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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

by Mike Thomsen - September 18, 2007, 12:54 am PDT
Total comments: 17

9.5

One last trip through a scanner darkly.

It’s all but impossible to find a game quite like any in the Metroid Prime series. Admittedly, the developers have cobbled together a wide variety of specific, and frequently not very subtle, influences from other games (think Myst, Half Life, System Shock, Marathon, Doom, Zelda…). While the specific elements of any given Prime game may be easy to trace down through the annals of gaming history, the cumulative impact has always been a profoundly singular one. Now comes the third and final installment in the Prime trilogy, and much has changed since the original Prime descended from the heavens like Kubrick’s (and Clarke’s) mysterious monolith for the gaming apes to marvel at. Does it still hold the same other-worldly elegance and rapturous immersion of its predecessors?

Retro Studios has made some significant changes to the Prime formula to adapt it to Wii, and while some gamers may be apprehensive about it, there can be no doubt that Prime 3 is the gameplay pinnacle of the series. In tone, theme, and execution, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption outstrips its 3D predecessors in almost every way imaginable. This is the most accessible, most exhausting, and most brilliantly hypnotic game in the series and a reminder of all the different ways games have of deserving our attention, above and beyond the staid point and shoot mechanics that have predominated first-person gaming experiences throughout the years. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is a definitive first-person gaming experience that is unmatched by any game, on any platform.

The most dramatic changes to the Prime formula will be apparent from the very beginning. Players wake up in the cockpit of intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran’s ship after a brief opening dream sequence. In order to progress, you’ll have to figure out a basic environmental puzzle using the Wii Remote as if it were your very own hand. The cockpit is filled with buttons and flashing panels to interact with, all of which require actual physical movement of some sort to operate. It may seem like a minor evolution to physically aim Samus’s finger at one of several different buttons to bring up a status screen, but it’s a thoroughly beguiling experience.

The gestures effectively act as a subconscious umbilical cord that shatters the mystical fourth wall of gaming, and it helps to underscore the epic nature of the feats you will have accomplished by the time you reach the journey’s end. What starts as a simple button push lays the foundation for the operation of massive weapons, ancient artifacts, and levers that ultimately unlock some of this universe’s most profound mysteries. More importantly, it underscores the core precept of the game by forcing you to view your interface primarily as a contextual problem-solving tool rather than a blunt instrument of laser-powered destruction. Combat remains an important component of the game, but you won’t get very far in Prime 3 just shooting stuff.

Once you get out of your space ship and begin the game in earnest, you’ll be treated to a lengthy and startlingly linear prologue that has been designed to ease players into the new control scheme. While this may be an off-putting change of pace for long-time fans of the Prime series, it will likely prove to be an irresistible hook for fans who had little patience for the lock-on aiming and methodical puzzle-solving of the previous games. Instead of abandoning players on a disorienting alien planet with no real directive or strongly-framed story, Prime 3 puts you in the middle of a massive planetary invasion filled with a marauding fleet of space pirates. Everything you do for the first hour or two is directly tied into a major battle that will determine the fate of the planet you’re standing on. Don’t panic, though; it’s still handled in a very "Metroid" kind of way. Fetching energy cells from one room and delivering them to a generator somewhere else still miraculously unlocks a door or powers a conspicuously useful piece of machinery.

After the stirring prologue, the game eases back into the heavily immersive puzzle-solving and exploration elements that have defined the series since the beginning. I won’t spoil how or why the narrative suddenly shifts from intense battle with Space Pirates to traditional exploration on a series of mysterious alien worlds, but rest assured you’ll be learning about long-dead civilizations and scanning strange alien installations soon enough. In both combat and exploration, the new Wii control scheme is a brilliant addition to the series, adding a significant layer of interactivity to the game world while streamlining many of the more cumbersome aspects of the lock-on movement system.

