|The supposed final part of the Metroid Prime trilogy is here, with bounty hunter Samus Aran returning for more first person adventuring, avec the benefit of waggle|
Don't get me wrong, I'm as big a Wii hater as the next guy - honest - but it sure is nice to see some kick-ass new games finally showing up for the damn thing. Paper Mario touched down last month if you hadn't noticed, while next month sees the long-awaited Mario Galaxy promptly joining him. Modern point 'n' click classic Zack & Wiki is even out in the US as we speak, although in good old Nintendo tradition, us Brits will of course need to wait a couple extra months for that. Joy.
Still. Games! Not to mention of course, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The one I quite possibly bought the system for in the first place. I dug the heck outta the first two Prime games you may recall
, and the thought of further such escapades with added Wii-mote waggle screamed sheer beaut to me. Money was plunked. The waiting game began. And this month - final-fucking-ly - it's paid off. At last.
That said, as much I dug Prime 1 and 2, I must admit to having never finished either. If I'm completely honest, I found those games almost too brutal at times. No, not the combat, more the level design. Hypocrite, much? You betcha!
For those Nintendo haters who've never had the pleasure, the Prime games were no ordinary shooters you see; dragging old skool Nintendo heroine Samus Aran into the 3D age may have resulted in an FPS-lookin' game on the face of it, but Prime 1 had way more of an explorative, puzzle solving and adventure game slant to it than your typical mindless blast-a-thon. The result was an incredibly immersive and highly original experience that you could say - still to this day - sits alone within its whole own sub-genre.
There was just so much to see and do in that universe however, that the game's emphasis on non-linearity and free-roaming exploration resulted in me, well, forever getting lost. I'd regularly wonder around without a clue where to head next, nor the slightest inkling of what to do when I got there. I felt like Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth. While it was captivating, engrossing and regularly jaw-dropping stuff...I ultimately just hit a brick wall. These were amazingly realised worlds, but surprisingly inaccessible and hardcore next to the standard Nintendo fare.
Third Time's a Treat
I bring this up as it's precisely what I dig about Corruption though. It looks just like its predecessors on first glance, but the improved level design and more self-contained, streamlined environments make for a far more directed, refined and manageable experience.
|Perhaps it's my somewhat limited experience with the earlier games at work, but the set-pieces and scale seem noticeably ramped up this time|
The long-time fan will cry rape I'm sure - whining incessantly about such simplification to the formula - but they really needn't bother. Corruption maintains all the plus points of the previous games - the aforementioned emphasis on exploration, the relentlessly beautiful environments and that joyous sense of discovery - it's just lost a fuck-ton of the tedious backtracking and aimless wondering this time around. That for me, makes it a far more enjoyable game.
It's also taken some pleasing cues from some of the more high-profile FPS games of recent times too. After a simply superb intro in which Samus wakes up aboard her ship - then starts fiddling with buttons and levers with full Wii-mote interactivity - the game sees you docking with a nearby space station. Here you find yourself walking down populated corridors, receiving orders from superiors, even - gasp - interacting with real people. While the game shortly returns to its more solitary and isolated roots of old, long gone is that sense of being the single living human in the universe, and it's a pleasing upgrade that I'm particularly enamored with.
There's a sequence early on where Samus reports for duty along with a series of fellow bounty hunters for instance, that looks humorously similar to something outta Empire Strikes Back. Some of these characters are pretty darn cool too, with big blue ice guy and hot lezbo shape-shifter chick standing out in particular. Thankfully, you see a lot more of them as the story progresses...but I'll avoid the temptation to spoil on that front.
|You'll use the Wii-mote to manually control Samus' hands on occasion, pressing buttons, twiddling knobs, and even rotating items with beautiful fluidity. It's simply splendid fun, and never outstays its welcome, with the sequences on her ship standing out in particular|
So far so good then. While the game itself is undeniably ace however, the downside is...I don't think the Wii-mote controls quite match up. After Resident Evil 4 in fact, this feels like a slight step back. I love all the gesture-based puzzle stuff, such as pulling levers, flicking switches and fixing control panels with a welding torch. Particularly awesome is the Grapple Beam actually, which involves squeezing Z to select a target, then "whipping" the nun-chuck forward to latch onto it, before tugging back to pull it towards you, and it works pretty darn flawlessly. These sorts of interactions never get old, and really suck you into the game in a way merely pressing a meager button simply wouldn't.
