Review by sevenofnine

"A "Prime" Example of a Poor Gaming Experience"

A "Prime" Example of a Poor Gaming Experience by sevenofnine

"zomg! 2/10?! Why?!"

As one of the very few negative reviews of this game, I realize I stand against the majority of reviewers. Here I will attempt to show why I think Metroid Prime is a horrible game.

Intro

I should state that I originally had no intentions on writing a review for this game, especially considering that there are already so many. However, I became dismayed by the sight that many of these reviews, time and time again, quite inexplicably, give this game too much credit.

I bought a used Metroid Prime for $9.99, thinking that I would receive my money's worth - after all, 1) it's a Metroid game 2) it received many great reviews 3) it was nominated as Game of the Year. Yet, as I settled down to play it, I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed, and I kept trying to convince myself it would eventually live up to its reputation and deliver. Sadly, I held on to that belief until the very end, at which point I realized I had been conned.

I want this review, if only at the very least, to prevent you, reader, from being seduced with by that "Game of the Year" nonsense. This game is horrible. I think back to other "Games of the Year" - StarCraft, GoldenEye 007, Super Mario 64 ... and I loved them all. But when it comes to this game, I simply do not understand what the motivation is behind such a declaration. There are so many flaws with this game it's hard decide where to begin. As much as I try, I still cannot discern why the overwhelming response to a mediocre game has been to inexplicably laud it based on some indiscernible merit.

As a final prelude into my review, I want to state that Super Metroid was and still is one of my favourite games to date. Its shoddy ending aside, it was an almost entirely perfect game. I do not resent the transition of the series from 2D to 3D. In fact, I was quite excited about it. However, in hindsight, all I can say is that it was a horrible decision... or at the very least, it was poorly executed.

Let me explain my conclusion...

Story - Shallow

I do not want to give anything serious away, but suffice it to say that it seems like a rehash of previous Metroid storylines - Samus = good, Space Pirates = bad. While that's not an entirely negative aspect per se (- think of how many other reputable games are based on the "good vs. evil" premise), returning gamers to the Metroid series will be disappointed by the developers' failure to take the franchise in a new direction, as this game clearly had the potential to do so.

When you begin the game, you aren't told much about anything. Instead, you have to piece events together yourself by collecting data from computers you scan while exploring the planet. I thought that was an interesting take on the narrative. However, it is here that one of the most crucial flaws of the game comes to the front - the ridiculously stupid AI. If that seems like a bit of a non-sequitur, let me elaborate. According to the story, intellectually and technologically advanced space pirates have invaded a planet and are conducting genetic tests on themselves, etc. to produce super soldiers - in short, they're a crafty bunch. Yet, ironically, when you encounter them, their only tactic is to rush at you head on. No strategy, no tactic. Additionally, they wear colour-coded armour just to let you know what weapon is your best choice against them. This allegedly intelligent and advanced species, rather than being a formidable enemy, is ridiculously stupid. Consequently, the believability of the story is undermined by the actual gameplay AI.

If you think this is just me being nit-picky, let me present you with an apt analogy: it's like playing Street Fighter II, knowing what a bad-ass M. Bison (Vega to Japanese gamers) is supposed to be, yet, when you get to him, he just stands there and ends up being less of a threat than the flaming barrels in the bonus stage. If that isn't a disappointment, ladies and gentlemen, I don't know what is...

Visuals - Pleasing

The various view modes (X-Ray, Heat-Sensitive, etc.) are extremely well done. In fact, this is one of those games I can clearly point to and say: "Where do people get the ridiculous notion that the GameCube has poor graphics?" It's neat to be able to view the same scene in multiple ways. The developers went the extra mile to add tiny, little things - like condensation on Samus' visor when near waterfalls, or the reflection of her eyes after shooting large bursts of energy - to give the game an added sense of realism. If you're playing Metroid Prime for purely exploratory purposes, then there will be plenty to feast your eyes on.

Sound - Unmemorable

Over and over again, developers consistently overlook the importance of audio in games. The soundtrack to this game is very poor. I'm not expecting memorable theme songs, as I would from fighting games - Ken's theme from Street Fighter II. No, in fact, some of the best soundtracks I know of - Diablo, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, Silent Hill, are often little more than what some gamers pejoratively refer to as "background noise." Super Metroid had fantastic music that filled the niches of "background noise" and "catchy themes" - for example, Lower Norfair (-one of my favourite video game tunes of all time). The environment was hostile, gloomy ... and the music aptly characterized that. Contrastingly, Metroid Prime's soundtrack is underwhelming, unmemorable and leaves much to be desired. As for the sound effects, they are on par.