Retro’s use of the Wii Remote’s IR function and free-look should serve as irrevocable proof that first person games can be done better on Wii than any other console, past or current. On the advanced setting, the aiming-cursor glides speedily across the screen in a seamless way, adding a pleasurable sense of accuracy to combat. Likewise, the ability to independently aim while still locked on to an enemy complements the old style of Metroid combat beautifully. In past Prime games, shootouts were all about rhythm and timing, knowing how many shots you could get off before you would have to jump out of the way. Introducing aiming to the "shooting and jumping" mix helps enliven the combat and makes up for the sometimes limpid enemy AI. It’s true that regular enemies in Prime 3 have relatively simple AI routines that become predictable over time (and over multiple encounters required by the game’s re-traversal). Even still, combining the nimble jumping/dodging abilities of Samus with the free-aiming is an amusing enough puzzle in and of itself. You probably won’t spend much time wondering about the AI when just hitting an enemy is so immediately rewarding.

The game has been streamlined in other areas, with beam-switching converted into a stacking system that upgrades the strength of your basic charge beam. Visors can be switched by holding down the minus button and aiming at one of three on-screen wedges that corresponds to the specific visor you want. Hitting down on the D-pad will fire off a homing missile, and the C button switches Samus into morph ball mode. Samus can also enter Corruption mode for brief periods of time by holding down the Plus key on the remote. Staying in Corruption mode eats away Samus’s health and is limited to one energy tank’s worth, but it adds a nice strategic element to enemy encounters. You can clear out the enemies from one or two rooms with relative ease, but how much energy will that ultimately leave you to get where you’re going? This won’t seem like much of an issue playing on the default Normal difficulty, but on Veteran (and above) it becomes a much more immediate part of your play strategy.

And then there’s scanning. While Prime 3 has some intriguing cut-scenes with dramatic voice-acting (a series first), the bulk of the story will begin to piece itself together as you scan for lore on computer panels, ancient hieroglyphics, and alien data terminals. Initially, it seems like a cumbersome process with nothing more rewarding than some anecdotal tidbits about a specific person or planet. Over time, however, the cumulative impact of all these little puzzle pieces fitting together to contextualize the deeper importance of your mission (especially entries that give you the point of view of the other side in some of the many battles you will have fought earlier in the game) becomes genuinely addictive. The need to scan to find these lore entries dovetails perfectly into the overarching structure of the player defining the depth of their play experience through direct interaction. Admittedly, it’s not a sophisticated layer of interaction, switching to another view and hitting the Z button to scan a glowing red or blue icon. It does, however, reinforce that core gameplay precept that the world you are in is filled with secrets, and it is your job to uncover them.

Metroid Prime 3 is also one of the most beautiful games ever made, on any system. It may not have all the technical underpinnings of games running on more powerful hardware, but it perfectly exploits the Wii’s capabilities to express a world that is instantly believable and enthralling. Human faces may look a little dodgy, but you will be hard-pressed to move through any of the game’s over-flowing environments and doubt that they could have been real, functioning worlds independent of your place in them. The subdued color pallet and over-the-top bloom lighting add an ethereal gloss that brings out a ghostly desolation. There are brief but annoying load times waiting for some blast doors to open while the game streams in data for the next area, but you’ll forget about the inconvenience as soon as the door pops open and another visual marvel is available for your explorations.

One big area where Prime 3 stumbles a bit is in the presentation of its story, especially towards the end of the game. Retro Studios should be given credit for adding voice acting and some action-heavy set-pieces to help frame the story. It’s a broad attempt to be cinematic, but cut-scenes are put together with simple edits and basic camera angles that, quite honestly, hearken back to the crude attempts at filmic story-telling from the PS1/N64 days. The decision to use all in-game assets for cut-scenes also frequently shows environments and character models from unflattering angles that help to break the atmospheric spell of the gameplay. The characters all have relatively unexpressive faces that can’t add any layer of emotion or immediacy to the stilted camera angles. While the attempt to broaden the scope and approach to narrative in the games is a commendable one, it doesn’t come together nearly as well as the rest of the game.

Another quibble one could pick with the game is with the ending. By all accounts, the writers at Retro have crammed the game full of archetypal characters and story arcs that flirt with mythic elements: a war for survival between competing civilizations, a mysterious energy source that is slowly corrupting our protagonist, evil henchmen who are ultimately in over their heads, and the Galactic Federation that may or may not have the purest of intentions. As the ending to a trilogy of games, Retro dives right into the meat of the story with bravura, but all of the elements introduced never really pay off. The way the story winds to a conclusion lacks any serious twists and utterly fails to make some of the more elemental themes resonate in any visceral way. The story told in the snippets of scanned lore and data entries is as compelling as it’s ever been, but it’s also frequently tangential to the main storyline of discovering the true nature of phazon and why it’s corrupting Samus. Not that the game needs a huge cinematic finish, but when the first half of the game features so much action-heavy flair and dialogue infused cut-scenes, it feels weak and inconclusive to finish in such a predictable way.

