Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

September 24, 2007

When the Wii’s unique controller was first unveiled, many critics pointed to the Metroid Prime 3: Corruption demos as the ultimate selling point. Some even declared the remote and nunchuck controls superior to the much-beloved mouse and keyboard. Unfortunately, Corruption was pulled from the launch, and pushed back to an unspecified date. What gamers lucky enough to snag a Wii got instead were games like Red Steel, Far Cry Vengeance, Call of Duty 3, and Medal of Honor: Vanguard, all of which received mediocre reviews at best.

As usual, gamers would have to wait for Nintendo’s own effort (via Retro Studios, in this case) to show everyone how to treat their system right — even if it took nine months longer than promised. Fortunately, as with most nine-month waits, Corruption is a joyous delivery.

Corruption concludes the Metroid Prime series, once again featuring bounty hunter Samus Aran kicking copious amount of Space Pirate ass as she explores an alien world — or in this case, four or five worlds. Instead of the traditional Metroid set-up of one “hub” area and several sub-locales, Corruption puts Samus’s Gunship to use and has you jetting back and forth between planets. But that’s not the real innovation here, so let’s get the control discussion out of the way first. Bear in mind that, since my personal FPS experience consists entirely of the Metroid Prime series and Goldeneye 64, I won’t be able to make valid comparisons between the Wii’s “point and shoot” interface and dual-analog or mouse/keyboard controls.

While the game offers three degrees of turning sensitivity and an option to use the traditional lock-on, most experienced gamers will probably opt for the “Advanced” control boasted about in the game’s ads. After an initial adjustment period, Corruption‘s interface becomes largely intuitive, with A used to shoot and B to jump. Some modifications from the other Primes‘ controls were necessary due to the Remote’s lack of buttons, though. For example, now you fire missiles by pressing down on the D-Pad. The remote is also occasionally used for certain gestural interfaces, like pulling levers and turning dials, which are well-executed and help immerse you in the game’s world.

The Morph Ball activation is found on the nunchuk’s C button instead of on your “active” hand. While rolling around in third person, most of your controls remain as you probably remember them, although Corruption adds the ability to jump by flicking the Remote up. This maneuver effectively marginalizes the classic “Bomb Jump” technique (now only required once, to get an optional pickup), but it doesn’t always seem to work as expected; I found that I got the most dependable jumping results when Samus was absolutely still, so you might want to keep that in mind.

The Z button lets you lock on to a target, which is still useful in this “free aiming” world for your homing missiles, side-jumping, and — perhaps most importantly — grappling. On that subject, the nunchuck controls Samus’s Grapple Beam thusly: when locked on to a viable grapple point, flicking the nunchuck forward deploys the grapple, and pulling back tells Samus to flex her muscles and yank off detachable pieces of plating and whatnot. It’s a great change to see the Grapple being used as an addition to Samus’s already-formidable arsenal, as some enemies can only be defeated by the physical force it provides — either directly or by stripping away armor — and the gestural interface for doing so is brilliant in both concept and execution.

Overall, I had very few problems adapting to these new controls. Most of the issues I did have were centered around the awkward placement of the – button (used to change visors) and + button (used to engage Hyper Mode, which I’ll get to later), especially with the Home button being nestled in between them. There were definitely times when I went to change visors in the heat of battle and came perilously close to either resetting the game or going back to the Wii Menu, which would have been disastrous. The only other problem I had was occasionally hitting the C button when I wanted to hit Z or vice versa. Everything else worked as advertised, and found the control scheme to be highly efficient and immersive.

Of course, like any Metroid title, most of your cool tricks have to wait until you collect the necessary upgrades. At least Samus starts off Corruption better-equipped than usual; you won’t have to earn the right to access your Morph Ball Bombs, Space Jump, or Charge Beam this time, and you quickly re-acquire your Missile Launcher and Grapple Lasso. Everything else you’ll have to find as you explore the worlds of Corruption. This includes some “old standards” (Spider Ball, Screw Attack, etc.) as well as some new tricks.

In Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, most of Samus’s new toys centered around the game’s “light and dark worlds” theme. In Corruption, they mostly center around the new Phazon Enhancement Device (PED Suit) and the Hyper Mode it enables. Early on in the plot, Samus’s body begins to generate Phazon, the corruptive energy/goo that has defined the series. The PED Suit allows Samus to channel some of her energy into ultra-powerful Phazon blasts that quickly dispatch her enemies (some of whom can enter Hyper Mode themselves) while becoming essentially invulnerable. This great power, however, runs the risk of corrupting Samus with Phazon. Leave Hyper Mode on for too long and she’ll need to discharge quickly, lest she be overcome.