Less impressive is the aiming though. Metroid boasts a wide variety of different sensitivies and configs for you to peruse, but the real gamers will no doubt head straight to "Advanced" mode from the off. This basically attempts to emulate a mouse and keyboard as closely as possible, with super fast responsive on your reticule, allowing you to spin around at turbo-charged speeds and pull off incredibly precise headshots at the flick of a wrist.
|Boss fights are a little too long and annoying for my tastes, but prove majorly satisfying to finally beat. If nowt else, you're always suitably rewarded|
At least, in theory. In practice though, it's just a little too twitchy for its own good, and ever so slightly laggy to boot. Not by a huge amount, but just enough as to prove noticeable. It's undoubtedly the closest the Wii's come yet to pulling off truly impressive FPS controls - not to mention almost matching up to PC standards - but it's still not quite there I'm afraid.
Rather than line up those bulls-eyes and make every shot count, you end up simply spraying and praying as a result. Corruption's enemies take a mountain of shots to take down you see, so it's far more productive to merely aim in roughly the right direction then hammer random shots off like there's no tomorrow. It's not particularly sleek, stylish nor as fun as it should be, and I ended up using the (optional) lock-on way more than I wanted to simply to save time. Not a good sign really. No motion-controlled Morph Ball action rounds off the let-downs.
It's no game-killer though by any means. In fact, for all my bitching here, what we're left with is still noticeably cooler than the old Gamecube analogue stick setup, and I only have to stumble across yet another fab gesture-based puzzle, or start fiddling with my ship's various knobs again to resume happy thoughts.
A step in the right direction then - and I should mention this all beats the pants off the likes of Red Steel - but there's still room for improvement. FPS developers, take note.
On a far more positive tip, this is easily the most graphically impressive Wii game yet. Human models look rough around the edges, and the jaggies are out in full force as per usual, but my god, these are some of the most stunningly gorgeous videogame worlds you've seen in years. Seriously.
|Alien designs impress too. Huge crab-like beasties meet glowing worm things and psycho robots aplenty, all coming off most pleasing to the eye|
As always, Retro Studio's art style is second to none, somehow managing to pull off just as striking a look to its worlds, I'd argue, as Irrational did with Bioshock. The difference being of course, Metroid stretches such inventiveness across multiple different planets
, encompassing a ton of different styles for each along the way. Just wait 'til you see the steampunk-tinged SkyTown for the first time. Or dock with the brooding GFS Valhalla. Or explore the grotesque Seed lairs. Just like Bioshock, you forever feel privileged to simply walk around such environs, savoring each and every room you stumble across. The seldom-faltering 60 frames per second doesn't hurt either.
Particularly awesome on the visual tip is Samus' new suit. Again, without drifting too far into spoiler-ville, it gets infected with a virus towards the start of the game (read: "corrupted"), resulting in the old cheesy orange get-up of yester-decade ridding itself in favour of glowing blues and ominous blacks. She looks more and more badass as the story progresses, and as a nice side bonus, turns out she's hot too. Giggedy.
If that weren't enough, I particularly dig all the cool little nuances Retro throw in on top. When switching to scanning mode for example, you'll notice the subtle reflection of Samus' eyes in your visor, darting around the screen as you move the reticule to and fro. Her face even distorts later in the game in light of the previously mentioned corruption.
They really do an amazing job making up for the Wii's sub-standard tech specs, and it's definitely one of those games that reinforces the importance of strong art and interesting ideas over boring old technical prowess. It's been a good long year since one was reminded of such things...in fact, only last year's Okami springs to mind.
|Prime games have always been notorious for their atmosphere, and 3 is no different. The game positively oozes sci-fi techno-polish from each and every crevice|
All in all then, Metroid Prime is perhaps not quite what I expected. Here I am praising the graphics, yet whining about the controls. In a Wii game. Sacre blue! While mildly flawed in some areas though, the game most definitely exceeds expectations in others. For any minor misgivings I have with the control system, its improvement over bog-standard analogue sticks - not to mention the tightened up level design - both make for my personal fave Prime game of the trilogy. Although the die-hards will no doubt call for my head on a stick.
Needless to say, this is one of the better games out for the Wii without doubt. Some might consider that no tough feat...but whatever; Corruption is a beautiful sci-fi epic in its own right, one full of awe and spectacle, and even if it's only a fairly standard shooter when stuck in combat mode, that good old puzzle solving and adventuring sure set it apart from the mainstream crowd. Such shenanigans elevate it into a pretty significant highlight in an already densely packed year for me.
It says a lot that when long-awaited PC FPS Crysis touched down in demo form the other night, I fired it up, gave it 10 minutes, then set it back down without finishing. Why? I had to get back to Prime, of course. From the gorgeous locations to the brain-scratching puzzles to the vastly improved sense of pace and urgency, this game just sucks you in like nothing else. In some ways, you could say it's the Prime game for the masses. One that opens up the experience to newcomers, while still retaining that truly original Metroid vibe in the process. Something, I'd argue, the series has somewhat wrestled with up 'til now.
And because of that, both Zelda and Resi 4 now have a new found friend in their "must-have games for the Wii" camp. A year late, things are finally picking up...