As a sheer gameplay experience, however, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption ripples with life. It doesn’t offer mindless escapism; it demands you actively engage in the world you are placed in. It rewards curiosity, exploration, and careful thought applied to the obstacles in front of you. It gives gamers a visceral and subconsciously intuitive interface that will draw you into a more tactile experience than you are likely to ever have experienced. Even while the story fails to match the sublime depths of the gameplay design, Prime 3 is a beautiful game, an artistic monolith that consumes the player with possibilities. While the answers aren’t always as thrilling as the questions, the fact that a game exists capable of providing the kind of haunted examination and reflection that Prime 3 does is a feat of the highest magnitude in the medium. I’m done with Corruption, but it will be in my dreams for a good while yet.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9.5 9 9.5 10 9 9.5
Graphics
9.5

One of the best looking games ever made. Retro has meticulously put together some of the most believable and atmospheric game environments that I have ever seen. Here is a sprawling galaxy with an astounding level of detail, HDR lighting, particle effects, all in progressive scan and widescreen without the slightest hint of slowdown. There are some bungled and unflattering cut-scenes, but, otherwise, the art and implementation of Prime 3 is magical.

Sound
9

A stunning mix of old and new themes balanced against an amazingly deep range of ambient atmospheric sounds. The sound design is the glue that pulls the art and gameplay together into a thoroughly believable universe. Voice acting is generally of high quality and adds a new layer of depth and believability to the story. Some of the tracks with a more dynamic range sound noticeably compressed and downright shrill, but even these are modest technical quibbles.

Control
9.5

Proof that there is, in general, no better way to control a first person game than with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Sure, the turning speed is a bit chunky, and hitting the 1 button to bring up the Map screen is an inconvenience, but those are happy sacrifices. The ease and precision of aiming combined with the surprisingly diverse set of interactive motion controls for environmental objects (not to mention the brilliant grapple beam) are amazingly executed.

Gameplay
10

A fantastically paced adventure that seamlessly combines adventure, shooter, RPG, and puzzle elements into one of the most engaging and intuitive gameplay experience possible in a video game. The streamlined mission structure keeps the plot moving forward at a steady pace, while the free-roaming world allows for all the exploration a diehard could want.

Lastability
9

A good 15-20 hours of unsurpassed gameplay, with two additional difficulty modes and a full set of achievement points and nifty bonuses to unlock. Add in time to get 100% of the items and scans and the number rises significantly.

Final
9.5

Corruption is a simply brilliant experience. It has evolved in some substantial ways from its predecessors, but it still manages to deliver the same unique and deeply engrossing gameplay experience. There are some technical issues, but these are easy to overlook when the game offers such a rich and varied experience. In almost every element of its construction, Metroid Prime 3 is a wonderfully balanced and enthralling piece of work. If you care about video games, you owe it to yourself and the medium to experience this game.

Summary

Pros
  • Environmental motion controls are varied and fantastically satisfying
  • Gameplay tells the story
  • Some of the most beautiful environments in gaming
  • Unsurpassed first person controls
  • Voice-acting adds a new layer to the story-telling
Cons
  • Some ancillary controls (map, turning speed) are a little clunky
  • Some cutscenes are unflattering to the in-game assets
  • Some people may be let down by the ending
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

Michael8983September 17, 2007

I've still yet to reach this supposedly lackluster ending but I can't see it making any difference.
I never expected some huge twist, just the usual "you saved the day, good job, goodbye". Playing the game should be its own reward.
Back in the golden days of gaming, no one ever knocked points off a game for its ending.

MashiroSeptember 17, 2007

Everyone knows my thoughts of the ending (and I agree).

Quote

Back in the golden days of gaming, no one ever knocked points off a game for its ending.


ALttP is still the best Zelda for having the best ending to date for me, so good endings do help a game face-icon-small-wink.gif

The point about the ending is completely valid, especially for a trilogy.

Bill AurionSeptember 17, 2007

Well you obviously enjoy it for the wrong reason because Link's Awakening's ending blows LttP's out of the water emotionally...

