Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Review
Review By Steve Farrelly @ 08:27pm 06/11/07
This is it.
This is the game you bought a Wii for (unless you only bought it for its party flavour, at which point I dare say; what are you doing here at AusGamers?). Metroid Prime 3 is the end of an era -- the closing of a trilogy of games that redefined the first-person experience.
The Prime series showed gamers everywhere it didn't need to just be a shooter. In this world, the world of Prime, you could be smart and unique, aspiring and driven; here you're not rushed or forced, things unravel at your own pace and as a result, the solitude and adversity faced is as good as a well-planned holiday -- perfect asymmetry to real-life.
Here, in the guise of galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran, you could escape the drudging of the real world in favour of alien planets, space pirates, DNA-altering mutagens and little critters called Metroids.
Almost always alone, Samus' tribulations are on a different plane to the likes of the Master Chief or insert-generic-war-shooter-hero-here. She never speaks, never displays anything more than a desire to get the job done -- even when staring death in the face. She might be a bounty hunter, but without her helping hand humanity -- nay, the galaxy -- would be lost.
Fitting then the real adversary for the series' finale is borne of Samus herself, Dark Samus, and this makes things more than personal this time around. In fact, the biggest difference besides controls and platform is we finally get a bit more from our hapless hunter.
Things kick off big enough. Samus is awakened from a dream of her foreboding Phazon-powered offspring while asleep inside her ship. Apparently she's approaching her destination, the GFS Olympus, and we need to get the right clearance to land. The view from her cockpit is stunning and the ability to freely look about and interact with a number of things almost immediately on the dizzying control panels is instantly engaging. It also gets you ready for the revamped controls (the most touted aspect of this iteration, but by far not the most important). Once clearance has been granted (cleverly done so by manually inputting an alien code on a console in your cockpit), Samus lands aboard the huge Galactic Federation vessel in a cool-as-can-be in-game cinema.
Out and about on foot the big leap forward for this gem of a series immediately grabs you. Precise, responsive, smooth, reactive, accurate -- however you want to say it, the controls are just that: perfect (at least for Wii). This is definitive proof the Wii is a viable platform for the first-person shooter, and the perfect yard-stick by which all other Wii FPS titles to follow should be judged.
From the outset you can choose between two different control styles: Basic and Advanced (though I highly recommend you go with Advanced). If not, 'Lock-On Free Aiming' can be turned on in Basic Controls (on default with Advanced), and I demand you at least have this function activated. The idea here is you can lock-on to targets similarly to the previous titles with the Z button, meaning, while locked-on, you can still aim anywhere on the screen. This makes fighting multiple enemies a lot easier and with the added function of Samus' quick strafe (while locked-on hitting the B button quickly while strafing will give you a strafe boost, so to speak), makes much more sense.
With this idea, however, it's important I point out this is not just like a mouse and keyboard set-up. It's definitely close, and makes standard console FPS controls look archaic, but it's still not quite as simple as the mouse and keyboard combo. The reason for this is turning is not nearly as fast because you can't detach from the screen the same way you can by lifting the mouse off its surface, and this also means your view is constantly on the move. In fact the only way to steady your point of view is to hold the Z button. These factors aside though, this is still by far the closest consoles will get to the oft preferred PC way of playing, and once you get the hang of it, you'll never want to look back.
You can immediately choose either Beginner or Veteran modes of difficulty, and as has been the case with the first two games, completing the Veteran mode will unlock an even harder setting. Veteran is definitely only suggested for those who've played the series before, especially in the face of some of the epic boss-battles you'll encounter.
While Corruption maintains a strong kinship with both Prime and Echoes, it does etch out its own mark among the three, and not just because of the controls. For one, both Prime and Echoes immediately strip Samus of her abilities in a convenient encounter, Corruption, however, manages to actually power her up. At the end of your first mission, you, alongside all the other Hunters (more on them in a minute) are knocked unconscious.
When you awaken a month later you find the Galactic Federation has been tinkering with your suit and have actually fused it with a 'safe' form of Phazon. The PED Suit then allows you to enter Hypermode -- this Phazon-charged super mode will make Samus incredibly powerful, however, it comes at the cost of a single Energy Tank and if used for too long can corrupt her suit meaning she will need to expel the overloading Phazon by firing rapidly until it's depleted. It's a great concept and well balanced with the idea of overdosing on the stuff, ensuring you can't just waltz in, fire up Hypermode, and take out the trash.
Other areas the game differs from its predecessors is, is in narrative, pacing and interaction. While it's true Samus doesn't lose all of her abilities in the same way she does in Prime and Echoes, it doesn't mean she won't need upgrades. These come from three other Bounty Hunters who have also been called in to help the Galactic Federation. Like you, all three have also been given the PED upgrade; however, unlike you they haven't been able to control the Phazon overloading. Obviously this means you need to go and investigate them, and once encountered, see if you can't purge them of their ailment (while taking a nice little upgrade for yourself in the process).
