Upon completing the solo campaign, you owe it to yourself to delve into Hunters’ expansive multiplayer component. Let me say that I dislike it when people compare Metroid and Halo. They are two completely different animals—Metroid is based on exploration and deductive reasoning, and it’s more like Zelda than anything else. Halo is a straight-up shooter, with some vehicular action thrown in for variety, but it has much more in common with Half-Life than it does with Samus’s games. That said, the best analogy I can make is that Metroid Prime Hunters is the Halo of the DS, at least in respect to the multiplayer. The multi aspect of Hunters does retain the classic Metroid look and feel, but it will create a community the way Halo did. It is simply that good.
I’m still amazed that the developers were able to cram this much depth into a handheld game. There are seven modes, most of which we’ve seen before in other competitive shooters, but there’s no shame in revisiting the classics. Deathmatch, capture the flag, zones, life-based elimination, gladiator, they’re all here and reworked with a Metroid flavor. I’ve played games where these modes have simply been included for the sake of variety, but the dev team actually made them all work in Hunters; that is, they all feel balanced and fun.
Selecting the mode of play is only the beginning, as there are scads of options to configure. A quick, easy game is optional, but for a truly customized experience, you want to fiddle with the bells and whistles a while. You want to turn off radar? You got it. Friendly fire? A screen-tap away. You can even adjust how much damage the weapons inflict. Team play can be switched on in most modes, and it is enabled by default in modes that require it, like capture the flag. Each mode has its own settings, so there’s no lack of variety.
The next step is choosing an arena—of a whopping twenty-five possible maps. Some levels are restricted to a certain mode, i.e. capture the flag can’t be played in the super small maps where it wouldn’t make much sense, but the sheer number of levels is still incredible. A healthy balance has been struck in regard to size; the selection of maps is divided roughly into thirds, with small, medium, and large getting equal representation. Small levels are good for quick, brutal confrontations and duels, and have a few weapons and scarce health scattered around. Medium maps are best suited for casual deathmatch, although there is some ingenious architecture that makes for unique battles. The big arenas, and I mean BIG, are excellent for sniping, stalking, and the team-based modes. One of my favorite levels is actually called “headshot,” and has plentiful sniper pickups, platforms and hideout positions.
The levels themselves are pretty interestingly crafted, but the really innovative thing about them is that they’ve been created around the multiplayer characters. Each map has tunnels, nooks and crannies that play to each character’s strengths and abilities, and most importantly, their unique secondary forms. It may be easier to move Samus’s morphball across a narrow ledge, while Trace fits particularly well into a sniping crevice.
This is also possibly where Prime Hunters innovates the most in the realm of multiplayer FPS. Instead of dozens of throwaway characters or a couple bland, tasteless models, you have seven players and a surprising level of variation. It really does matter who you choose to play as, and how you master your favorite character’s powers. The closest thing I can compare it to is Super Smash Bros, but even that’s a stretch. Suffice it to say, who you choose changes what weapons work best, how you take advantage of the current level, and how you handle the current mode of play.
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