Upon finishing the last chapter in the Metroid Prime trilogy, it occurred to me that I had experienced a relatively rare achievement in today’s game industry. It wasn’t the fact that Prime 3 is a great adventure game, the masterful use of control, or the brilliant graphics. You’ll find those things in other games too. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is special because it’s a satisfying final installment in a trilogy.
Very few games in recent memory have stayed fresh and entertaining through three chapters. Corruption does this with style, taking the best pieces of its predecessors, plugging any holes in the formula, tweaking the gameplay and tying it all together with some genuine Metroid series nostalgia. Prime 3 knows its family history well but isn’t afraid to push a few boundaries, the most important of which is control.
Corruption single-handedly silences any doubts about first person controls on the Wii. While Red Steel was a bad first impression, and games like Call of Duty 3 and Medal of Honor Airborne only marginally hinted at the promise of Wii FPS, Prime 3 clinches is. Prime 3 comes with three aiming sensitivities, but I recommend “expert” aiming mode as the choice for experienced gamers—anything less feels sluggish. With expert aiming enabled, pointing and shooting are razor sharp and come close to touching the hallowed union of the keyboard and mouse. All other controls follow in a comfortable and logical pattern.
To make the most economic use of the Wii remote’s limited buttons, the interface has been streamlined. The lock-on feature that made the first Prime revolutionary is still a large part of the control scheme, but it now has the added versatility of free look, if the player so desires. Swapping visors is handled through an overlay screen, activated by holding the Minus button and selecting the needed visor with the pointer. Other items, like the morph ball and grapple beam (more on that later) have been given equally comfortable spots in the control scheme. Retro Studios has made dual analog control look outdated in comparison to what they’ve accomplished. If other developers can follow Retro’s lead, then the Wii will become the new home of console FPS. It just works so well.
That doesn’t mean Corruption is a perfect fit for a multiplayer deathmatch; Samus moves crisply, cleanly, but not with the speed and hectic pace needed in an arena with human opponents. Prime 3 is still a solo experience. It is meant to be explored, investigated from top to bottom at a somewhat leisurely pace. After playing through Corruption’s lengthy adventure, all of my complaints about an absent multiplayer disappeared. Corruption doesn’t need multiplayer, just as Bioshock is a purely solitary experience. Like Irrational’s game, Corruption is intended to be savored.
From start to finish, literally, from the intro screen to the end credits, Prime 3 displays an uncommon level of refinement. Retro has had two great games to perfect their take on Metroid, and it shows. The game kicks off with Samus awaking from cryogenic sleep and docking with a Galactic Federation cruiser. The player must activate various controls within Samus’s gunship to send authorization codes and engage thrusters. These skills are performed with the Wii remote gestures and used in sequences throughout Corruption. This small control tutorial makes it clear: Corruption is a very interactive game. Once docked with the G.F.S. Olympus, Samus can test her other latent abilities within the large vessel and for the first time in Metroid history, interact with fully voiced non player characters.
Before long the ship is attacked by a fleet of Space Pirates and invaded by boarding troops. Some reviewers have compared this opening sequence to the first Halo, and while there are some similarities, I found it to be longer and a bit more cerebral than Bungie’s shooter. Regardless of inspiration, the opening battle on the Olympus, the first boss fight and Samus’s escape on her gunship set the cinematic tone for the rest of the game. The intro ends with Samus being infected with Phazon, by none other than Dark Samus, the mutated abomination of the original Metroid Prime.
Once free of the introduction, Samus is given her Phazon Enhancement Device (P.E.D.), a suit that allows her to control the Phazon within her body. The PED is the mechanic around which the game is built, and it’s a whole lot more fun than the light/dark duality in Prime 2. When the Plus button is held down for a couple seconds, Samus enters hypermode. An entire energy tank (99 units of health) is fueled into Samus’s weapons—she is essentially shooting her health away, using it as ammo. Her beam cannon does much more damage and her other suit upgrades gain special abilities. There is a drawback, however. After a few seconds in hypermode, Samus will become corrupted with Phazon. Her Phazon meter will start to refill itself, and when it overflows, she poisons herself and dies. The only way to keep the corruption at bay is by rapidly discharging all of the Phazon, until the meter is empty and Samus returns to her normal self.
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