Balancing the risks of Hyper Mode with the need to harness its power is just one of the problems players face as they play Corruption. Space Pirates, environmental hazards, native predators, intricate puzzles, enormous bosses, and of course energy-leeching Metroids all stand between Samus and the completion of her mission — and they’ve got new tricks of their own to keep Samus on her power-suited toes.

Players will have to keep their eyes and ears open throughout the game, but this shouldn’t be a problem as Corruption continues with the series’s impressive production values. Metroid Prime and its sequel Echoes produced some of the prettiest visuals and sweetest sounds on the GameCube, and Retro has brought that same attention to visual and aural detail to the Wii. Nobody purchased a Wii for eye- or ear-candy, but the system can definitely still provide it when asked, and without any noticeable slowdown.

Of course, the Wii simply isn’t as powerful as the other systems out there these days, and it does show if you know where to look. The graphics don’t always stand up to close inspection, which is especially noticeable with regards to doors. The Prime games pre-load the next room when you activate the door to keep gameplay seamless, but some rooms take longer to load than others. Especially complex rooms will leave you staring at a closed, pixelated door for upwards of maybe seven seconds, which can be highly inconvenient if enemies are around. It’s not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, but Metroid games feature a great deal of backtracking, so you’ll encounter the same slow doors frequently. As far as problems with the sound goes, I don’t recall the Remote’s speaker being used for anything; hearing a metroid’s shriek right in my personal space when one latches on to me would have been awesome. If the speaker was used, it was so subtle I didn’t notice.

Other than the controls, perhaps the biggest functional change between Corruption and its GameCube predecessors is what it is missing rather than what has been added. Unlike in the previous two Prime titles, there is no beam switching in Corruption; Samus still acquires beam upgrades throughout the game, but instead of switching between them, their effects just stack onto the basic beam. This eliminates a lot of the largely pointless switching just to open doors, but also eliminates concepts like enemies that can only be defeated by a certain type of beam. Super Missiles, Power Bombs, and Beam/Missile Combos are also lacking, although there are approximate analogues for the first two and the Combos weren’t really all that useful in the first place. In fact, there definitely seemed to be an overall “lack up power-ups” feeling, which I think was partially caused by not starting at zero; your initial armaments would represent upwards of four or five power-ups in previous titles. Finally, Corruption lacks any sort of multiplayer mode, although that’s not much of a loss; the multiplayer in Echoes always felt sort of tacked on, and the Metroid Prime Hunters DS title suggests that any future bounty hunter deathmatch action will be confined to its own spin-off series. I could definitely see an online MPH game for the Wii using Corruption‘s control scheme in the future for those who want it.

Corruption doesn’t completely ignore the Wii’s online functionality, however. Throughout the game, you receive credits for certain achievements: beating bosses, scanning enemies, and scanning lore entries. There is also a fourth type of achievement that earns you a “friend voucher”, usually for miscellaneous things like 100 kills, finding shortcuts, or especially stylish kills. These vouchers can be traded online to receive the final type of credit. This online trading uses your Wii’s system code, not a game-specific Friend Code, so trading is a relatively painless process if the friends already in your address book have the game. Credits can be spent to unlock extras, like concept art, musical tracks, and miscellaneous quirks like a Mii bobble-head for the dashboard of Samus’s Gunship.

Corruption offers around fifteen to twenty hours of gameplay on Normal Difficulty if you make the effort to collect all the pickups. There are also two higher levels of difficulty if you want further challenge or more boss credits. Using the same save file allows you to retain your scans from previous playthroughs, allowing you to concentrate more on survival… or enjoying the scenery, depending on which which way you go. The advantage of free-aiming might actually make Normal difficulty too easy for experienced gamers, who may want to start on Veteran and then breeze through Normal later to pick up credits and scans.

No matter which difficulty setting you tackle first, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption will fulfill a lot of the promises made about the Wii when it was released last year. The first “hardcore” title for the system that was actually designed for it from the beginning, Corruption proves that the Wii is capable of more than just minigame collections and golf games.

Score: 5/5

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