Review by discoinferno84
"If there's a cure for this, I don't want it..."
Phazon corruption starts small. Just a particle, really. But that's all it takes. Once it's inside, it grows. Multiplies. That tiny drop of blue slime expands, sprouts tentacles, and goes digging into the rest of you. It consumes everything with which it comes into contact, like a cancer from another world. It rots you from the inside out. It's like you're a walking, breathing corpse. A Phazon infection doesn't kill you, though. It takes control. Your organs, limbs, nervous system, taken over one by one. By the time it's reached your brain, there's little hope left. The infection ruins your perception of reality, bends you to its will, and turns you into a mindless slave. Can you imagine it? Knowing that such a monster is growing inside of you like some kind of demonic fetus? Steadily losing control over your body, until you've been so consumed that you actually find it appealing? And when faced with such a grotesque and disturbing fate, what could you possibly do to save yourself?
For Samus Aran, that problem just got personal. The stuff is growing inside of her now, and it's all thanks to an attack from her evil ridden twin. It's not all about her, either; Dark Samus is attempting to conquer whole planets by smashing asteroid-sized Phazon seeds into them. With all other allies either corrupted or too busy fighting elsewhere, it's up to Samus to save the galaxy. There's a nice contrast between Samus's personal struggles and her interstellar crusade; as she rids each planet of the evil substance, she gets ever more consumed by it. The corruption starts small, but it gets worse with every major victory. By the time you've reached the final area, you've got to wonder how Samus is even standing, let alone fighting. It's a morbidly fascinating spin on an established character. Unfortunately, its potential gets dragged down by all the extra jargon. While far meatier and more involved than anything in the Metroid series, the story is one of the game's worst apsects. Between the sudden abundance of galactic soldiers, sentient computers, and rival bounty hunters, it won't take long for you to get sick of the cliched storyline or the predictable plot twists.
The approach is understandable. Nintendo wanted this last Prime installment to be an epic finale to their critically acclaimed series, and they delivered. No one can argue that this game goes out with a bang; the majority of Corruption focuses on intense gunfights and long battles. The sheer amount of trigger-happy Space Pirates is mind-boggling; you'll be mashing the fire button, spamming missiles, and ducking behind crates almost right from the start. Several weapons make their triumphant return, such as the upgradeable power beams or the ice missiles a la Super Metroid. There's nothing quite as awesome as using your Grapple Beam to rip an enemy's armor off. You'll notice how utterly ineffective your weapons are; even the most basic enemies might take a few hits before splattering along the walls. It's a clever way to tempt you into abusing Samus's new powers; thanks to her corruption, she can sacrifice some of her health energy and briefly convert her standard gun into a Phazon-spewing killing machine. Overusing it, however, will send the infection haywire and kill you within seconds. The trick is learning how to balance your reliance on the weapon and your ability to survive in battle.
It can only get you so far, though. There's no point in having a bunch of badass weapons if you can't even use them correctly. The key to survival isn't how much firepower you have, but how well you can aim it. The controls in this game are superb. They demonstrate the kind of stuff FPS games ought to be doing on the Wii; you point at whatever you want to shoot, press the right button, and send the projectiles flying. It's simple, straightforward, and easy to pick up. The accuracy and hit detection involved are equally impressive; your aiming has to be pinpoint for your attacks to hit. It makes for some brutal battles; you might have to take down an airship by firing on one tiny panel on the front, or shoot out a boss's shoulder plating to expose a weak point. It gets kind of gimmicky, though. For example, you'll frequently face a group of automated sentries. To beat them, you have to wait until they turn a different color, and then blast them one at a time. It's like going through a glorified shooting range. Others are even more obvious; you might have to twist the WiiMote to turn a lever, or use the controller to position Samus's hand over an interface. While the motion controls are a huge improvement over the last two games, many of its uses seem silly and tacked on.
It's a shame too, considering how little emphasis was placed on anything else. The combat and controls are amazing, but the designers forgot about the rest of the gameplay. The Metroid series has always been about the combination of exploration and action; you got to wander through massive worlds, uncovering all kinds of secret passages, shortcuts, and powerups along the way. That's the beauty of the previous titles; finding every last hidden crevice and enjoying some well-designed areas along the way. In Corruption, however, there is almost no exploration whatsoever. The area designs are relatively simple and the progression is almost completely linear. There's little backtracking involved here; since the game points out the exact location of your current objective, there's no need to do any extra exploring. Not that you'd really need to, anyway. While finding a hidden item used to require some serious searching, you'll find similar items tucked neatly away in their own little rooms, just waiting to be plucked up without so much as a second look. The same goes with the obstacles; there's nothing remotely challenging or interesting about all the little puzzles you'll occasionally have to solve to get to the next area. The most disappointing part is the lack of cohesion between levels; previous games were able to blend together different areas perfectly, making it seem as if you really were exploring a massive planet. But since this game is comprised of multiple smaller levels, that atmosphere is gone.
It is gorgeous, though. You won't really notice it until you get to Skytown, a massive structure floating miles above the gaseous atmosphere of Elysia. It's miles long, and the only way to get around it is by riding a rickety zipline or getting launched out of a cannon. The scale is staggering; buildings that look tiny from a distance become gigantic when you reach the other side. Everything, from the landing platforms to the metal arches, are designed with a kind of intricate and elegant design that no other area in the game features. Not to mention the Valhalla, which demonstrates just how creepy a spaceship can be. The little details are what steal the show, though. From the boiling fuel gel/lava pits of Bryyo to the neon gleam of all the Phazon, the lighting effects are a nice distraction from the game's jumbled atmosphere. Even Samus's suit gets the same kind of treatment. While the standard orange armor is fine for nostalgia's sake, seeing the power glow and pulse through each panel was a nice touch. It's not enough to make up for the rest of the design shortcomings, but it is impressive nonetheless.
I'm torn. I love Corruption for the gameplay elements it brings to the series, but despise what it has taken out. The story, despite having an interesting premise, is bogged down by way too many cliches and predictable twists. As far as action goes, Corruption is easily one of the best games on the Wii. The new controls and shooting mechanics are phenomenal; the responsive aiming sets the standards for what a console FPS ought to be capable of. It's an amazing piece of work, and the designers should be commended for it. The problem is that the game relies on it too much; there are far too many gimmicky enemies and motion-based interfaces for its own good. The exploration aspect - the stuff that makes a Metroid game - is practically non-existent; the bland level design, boring puzzles, and relatively linear progression leave little incentive to look for anything special. While the graphics are amazing, the game lacks the atmosphere and sense of isolation that made the previous titles great. It's a fine end to an amazing trilogy, but it could have been so much more.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/08/09
Game Release: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (US, 08/27/07)
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