using the idea that a few people pay a lot for the game. As opposed to a traditional buy to play model where everybody pays a small amount. Regardless of price there are a large amount of people in F2P games that simply will not buy anything, this needs to be offset by the people willing to spend a lot of money on the game. The way they do this is by inflating the time and/or money required to unlock things. Even if this turns some people away it still probably means that they at least have more people try the game in the first place due to them being F2P. Some of these players will stick, some of them will be willing to spend 100s of dollars to unlock things they otherwise don’t have the time for, this is where they make their money.

  2. dE says:

    Browsing the Forums really does make one feel old. I know I felt like Methusalem when I read all those posts about “We need Stamina for jumping!” or “Remove Beamweapons” or “zomg this game sucks, the enemies have too many hp!”.
    On the flipside: MOVE OUT OF THE WAY YOUNG ONES, GRANDPA IS ABOUT TO KICK YOUR ASS! OLDSCHOOL STYLE. I’d always thought I’d gotten worse over the years. Turns out, I’m just more compatible with actual movement and map control in games. Funny how that goes.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Malarious says:

    I think the Dota 2 style of free-to-play really works well; you get loads of cosmetics as free drops and you can buy almost anything you want in the game for a buck or two on the community market. When I see stuff like Battlefield Heroes or Loadout where they want $15 for a hat (or, god forbid, *rentals* of items), I just say no thanks. Meanwhile I’ve spent probably well over $100 on Dota 2, but I’ve gotten literally hundreds of cosmetics so it doesn’t feel like I’m being ripped off.

    • lomaxgnome says:

      I honestly think it only works because Value has the existing infrastructure tied in with non-f2p purchases. At this point, thanks to trading cards, almost anyone is going to have at least some money in their steam wallet that they could drop on an item or two. For most games that don’t have that, the idea of buying in becomes a lot different.

      • timethor says:

        I think this is an important point. The idea of spending any “real” money on F2P games was abhorrent to me, but spending a bit of the “fake money” that I earned by selling cards was no problem. Valve really has built a clever (or devious, depending on your POV…) economy, where even the people not willing to spend any actual money (like me!) play an important role in funneling money towards Valve.

    • darkChozo says:

      I’m honestly a bit surprised that the F2P market hasn’t moved past the whole “an in-game permanent item has to cost at least $5” mindset. It worked for League of Legends because LoL actually makes some effort to justify those prices — a champion represents an entirely new theme and playstyle, a skin is an entirely new thematically consistent model with new effects, etc — but it’s a lot harder to justify when you’re selling an almost-identical gun or a texture for the same price.

      I mean, maybe it’s just trying to milk the whales for all they’re worth, but I’m someone who’s willing to drop a decent amount of money on F2P and I’ve been turned off significantly by overpriced items. PS2 is a prime example here; I really want to give that game more of my money but it’s reaallly hard to justify spending $7 on a gun model and some tweaked stats, or $5 on a texture that I can’t even apply to everything in the game.

      • MrUnimport says:

        On a side note, they’ve recently unified textures so that the same one now goes on all your guns, all your vehicles, and all your clothes. Rather overdue if you ask me, but evidence of goodwill on SOE’s part, I think.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      There is an interesting bit of talk about Loadout and its F2P model on Total Biscuits podcast a week or so ago. He mentions how lots of devs he’s spoken to have talked about how the income they get from cosmetics is such a small amount that there is no way the game can survive with only selling cosmetics. Cosmetic only F2P model only works for games with such a massive playerbase like LoL, Dota, TF2 etc. Other games have to take the route of “forcing” people into buying at least some performance upgrades.

      • MaXimillion says:

        It seems to be working pretty well for Path of Exile, even though they don’t have such a massive playerbase.

        • lomaxgnome says:

          I don’t really know if that’s the case, and long term I really doubt it will be. Their recent announcement about how they are doing was hardly “we’re rolling in buckets of cash” and more the “it’s doing alright and well enough to sustain us.” Personally I think they should have charged for the expansion, I’ve always felt f2p with distant content locks was the most fair version for single player or mmo genre games (doesn’t work for a game like Loadout of course).

  4. Tei says:

    I find this a incredible shallow game that aspire to be less shallow. It really wants to be a better game, and maybe will be in a year or two.

    Then theres the design… when you are laggy or the servers are too busy, your progress is lost.

    • LevelHeaded says:

      I agree, the biggest perp for me is the guns. They’re samey and the customization options, what the game is supposed to be about, are incredibly uninspired.

