Review by neonreaper
"Awesome atmosphere, poor controls."
Metroid is a series founded on exploration and atmosphere. You play as Samus Aran, who I'm sure has some origins such as being a bounty hunter, a super scientist, or perhaps a member of some space police. Really, all that matters is... she's a girl, and she has a gun and a spacesuit. The story and background for the Metroid series isn't really of great importance, and while Metroid Prime attempts to fit in some story for its setting, it's pretty simple stuff that you probably don't really care about. What really matters is the actual environment and how Samus interacts with it. In previous Metroid games, both have been amazing, though in Metroid Prime, the interaction (ie control scheme) is borderline horrific.
Starting with what makes this game so highly praised, Metroid Prime's atmosphere and attention to detail is amazing. Many years later, few games are able to achieve this level of atmospheric immersion. From the overall designs of each area, to the layout of the entire game, you will always remember exploring the world in Metroid Prime. Little effects like water on your visor and the distortion effect of charged blasts stay with you, perfect and thoughtful elements such as those fill the game. This is where the transition to three dimensions really stands out for Metroid enthusiasts - how can a series go from a potential "best game ever" candidate in Super Metroid to a completely new genre? Well, they simply didn't lose sight of the important little aspects in Metroid games, and really they just expanded on them more than you'd imagine.
Samus moves very well in three dimensions, and enemies seem to move in an organic, natural way. The bosses are pretty cool and they feel more like monsters you'd find in this environment as opposed to crazy video game characters. The player experiences immersion in these ways - everything just feels like it fits. Metroid has pretty much always done this well, to some level, and Metroid Prime performs this at an elite level. You are not playing Metroid Prime, you are exploring a world.
Music and sounds effects fit right in with this. The music may not really exist as the greatest in Metroid history and as such not really the greatest in video game music history, but it co-exists with the general ideas of the game in order to provide that last element needed for good atmosphere. It's moody and built right into each area, if that makes sense. Effects provide the proper sounds for each sci-fi action in the game.
The story, as said previously, isn't terribly remarkable, nor does it need to be. Samus is investigating a planet where space pirates were trying to mutate life forms with radiation, and some Chozo race had to deal with that radiation. The development of the plot is done with "scans", that Samus can use her visor to scan, which can either have logs of the pirate experiments or some Chozo information. If you love running around trying to get 100% of the scans, this can be awesome, and indeed isn't a small deal for many Metroid fans. But it's the first crack in the pristine immersion, as it's a bit of a clunky way to tell a story. It becomes a collection rush and illustrates that maybe the developers don't trust the players to make sense of a developed plot through gameplay. It's not horrible, but certainly doesn't stand up to the same level as the atmosphere of the game.
Scanning, however, means you need a scanning visor, which also leads us down the path of other visors that Samus will use, selected with the D-Pad. This is a pretty cool element from the sense that you're exploring the world, and this gives Samus more sticks to poke around with.
Backtracking in general feels a bit slow but isn't that bad in and of itself. Platforming elements in this game could use some work - some of the tougher jumps don't really work in 3D and having to backtrack past difficult sections is annoying. And here we get to the real problem with the game... the controls. So far, everything I've described (aside from tough jumps) has been done quite well. The problem? The C-stick is used for quick weapon swaps instead of aiming. To aim, you have to press the R button and stand still and aim. You're a stationary target and can only really jump up to avoid enemies. You can strafe by holding L, but you lose manual aim, and auto-aim isn't that great in the game. While the action isn't typically frantic, the controls are poor and bring down the game, especially for people who have played proper FPS titles before. I've seen excuses by devs/fans alike that this game isn't a First Person Shooter, but instead a First Person Adventure, as if somehow it's OK to have crappy combat controls if you consider it a little further away from Halo or Quake than it was before. No, these controls are junk and I don't see how assigning a quick swap for all those weapons really adds to "adventure" when the a dual stick approach would probably work better in that regard.
Goods news though, the Wii version has a better control scheme. Not as good as dual stick, but better. Bad news, this isn't the Wii version.
If you're able to get beyond the horrific control scheme, or don't mind crappy action disintegrating the immersion for the times you need to shoot enemies, then this game is probably going to be among the best you'll ever play. A lot of people don't mind the controls, or at least learn to cope with them, but I think it's tough to do this if you've really played console FPS games, and a lot of people feel this way and won't play the game to completion or care to review it. Lucky for you, I'm here to warn you! If you can get beyond any notion of intuitive first person controls (adventure, shooter, whatever you want to call it), then Metroid Prime is a true gem and may be one of the best games you ever play.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 08/03/10
Game Release: Metroid Prime (US, 11/17/02)
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