- Review Price: £27.55
We all know that it was Wii Sports, not Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess, that has made Nintendo’s little wonder the runaway success of this console generation, but Nintendo keeps on telling us that it hasn’t forgotten its loyal, more hardcore audience. For those of us who have been playing Nintendo games since the days of the NES and SNES, that makes Metroid Prime 3: Corruption an important game. While not an FPS as such, it’s the nearest thing Nintendo has to a Halo or a Killzone, and those of us whose Wiis have spent much of the year gathering dust are getting desperate for a Nintendo classic with some meat to it. The question is whether a Metroid – and one designed to fit around the Wii’s unique controls – can convince the hardcore fanbase and stand up to the increasingly sophisticated competition on other consoles.
Well, the good news is that the controls are superbly implemented. With the original Metroid Prime, Retro Studios did an incredible job of refitting the Metroid series for a first-person perspective without losing any of its core values, and here the team has done equally stellar work in adapting Metroid Prime for the remote and nunchuk. The Nunchuk is used for forward, backward and lateral movement, while the remote works as a targeting device, moving sights and cursors within the main screen area, but rotating the view once these push towards the edges. It’s beautifully done, and gives the game that immediate sense of physical connection between player and character that is a factor in so many of the best Wii games. You don’t have to prance around in front of the sofa like the guy in the current TV advert, but there are times when Corruption makes you feel like it. Kudos, Retro.
And kudos too for finding other interesting ways of using the remote and nunchuk that build on this foundation without feeling like totally pointless gimmicks. Within even the earliest levels, you’ll find interactive panels and devices that have you pushing, pulling and twisting the remote, plus a grapple which can be used to yank items and enemy shields towards you and – later on – swing across chasms. It’s all good fun, and it all adds to that important sense of being there.
Sadly, this makes it all the more disheartening to report that, for your first hour or so in the game, ‘there’ isn’t all that exciting a place to be. While you’re getting used to the controls, the game seems hell bent on making you forget what was so wonderful about Metroid Prime in the first place. The initial section on a federation spacecraft plays like a dull retread of one of Halo’s weaker spaceship levels, but without the grace or clever AI of Bungie’s series. With faceless troops, irritating appearances from fellow bounty hunters and predictable space pirate attacks, much of the prologue simply doesn’t have the atmosphere or charge we expect from a Metroid game. Worse, it shows the Wii graphics hardware off in its worst light. With flat textures, terrible human character models, and a general lack of gloss, it’s never been more apparent that the fixed-function Wii GPU is essentially a supercharged DirectX 7 part. After recent FPS games on the 360 and PS3, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that you’re playing yesterday’s game.
Take heart, gentle reader. A few moments – a great boss battle, a nice puzzle for Samus as she transforms once more into her rolling ‘morph ball’ – soon signal that things are headed in the right direction, and before long we’re swinging back into classic Metroid territory. Strange planets to explore? Check. Weird alien artefacts to scan? Check? Puzzles; fraught battles; areas that you can’t reach now but you know you’ll come back to later? All present and accounted for. Compared to a real FPS the enemy AI is primitive and the armoury lacks punch, but that’s never been the point of Metroid Prime. The point is the adventure itself, much closer in spirit to old-school classics like Wonderboy III and Zelda. You explore, you find new ways to use new objects, and all the fighting and the boss battles aren’t ends in themselves, but means to finding new equipment and getting to new places.
This time you get the basic equipment – the morph ball, the missiles – straight away, leaving plenty of space to fill with new goodies. Current favourites include a missile upgrade to your ship, allowing you to call in air-strikes on specific, preset targets, but there’s plenty of other stuff to use. Retro has also thrown in a major new mechanic. Early on, Samus receives a modified Phazon-powered combat suit, with a sort of turbo option that ups her firepower considerably. This is absolutely ace in the midst of a mass scrap or tricky boss battle, but it comes at a price. Every time you engage it, it consumes the contents of one of your suit’s energy tanks; energy being Metroid’s equivalent of health. What’s more, it also goes out of control from time to time, and while venting all that excess destructive power is very handy when you need to mow down masses of enemies at that particular moment (cheers Retro!) the more the game goes on, the more it becomes apparent that this modification will have serious ramifications. The game isn’t called Corruption for nothing.
As the gameplay improves, so do the visuals. As ever, Retro has gone to town in creating imaginative, genuinely alien-looking environments packed with weird vegetation, strange ruined architecture and lovely atmospheric lighting. On the one hand, you could say that Corruption is solid proof that the Wii is never going to stand up to the 360 or PS3 when it comes to creating realistic detail, but on the other it also shows that slightly dated technology can still produce impressive work. Trust me: the screenshots you see here don’t really do it justice. Once you’re immersed in Retro’s universe, you won’t be worrying about the lack of normal-mapped textures or HDR lighting; you’ll just be caught up in what you’re seeing, what you’re doing and where you’re going next.
Here’s another good thing: the first two Metroid Prime games were undeniably great, but they were also an acquired taste. This time, Retro seems to have hit a better balance between providing the challenge and depth the series is famous for while also entertaining the more casual player. Corruption is certainly slightly easier than the forbiddingly tough Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Boss battles can still be a bit drawn out, but the patterns and weaknesses are generally quite easy to spot and the fights become less fearsome once you master the Phazon overdrive. Save points are more sensibly placed, and the game has a nice habit of checkpointing before potentially fatal sections.
Better still, there’s less backtracking going on. Cunning mechanisms like a command to bring your ship to certain preset landing points help, as do some cool shortcuts that help reduce journey times back to the beginning of a section. Don’t worry: if you’re a Metroid veteran; you can still scan everything and read through masses of background detail on the history and inhabitants of the galaxy. However, you’re just as welcome to ignore this stuff and blast on through.
All in all, then, we have a game that starts mediocre but keeps getting better and better. The more you play, the more the atmosphere grows, the more you want to see what’s coming around the corner, and the more compelling the whole experience becomes. The music and sound effects effortlessly create that distinctive Metroid ambiance, and the whole package of visuals, plot and inventive gameplay works a treat. There are signs here that the Metroid Prime formula is getting a little tired, and the Prologue remains a disappointment, but when you come away from Corruption you’ll remember it as one of the strongest games on the Wii, and one of the most immersive game experiences you’ll have this year.
Don’t let a bumpy start spoil another great entry in the Metroid canon. The first-person gameplay and the Wii controls are a marriage made in heaven, and the game gets better and more immersive the longer it goes on.