  5. BlackRainbowFT says:

    I really like Loadout. It’s the first free-to-play I’ve spent money on. Not that I NEEDED cosmetics, but I found it enjoyable enough to be willing to give money to the devs. Cosmetics were just a bonus…

    I just can’t stand the “community”. People keep complaining about every single weapon being overpowered, people jumping around, etc. I just hope that at some point the devs will include bunny hopping just to piss those people off once and for all.

    • Kollega says:

      Same with me. I generally hate free-2-play, but decided to throw twenty bucks at Loadout because of total absence of pay-2-win and even pay-2-enjoy. Sure, the prices are ridiculous, but unlike TF2, the game doesn’t nickel-and-dime you with paying for weapons, renaming options, and all that junk. And the default looks on all three characters are good, so you aren’t in a particular need to spend money on looking better. And there’s no bullshit like items exclusive to gamble-crates, so you don’t get randomly assigned junk that you have to pay up for using. And you can get some cosmetic items for free as well! Overall, the free-2-play model on display is very fair, with about the only bad thing being the conversion of money to Spacebux intended to make you lose track of how much you’ve spent. But it’s still better than TF2, or about any other F2P game out there.

      • Niko says:

        The game is really generous in giving Bluths indeed. I’ve got 49 hours on the record, haven’t spent any real money yet, and I’ve unlocked all the rocket parts and got a couple of general upgrades.

        • BlackRainbowFT says:

          Yeah you do get tons of bluths but the weapon leveling is extremely slow. Thankfully you can only level up twice and the stats are affected marginally.

          Despite being perfectly aware of all this, I still noticed that the slowness has prevented me from experimenting with weapon parts…

  6. Enkinan says:

    Surprised it took someone this long to try and cash in on the popularity of TF2 and make some bucks for themselves. No quick searches gave me the answer, but I bet TF2 has made more money than a hell of alot of games.

    • Pich says:

      Someone doesn’t remember Batlefield Heroes, not that i blame you.

      • The Random One says:

        Battlefield Heroes was based more on the idea of people dicking around in Battlefield, though. The cartoony style was more to set it aside from Real Battlefield (for Real Men, my Lord).

      • LionsPhil says:

        There was also that Asian one with toys, although I’m not entirely sure how accurate those calls were give they were also, y’know, toys. You may as well yell at them for knocking off Toy Story’s visual style.

        • ViktorBerg says:

          MicroVolts. Its first trailer was an almost carbon copy of the TF2 trailer, in its own style, of course, but still extremely obvious.

  7. Shooop says:

    The problems I’m having with this game are despite there being so many weapon combos, only a handful of them are actually effective in practice, and there’s very few maps and modes right now.

    The first one is the biggest problem.

    • Tekrunner says:

      You may not have experimented enough then. I can think of at least a dozen highly efficient weapon builds, and I’m sure other people have found more. I disagree with the review as well on this: I feel like the Loadout devs have done a great job balancing their system. While it may not be perfect, there aren’t super OP combos, but quite a few viable options, and a lot of different things to try.

      The reasons I have mostly stopped playing after some 30 hours are that 1) I’m not that much into PvP shooters and 2) there just aren’t enough maps. But I’ve had a lot of fun, and I’m sure I’ll come back if they implement the promised PvE mode.

      Also, I thought that matchmaking at least tried to put you in matches with players around your skill level? I felt like the system worked fairly well for me.

      • The Random One says:

        There are so many possible combinations that I have no idea of how one could tell one particular combination was overpowered. And it’s hard to tell if a weapon that an enemy destroys you with has a lot of drawbacks that your enemy can negociate.

      • Kitsunin says:

        The main problem isn’t so much that certain combos are overpowered, as much as many combos are very weak, for what sure seems like no reason (ie it’s not a “Drawback + Benefit” situation, there’s not enough benefit). For instance, trying to use a scopeless rifle is basically pointless, because you’re shooting much smaller bullets which deal less damage than a pulse weapon. The bullets don’t bounce either, so why the hell don’t they deal significantly more damage (Without a scope)!

        There are quite a few examples like that, from what I’ve seen, and it makes the customization feel sadly uninteresting since you’re probably just going to make something that isn’t as good as one of the tried ‘n true models. Also, it can be very hard to tell that it’s your gun and not you sucking when you’re 5/15, unless you pick up the guy who’s going 16/4’s weapon, and suddenly get five kills in a row.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          To address your particular example, rifles are hit-scan while pulse rifles are not. This makes a huge difference over any kind of larger distance, which is why hit-scan is penalized. Likewise, a beam sniper does maybe a third of that damage again, but makes up for it by always hitting on the mark. Bouncing bullets are already a double-edged sword in that you can hit yourself with them.