This concept also changes the solitary dynamic of the game; throughout the adventure -- while most definitely still alone -- Samus will be constantly kept in contact with the GF Aurora Units - these are basically sentient brains that run the Galactic Federations super computers, as well as talking to, and dealing with, the other Hunters. It doesn't at all change the mood or atmosphere of the game, and in fact opens up Samus' world ten-fold for those of us who want to know more about her.
On the pacing side of things, there is far more information to gather this time around, and you'll find yourself most likely a scan-junkie once you get into the rhythm. In scan mode you also get a very nice constant look at Samus' reflection in her visor, and it's touching to see her eyes move perfectly with your Wii Remote movements; she feels more real than ever in this game, which, for a speechless videogame heroin, is a pretty solid feat on Retro Studios' part. Another new visor mode has been added in Corruption, and is yet another example of this game moving further ahead of the pack.
Samus' ship actually plays an important role in the game, no longer serving strictly as a means to save and replenish your health. Now you can actually get in your ship and fly to a number of locations on each world, and there are three planets you can land on at any time you like. Equally, your ship also acquires upgrades allowing you to perform a number of new objectives. The visor you pull up allows you to see a ship icon which means your ship can interact with specific objects or areas. Again, this simply adds to the expansion of Samus' world and brings her to life just that little bit more.
Despite being a Wii game, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is actually a thing of beauty. It's not high-def, but after moving around the game-world for an hour you'll be lost in its stylistic art-direction. Almost nothing here is symmetrical, leaving you wondering just how we consistently dealt with Halo's cut and paste level and art design. Alien worlds look alien, as they should, and are all the more inviting for doing so. That said, exploration is a key factor (and desire), and as mentioned earlier, you'll need upgrades for specific level advancements.
Funnily enough, this game would be ideal for the Xbox Live Achievements program based almost exclusively on the aforementioned concept. Thankfully Retro Studios also believes this, and so have actually added their own version of in-game achievements. It's wonderfully rewarding, and actually a little cheeky a second-party Ninty developer would essentially tell The Big N they need to have something like this added to their games (at least that's what I thought they were trying to say). With this in place, while in your ship you can actually bring up a console that will tell you just how you've been performing in a number of key areas while on-screen in-game awards will appear for specific achievements. Take note Nintendo.
Swing Those ArmsOn a sonic level, there are few games as engrossing in their aural performances as Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The choir-esque alien soundtrack bellowing in the background as you traverse the richly detailed halls of Skytown Elisia is as haunting as it is beautiful, and adds to the introverted element of the Metroid experience. Boss battles, on the other hand, are as alarming and edge-of-your-seat as you'd expect from this type of game, and manage to add a degree of desperation and intensity never seen outside of Retro Studios' near perfect gaming trilogy. All said and done, however, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption isn't perfect.
While the first-person controls are definitely improved here in Prime 3, it's in the use of the true motion-sensor abilities of the Wii Retro Studios has succeeded. For one, beyond precision aiming, there are uses such as touching panels, grappling locks and turning handles, while in battle, you can throw your Nunchuk forward at shielded Pirates to literally rip said shield from them. Other enemies will require you to use your grapple beam also, adding much more immersion to the game. Even in Morph Ball form you can use the Nunchuk to jump, proving Retro Studios is a development house who know how to avoid tacking on obligatory uses, instead coming up with creative and fun ways to be interactive with their product.
It's annoying some of the old-school traits of the original series remain, such as unnecessary enemy respawns. There's also no option to turn off the game's subtitles which is equally annoying as, lengthy as Retro have been to create a realistic, alien game-world, dealing with subtitles is completely detrimental to the experience. More cockpit interaction with your ship would also have been good as the game teases with this at the start, then as you move into the game's groove, it's taken away in favour of simple cut-scenes. It would have been awesome to actually fly to each destination from the first-person view within your cockpit, but alas, it was not meant to be.
Those very minor gripes aside, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is a stunning example of design elegance, balanced gameplay and total immersion. The Metroid game-world has become even more robust this time around, offering deeper glimpses into the world of Samus Aran, which, in itself is a sad concept given this is the end of the Prime trilogy. It'll be interesting to see what Retro work on next, and while I would love to see them continue working on this series, it would be unfair to lock their amazing design abilities into an IP like Metroid.
Whatever they work on next is sure to be an important entrant in the halls of videogaming, just as much as the Metroid Prime series is among the most important first-person franchises of recent times. Do yourself a favour if you've never spent an evening with Samus by picking this dazzling example of passionate game development up as soon as possible.