(Mashiro has crappy taste in endings confirmed... face-icon-small-cool.gif )

MashiroSeptember 17, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: Bill Aurion
Well you obviously enjoy it for the wrong reason because Link's Awakening's ending blows LttP's out of the water emotionally...

(Mashiro has crappy taste in endings confirmed... face-icon-small-cool.gif )


LA's ending was right up there Bill so face-icon-small-tongue.gif but I enjoyed the LTTP one more as it was the most complete ending involving the main Zelda storyplot/mythos.

So suck on it Mr. Metroid Prime 3 is perfect!

Gawd I'm so happy Brawl is confirmed online, I am SO gonna duke it out with Bill and we will make custom taunts to insult our posts . . . oh it'll happen.

By the way, Mike's review was done well over a week ago. He went on an international trip and asked me to post it for him. Unfortunately, he forgot the Pros & Cons, and I didn't want to write them in for him, so it had to wait until he got back.

Bill AurionSeptember 18, 2007

No problem, everyone already knows the game is awesome!

GoldenPhoenixSeptember 18, 2007

Super Metroid, Metroid II, and Metroid all have crappy generic endings. ALL the Metroid Prime games have better endings than those.

NinGurl69 *hugglesSeptember 18, 2007

Still waiting for a Nintendo game that has an hour-long ending, like in Return of the King.

cubistSeptember 18, 2007

NWR's crew of MP3 reviewers have a done an exceptional job thus far. This particular review was probably the best read for me because I agree with most of what Mike covered. I think the cut-scenes were fine. I've gone back and played some N64 games recently like Starfox 64 and none of the in-game cut-scenes were reminiscent the hardware 2 generations ago.

I'm done with MP3 as well. It was a great experience for me and for my wife to watch.

mantidorSeptember 19, 2007

ending spoilers
I don't want a LoTRending, but I just want to know if Samus has a spare varia suit in the back of the ship, and how did she changed so quickly into one? not to mention that if she carries spares she should have just used it in Prime 1 instead of having to defeat the annoying (but awesome) Flagrha

the ending just felt rushed honestly.

Bill AurionSeptember 19, 2007

Retro had plenty of time to change it if they wanted to, but they didn't, so they obviously didn't care... face-icon-small-thumbsup.gif

Quote

Originally posted by: mantidor
ending spoilers
I don't want a LoTRending, but I just want to know if Samus has a spare varia suit in the back of the ship, and how did she changed so quickly into one? not to mention that if she carries spares she should have just used it in Prime 1 instead of having to defeat the annoying (but awesome) Flagrha

the ending just felt rushed honestly.


QFT.

mantidorSeptember 21, 2007

question: are there one-time scans? (besides bosses of course), I'm trying to get them all but if I missed one already I better start over instead of getting frustrated.

oh also with the bomber GF soldiers, I didn't save them all, and I read they give you a yellow token, since theres no way to go back, do I have to restart completly? do you get three yellow tokens from them, one in each difficulty?

Bill AurionSeptember 21, 2007

Scans carry over to your next game, so there's no problem if you miss some...

As for your yellow token game, you don't need to get all the yellow tokens in one game...You also get tokens for beating bosses in Hyper Mode difficulty...

UERDSeptember 21, 2007

This page describes how you can get all the tokens in the game.

You can't get additional tokens or vouchers for doing the same thing over and over again each time you play the game on a save file. The only exception to that are the two tokens for each boss on each difficulty (one for normal/veteran, one for hyper.) So you won't get the vouchers for X00 kills or saving the marines if you've already done so the last time you played through.

mantidorSeptember 22, 2007

100% finished!
Samus' face somehow was better than the one from the vomit scene (heh), how? I guess bloom really can make anything looks better.

So whos that ship at the very end? is it brand new or is it from somewhere else and I missed it?

Until someone comes up with a plausible theory, I'm calling it Dark Samus' Ship... and it has a mind of its own! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

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Wii

Game Profile

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Box Art

Genre Adventure
Developer Retro Studios
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Release Aug 27, 2007
PublisherNintendo
RatingTeen
jpn: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Release Mar 06, 2008
PublisherNintendo
eu: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Release Oct 26, 2007
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+
aus: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Release Nov 08, 2007
PublisherNintendo
RatingMature
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