          That being said:
          1. Shotguns could probably use a power boost.
          2. Stocks are useless/boring.
          3. A lot of the options are just too same-y: Recon vs gatling, scatter vs wide-scatter vs narrow-scatter, cluster vs quad-cluster, slow vs super-slow, lobbed vs mortar, pentabarrel vs hexabarrel. I’d rather have a slider for tweaking those parameters.
          4. Some combinations don’t even work together at all, even though they could. Laser-guided mortar? Nope.

  8. Niko says:

    RC rockets that are double as proximity mines is the reason I’m quite excited about Loadout. There’s not a lot of games that allow you to wield that type of weapon.

  9. The Random One says:

    I really liked Loadout. Two things Jim didn’t mention that I really liked: 1) The coop versus bots means that you have a way to get acquainted with the game without having to go up against human beings with their unpredictable difficulty. It’s better than a tutorial mode could ever be (and of course it helps the devs a lot that the bots are all wearing the cool paid gear). 2) Death Snatch is a brilliant take on deathmatch. The simple fact that you need to pick up the thing your opponents drop when they die to score (and that if you pick up your teammate’s thing your opponents are ‘denied’ and don’t score) means that it’s a team deathmatch where you actually have to work as a team, since you need someone around to deny your kill if your die and cover you when you go pick up things to score.

    • LevelHeaded says:

      Maybe brilliant when it was called kill confirmed in MW3.

    • MrUnimport says:

      As LevelHeaded points out, it’s not a new mechanic, but it’s certainly one I enjoy wherever it crops up.

    • jarowdowsky says:

      I really liked that the flag lets you crush people and the more you kill with it, the more it scores. That was a nice little innovation I hadn’t seen before.

  10. MeestaNob says:

    I really wish I didn’t need to sign up for another account/supply an email address for another game.

    It’s only available on Steam anyway, it’s completely unnecessary.

  11. MkMax says:

    loadout is alright, its main problem is that after 2 hours you are pretty much done with it, the loadout idea is not anywhere near as developed as the game seems to think it is, and the map count is ridiculously small, i was surprised it came out of beta like this and they dont seem to be adding much any time soon

    that said, i like it a lot better than warframe but path of exile is still my f2p of choice, those other two are not even close

  12. King Eternity says:


    They have butchered what could have been a great arena shooter revival so they can sell cosmetics, thanks assholes!

    • mrcalhou says:

      Funny, third person is the reason I decided to play it.

    • Flank Sinatra says:

      Yeah, I’d probably still be playing this if they had a first person view option. The third person perspective just makes it feel like a console game. It kills the immersion. I wanna look through the eyes of my character, down the sights of my fancy customized future-gun, without my character’s backside getting in the way.

  13. Jraptor59 says:

    Ah yes, it is nice to see another player in my conflicted position. I think the game is fun, hilarious, and beautiful (graphically, in its own way).
    It is WAY too expensive though. I would pay a one time, $40-$50 fee for the entire game. Open the floodgates and this game has great potential for fun and experimentation. Unfortunately, the gates are held firmly shut but the cost of any of the costumes, etc. I see all this cool stuff I want to get, to run around and play like crazy, but it’s very costly. I get caught in the same line of thought as the author and decide to just not pay anything at all.

  14. BrianEvol says:

    I tried it and had fun with it for a few hours, but then saw someone running around as the overweight, nude female character and uninstalled. Call me what you will, but I just didn’t want to see it.

  15. Gnoupi says:

    I have kind of the same impression. It’s fun to play, it’s free, I would gladly spend a few bucks for cosmetic items (I do in other games)…. but what’s with this pricing? Start adding some nice looking items to make a full outfit, and you’re already higher than 20 dollars.

    About the weapon customization, I quite like that “healing” is just type of bullet. Having fun currently with my rocket-healer for splash group-heal :)

  16. Megakoresh says:

    I have been playing the game for more than a year, racked up around 400 hours of it so far and here is what I can add to this review from a perspective of an experienced player:

    I agree very much the price for individual cosmetics is way too high for how many of them there actually are. Of all cosmetics I only buy taunts, because those aren’t plentiful, are hilarious and (here is a big bummer) are shared among characters. Yeah, that’s right. All those hundreds of things you buy? They will be for this one character for characters have mostly separate sets of cosmetics. To their credit they are not duplicates, but genuinely different items, but when I have to spend 4 euros for a shirt and then buy a shirt of a different colour for another character for another 4€, that is not very motivating when it comes to purchases.

