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.
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