Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
To get right to the point -- because it's a strength of mine -- Metroid Prime 3 is a very inconsistent game. It has, as do all games, certain strengths, and when the designers really play to those it really begins to shine. But the designers show an odd lack of awareness of what those strengths are, and will frequently put the player in situations that really emphasise where the game is weak, which is just frustrating.
The game's biggest strength is far and away its controls. FPS is a genre that's been waiting for the Wii for a long time, and the game's shooting controls are the most precise and natural I've ever experienced. There are three different control "types" available, but I don't get the point of the "basic" and "standard" control types, since they just seem to be completely non-intuitive and difficult to use. Maybe they'll work for some people, but my enjoyment of the game increased dramatically when I switched to the advanced controls. Shooting things is a simple matter of pointing the remote at them and pressing A; turning is accomplished by remoting over near the edges of the screen, while moving and strafing are assigned to the nunchuck. It's an elegant and easy-to-learn system, and the controls are quick and responsive -- the only problem I have with them is that the "lock on" tends to be a bit unreliable, sometimes just cancelling itself or refusing to acquire a target for no discernable reason.
The Wii controls are actually put to good use for "environment manipulation" tasks - removing power cells requires you to reach out and mime "grabbing" the cell, then twist it and pull it out, for example. To rip away an enemy's shield is a matter of casting your grapple beam at it by flicking the nunchuck forward, then jerking it backwards -- sometimes more than once if the enemy's grip is tenacious. These details do a good job of adding a feeling of immersion and realism to the game that make it that much more appealing. Or they would, anyway, except that the game has a stubborn insistence on walking you through every single manipulation task; I got very tired of the on-screen instructions for every lever I had to pull or pump I had to operate, and there's no way I can find to turn them off. No, smartass, disabling the in-game hints doesn't do it. I tried that.
Variety of mobs is not the game's strongest point; most of the time you'll just find yourself fighting yet more Space Pirates, only this time maybe they have some funky armour or a teleport thingummy. This situation is made even more annoying by the fact that all the space pirates (okay, except for the ones that can fly, and the one dude in the hilarious pink armour) look pretty much the same, so it can be tough to be sure which minor pirate revision you're mowing down at any given time. Also notable is the fact that every mob in the game takes about one billion shots to kill, so you'll find yourself mashing the A button more than it seems should be necessary. Boss fights are a little bit more interesting, but there are a few stinkers where you mainly just strafe around the boss' attacks and shoot him over and over and over and over again.
If you're a fan of games you could complete without looking at the screen, then this is the game for you. On the "normal" difficulty the game is skating that thin line between "easy" and "outrageously easy," and there are very few times when you'll actually be in any danger of death. Which of course makes it all the more jarring when you get to the end of the game and the difficulty spontaneously spikes upward, and you have to make your way through a long tunnel surrounded by constantly-spawning Metroids and then beat the last three bosses all in a row with no breaks to heal or save or take a nap or anything. Oh, and your health is constantly draining the entire time, too. It all seems a little bit incongruous given the primary source of energy loss for the entire game prior to this point is when you spend energy to activate your special "hypermode" and not actual, you know, damage.
To add some length to the game, somebody somewhere made the decision to include lots and lots of tedious backtracking. This person is a fool. And to make matters worse, the game almost taunts you about it, since as soon as you reach the place you can't get past without going back to an old level first, one of the game's magic computers will suddenly call Samus on the space radio and point it out. This doesn't happen once, mind you, but constantly throughout the game. The worst part is it'll frequently end up being just like one little tiny room with the powerup in it; you don't even go back through an old level and then reach what amounts to a new level. Nope, just a door you couldn't open before with a powerup behind it. It's obnoxious. I would say it's univocally the most frustrating thing about the whole game if it weren't for the Lag Doors.
I can't get over how nitpicky this seems, but, honest to God, the worst thing in this whole game is the doors. You know how doors work in Metroid: you shoot them, they open. Simple. Only this time, they don't necessarily. You shoot them, and then... you wait. And you wait. And eventually they open. And it's not even consistent, like they were trying to create some atmosphere of intentional door-delay like it would increase tension; sometimes a door will open right away, whereas other times the same door will just sit there and make you wait. We're not talking small amounts of waiting, either -- we're talking ten to fifteen seconds of standing around waiting for the damn door. It sounds stupid, but it'll honestly drive you crazy after a while. See if it doesn't. Especially if you're running away from a swarm of Metroids and suddenly get mauled because you can't get out of the room. Good thing they don't do any damage!
One thing I don't get about the game is the huge collection of bells and whistles on the ship that aren't ever used for one single damn thing. When Samus is in her ship, in addition to the nav controls she'll have access to a communicator, a biohazard scanner, weapons systems, heavy cockpit shields, and manual thrusters, and you'll never use any of it. Well, okay, the communicator and thrusters are used once each. The rest of it I guess is just there for flavour, but it makes the cockpit seem really confusing, especially when you consider the whole "cockpit interface" could have been removed in favour of jumping directly to the nav screen. Kind of a nitpick, sure, but why spend all the development time adding bells and whistles to the ship when they could have spent it adding a third distinct mob type to the game? Or maybe fixing the door lag? Hard to say.
There's an unlockable extras system present in this game, and it came very close to being excellent. You get different coloured tokens for scanning things, completing various objectives, or beating certain mobs, and you can then spend these on the main menu to unlock extras. The only problem with this system is the green tokens. Green tokens you can only get by having somebody else with the game send them to you -- you collect "friend vouchers" throughout play that you can't redeem yourself, but have to send to someone on your friends list instead. This is a terrible mechanic, since there is no other way to get green tokens, and they're needed for all of the interesting extras. Those of us with no friends can resort to negotiating with people on interweb forums or just resign ourselves to not having any green tokens, neither of which is really the ideal situation.
In all, Prime 3 is a decent game, and I'd recommend it at this stage if for no other reason than because playing an FPS on the Wii is an excellent experience. There's a lot of fun to be had here if you can tolerate the frustrating bits. It would be nice if the environments were a bit less brown or the mobs a bit more varied, but it still looks good and plays well despite that. I'd say this one's worth picking up so you can laugh along with me at the bizarre ending. Oh, and then you can send me some damn friend vouchers. I have like a million I'll send to you.
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