Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

Tech Info

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Retro Studios
Release Date: Aug 27, 2007

As Space Pirate activity expands and Phazon begins infecting entire planets, Samus and the Federation set out to regain control of the region. But they soon discover that Phazon is more powerful than they ever realized. Each bounty hunter is overcome by the substance. Even Samus is corrupted. Thus closes the Prime trilogy, and in grand fashion.

Graphics :

Corruption is undoubtedly the most gorgeous Wii game available. Placed side-by-side with some of the visually best shooters on other systems, Corruption does not have the same level of crispness, but it holds its own through outstanding direction and intelligent artistic flares.

Space scenes, viewed in either cut sequences between planets or from vistas in playable areas, are breathtaking. Players are consistently reminded of the otherworldliness of the PVI9 universe, and each planet in that universe has a distinct yet varied feel. Elysia's floating city is unique in its relaxed openness, but dually sinister in its Metroid research labs. Bryyo presents the familiar, harsh motifs of fire and ice but set against a backdrop of a formerly intelligent and peaceful civilization. Vahalla starts as a quiet spaceship and evolves into an invaded stronghold and then a Metroid and Phazon dominated structure.

Small, clever visual cues create the true story as Samus continually morphs throughout the game. Her suit, only visible at select times, becomes overrun with the blue tint of Phazon. Her reflection, only visible while wearing the scan visor, slowly shows her corrupted state by the Phazon running across her face and through her veins. The effects are played up when they should be and kept in the background when appropriate. The camera angles are cinematic, the visors remain spectacular, the arm cannon's energy and gravitational effects are stunning and the battles with Ridley are epic. Wonderful work.

Sound :

Sound is often overlooked, but Corruption makes full use of every human sense it is capable of affecting. The classic tunes remain, but each level is a blend of orchestral rock and Metroid riffs to craft a grand, space opera soundtrack. But it remains subdued, a background voice to each planet and space station. When the music subsides, the booms of Samus's arm cannon and the screech of the missiles blend into its own soundtrack, much like how the lightsabers' vibrations in The Empire Strikes Back created its own music. A few memorable scenes, particularly the early encounters with the Metroids, are as creepy as ever through sound alone.

It’s a grand accomplishment, without even mention of the high quality voice work, the first in the series to put a voice to the characters. In classic Nintendo fashion, the playable character has no dialog, a decision I've always liked. It keeps players in the role, rather than watching it.

Gameplay :

Super Mario 64 changed a genre not just through design, but through the control of the character in that design. The Remote/Nunchuck combo as implemented in Corruption does the same for the first person shooter and is the greatest control scheme the genre has seen on a console. The advanced setting is mandatory for the best experience as the aiming reticule is tied almost exactly to the motion of the remote, essentially using a minuscule bounding box to differentiate between aiming and head movement. Take the 10 minutes to adjust to the style and you will not be disappointed. Movement through any corridor is fluid, aiming is precise and dynamic and puts dual analog to shame.

The total immersion is what tips Corruption's controls beyond a keyboard and mouse. The simple task of removing a power cell from a wall is no longer a button push, but a reach in, grab it, and pull it out motion. That's your hand making it happen; it's surprisingly rewarding and used the right amount of time. The grapple beam's attachment to a flick of the Nunchuck works perfectly and is another batch of interactivity not found elsewhere. Similar interaction is used throughout play in different settings and adds a level of realism that graphics cannot.

Even without the controls, Corruption would be one sweet experience. In classic Metroid tradition, players progress through multiple worlds, collecting upgrades that open additional areas to investigate. While the game is slightly more linear at first, Corruption's backtracking goodness and deep exploration expands overtime. The action is heavier than its predecessors, but not at the expense of the adventure elements as Corruption is the largest of the three games. The environmental puzzles are solid and satisfying, particularly the morph ball segments, which continue the excellent 3D transition. The maps take great advantage of every dimension while the change in the weapon system, with set stacked upgrades rather than beam choices, works better than expected and makes Corruption a streamlined experience.

The full story is still told mainly through scans, which I like as it lets players take it at their own pace. The corruption theme plays well during gameplay. Hypermode is an extremely powerful and destructive attack system that uses the corruption as a weapon, but its cost is an energy tank. Sometimes you can come out of Hypermode and recover some energy, but other times Phazon overloads Samus's suit, and the remaining Phazon must be expelled through a barrage of panicked blasts to avoid death. It's a love-hate relationship that keeps with the dark tone of the series, and plays out to its fullest in the games final act.

Multi :

The lack of multiplayer may be unfortunately to some, and I certainly expected online play to be a major selling point of Corruption, but the game stands on its own merit as an outstanding single player experience. From an artistic standpoint, the Prime trilogy is, perhaps, best closed without an online multiplayer addition. If you have a friend with the game, however, you can use each other to unlock extras like screenshot captures, which can be traded between consoles.

Final :

Accept these two realities: Wii's graphical firepower is below the capabilities of its rivals, but Wii's first-person controls are far beyond any other console. The trade is a bit of flash for a ton of feel, and it’s a good one. While most shooters transport players inside a character's head, Corruption throws players inside the entire suit by giving the complex Samus realistic controls.

And what Corruption lacks in available hardware specs it makes up for in direction and style for a truly beautiful game world. With creative creatures and a consistently brooding atmosphere, Samus's world is as alive and gorgeous as ever. It may not use the freshest paint, but it comes from the brush of a great painter, and together rivals Twilight Princess for the best Wii game yet.

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