Controls - Oversimplified

Well, at the very least, moving around isn't too much of a problem. In fact, you have the option of moving about in various ways - morph ball, walking and jumping. Pretty standard. However, problems arise when you throw shooting into the mix. Despite that virtually all console FPSs now utilize two joysticks (-one for movement, the other for aiming), the developers of Metroid Prime thought that this game would be best off with one. Thus, aiming becomes an issue. Well, you'd think it would... except that they also decided that by double-tapping the L button, you automatically lock on a target (-which, I might add, becomes the only accurate way to fire). After all, what's more fun in an FPS that to have the computer remove all of the challenge for you? <./sarcasm> As you might realize, with this mandatory feature, this game becomes ridiculously easy. First, you don't have to have any sense of aim, but the computer does all the work for you, and third, the enemy AI is stupid. Look elsewhere if you want a challenge! Unfortunately, the only few exciting moments will be boss battles, and those don't come often enough.

GamePlay - Dull

The biggest drawback to this game is somebody's ill-conceived idea that Metroid Prime would best be suited as a First Person Shooter (it shares more in common with Shooters than it does with Adventure games, therefore, I will treat it as such). Without a doubt, this is the game's most damning feature. Any serious review of game should be contextualized with its counterparts, and in comparison to other FPS of this time, and even earlier - ie. 1998's Half-Life, this game's failures are appalling. Most notably, the game's slow, uneventful and unchallenging pace.

While other games' AI will pose a threat by sometimes forming group tactics to assault you, in this game, for the most part, rather than fight challenging enemies, you will find yourself shooting at local florae and faunae, which are often slow, if not immobile, and hardly ever pose a serious danger other than knocking you off a platform (-and you will be doing a lot of platform jumping!). Coupled with the game's poor aiming mechanism and unchallenging AI, Metroid Prime becomes a very long, dull trek.

... and that brings me to my next point: doors. Lots of them. They will block your way to further maps... not a problem, right? After all, you only need to shoot them and they will open, right? Wrong. Shooting doors in earlier Metroid games allowed for the system to load the next map. At the very least, however, in Super Metroid, when you hit the doors, they'd actually open. In this game, you will often find that the door will not open when you shoot it while walking toward it. So you shoot it again, still it doesn't open. By this point, you've reached the door and it refuses to comply. So, now you have to walk backwards, begin shooting again until it opens, then walk forward again. This might seem nitpicky, but I wouldn't bring this up unless it happened often... and, unfortunately, it does.

The weapons in the game are lack-luster as well. They are animated very nicely (-well, the beams, etc. anyway, since it's always coming from Samus' forearm blaster), but they are simply too limited and are rehashed versions of things we've seen in other Metroid games before. As such, replay value is diminished. Heck, I remember having just running through countless levels of Doom and Killzone just to blow stuff up with all kinds of different weapons, and I was very disappointed that Metroid Prime, as a FPS, did not enable me to do the same.

Final Thoughts on Believability and Realism

Evidently, the developers wanted to take the franchise to a more realistic level. Although they managed to bring the visuals up to par with such a goal, they failed at virtually everything else. Space pirates would be intelligent and crafty adversaries. Samus would get knocked down after taking hard blows (-her arm cannon doesn't even flinch after a hard landing!).

Although the developers try to construct an elaborate, fragmented and sad narrative (-since things are rarely so straight-forward "in real life"), the believability is betrayed by the game's poor AI and silly level design. While in previous Metroid games Samus had to blast through rocks and mountainsides to advance, on this planet, one she has never been on before, things are "magically" already adapted to the abilities of her suit - particularly those annoying morph ball tunnels that are always conveniently located. Or worse yet, having a huge half-pipe already there for her so she roll up into a ball and use it to access the next area.

You can't have "realism" and only go half-way. It just doesn't work. As such, you will find it very hard to "buy into" the game, especially if you're a fan of realistic FPSs.

Conclusion

Metroid Prime leaves a lot to be desired by serious FPS and Metroid fans alike. Rather than produce new, exciting content for a new generation of titles, the franchise instead chose to withdraw from any such innovation. Consequently, this game is nothing but a dull rehash of previous titles but with exceptionally poorer controls and audio. While the transition from side-scrolling platformer to FPS was not a damning transition per se, the final product was poorly executed.

If you are considering purchasing this game - beware! I cannot, for the life of me, explain or even understand what other people see in this game. Do not be conned into thinking that "Game of the Year" translates to gaming satisfaction and getting your money's worth.

Buy this game if:
- you are looking for a slow-paced, unchallenging sci-fi adventure game
- seriously in need of a FPS and anything will do

Do *not* buy this game if:
- you are a serious Metroid fan and expect to get a genuine "Metroid experience"
- are an avid FPS fan and looking for a good game

Thanks for sticking it out this far, reader. Hope this has been enlightening.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 12/03/07

Game Release: Metroid Prime (Player's Choice) (US, 09/25/03)


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