    Gun combos in total amount to 44 billion combinations, which is around 4 times more than Borderlands has. Of those 44 billion you will find a thousand which are ok, a hundred which are good and 10 which everyone is always gonna use and ignore everything else. Within that thousand difference comes from skill-performance ratio. For example my Salvo Pulse shotgun is just as powerful as a cage rocket. But it takes around 100 times more skill to use. And thus in 400 hours I have not seen a single person using that type of shotgun. Ever.

    Whether this is a fault of a design remains to be seen: due to the payload and chassis variety, you will have plenty of opportunity to fiddle around with guns, due to the various situations where you might change them. However the VAST majority of the issues with the limits of the Loadout system come from the very nature of it being competitive. You have to stay competitive with others. And others use weapons which require zero skill to be godly on the battlefield. And that’s where the thorn is.

    Fortunately all is not lost. The community, and I have been an avid supporter of it for a long time, have been suggesting a PvE mode in the past and devs expressed a desire to create one. The engine supports AI and in fact the AI, as judged from the Bots is not bad at all. They can buff/heal each other, they can use different types of weapons, play various objective and are all around quite well-programmed. It is in PvE, where skill of the enemy remains constant, that the weaponcrafting system would truly shine. If they make it, I expect a lot more interest in making new guns.

    Another way to spend your vast reserves of money is to buy Loadout slots and weapons slots, as well as boosters. The game is designed such that you’d want boosters first and then you will start wanting slots when you unlock enough gun parts to keep and need more than 2 guns at any given time during a match. In that sense the system is rather robust and the slots as well as boosts provide a good value for money (helps that they cost less than cosmetics), however the issue of staying competitive and this being limited to how many guns you can effectively use hammers that particular aspect of the game as well. It seems like a coop PvE horde mode with some objectives, if well designed, will solve a lot of these “bottlenecks” in game design that Loadout has. I just hope developers realise that this a golden opportunity and not try to pursue esports instead. Esports come to the game. Not another way around.

    I am afraid Jim was drunk when he implied the matchmaker will put people from different skill levels together. It is not progression-depended, true, it is instead skill dependent. And it is, hands down, the best skill-based matchmaker system I have seen in my long years of playing competitive shooters. It uses a complex formula to calculate skill level of a player and it is phenomenally accurate. They spent almost the whole summer making this matchmaker and so far it has been wrong very very rarely. True shitty matches still happen often, however they are always a result of shitty teamplay, which the matchmaker is not responsible for. However when it comes to the individual skill of the players I have almost never found myself among people vastly over or under my own, except for the morning hours in EU for example, when online population is too low.

    Some things that are coming “soon”:
    – New equipment item: deployable shield
    – Old shield is being changed into a consumable (finally)
    – New rocket launcher barrel: double barrel
    – New rifle barrel: LMG barrel (slower than assault, higher damage)
    – New map
    – New gamemode (no details on it yet)
    – Jackhammer with bots practice
    – 8-man lobbies with possibly custom match settings (not guaranteed)

    They have also been looking into VoIP, competitive ladders and whatnot. But I hope they do a PvE mode. The combinations of guns I can’t use because I will be won over by a noob with a beam or some single shot rocket launcher has been making me a sad panda for a while now. That said, EoR are VERY responsive devs and unlike, for example, Red5 (who also claimed to have a community-centered development), they actually know how the community-centered development needs to be conducted. They have been very successful with implementing player feedback so far and they definitely are very actively following their playerbase and feedback.

    I hope that was helpful extra clarification to the few new people who have managed to scroll all the way down here… Although most likely I have just wasted my time :P Story of my life.

    • PAK-9 says:

      Thanks, that was informative :)

    • jarowdowsky says:

      Cheers for the insight :)

      Gotta admit I was put off by the cosmetic and taunt prices, it seemed astronomical.

      Do they really think a shirt that costs £3 would only be bought 10 times more at 30p?

      With cheaper pricing I could easily of sunk a few quid in for a laugh, as it was I just didn’t want to invest time in something so expensive.

  17. CaptainWeekend says:

    The only thing that annoys me with this story is the complete ommission of the mention of the xp and blute boosts, as well as the fact that ou can buy loadout slots and gun slots. It feels like the author of this article purposely left this information out just so he could join in with the inaccurate, asinine an frankly unfair rants that have been directed towards loadout. Yes, the cosmetics may be overpriced, but they are not the main selling point on the loadout store, the boosts and slots are.