Review by Arkrex
Be Samus, Kill Samus
When I first got my hands on a Nintendo DS in 2005, I knew that it was a very special console with a very bright future. Metroid Prime: Hunters - First Hunt was a demo packed along with the initial batch of DS's and while it wasn't as spectacular as I would have hoped - stemming from such an esteemed franchise and all - it nevertheless whetted my appetite for what was to come: the complete single and multiplayer first-person shooter that was Metroid Prime: Hunters.
Did you notice? I said it is a FPS and not a FPA (first-person adventure). That's right. Even though Hunters carries on the Metroid legacy with Samus entangled in yet another solo intergalactic pursuit, and it retains Prime's first-person HUD, scanning and myriad beam weapons, the precision afforded by the DS touch screen controls (and the obvious lack of graphical "oomph") has shifted the focus from environmental puzzles to all-out shooting. Not that the former don't exist, but most of the time they involve scanning switches hidden throughout a confined area - a far cry from the mammoth puzzles seen in the GameCube and Wii Primes.
The recent Metroid Prime 3 demonstrated how good aiming controls could be, but it was Hunters that got the ball rolling. Using the stylus can make things a tad jumpy, but switch to the more meaty thumb strap and you've got the best FPS controls currently available for any portable title (even up to 2008!) It is extremely easy to perform quick turns and aim for headshots, and while still vastly inferior to a mouse-and-keyboard set-up, it works perfectly for what it needs to be. In the single player quest this doesn't mean much - the various android enemies lack any sort of battle tactics apart from haphazard side-stepping - but when it comes to a multiplayer battle royale, precision is paramount.
Hunters has a multiplayer mode so chock-full of options that (at the time of its release) it could be compared to many PC FPS's. There are your typical Deathmatch, Survival, Capture the Flag and King of the Hill modes, along with a few unique ones - like Prime Hunter, where the blessed/cursed player is turned into a mega-killing machine who needs to constantly frag opponents to replenish his/her ever-decreasing health. All of these modes can be played with up to 4 players, both local wireless and via Wi-Fi, and all 6 bounty hunters, each with their own unique strengths, weaknesses and alternate mobile forms are selectable. Throw in a ton a battle arenas and customisable goals (time, score limits etc.) and all the little things such as damage handicaps, teamplay and radar on/off and you've got many great gaming parties sorted - on-the-go!
I'd love to go on more about how Hunters succeeds on other fronts, too: the graphics are rather bland despite the heavy texturing and decent use of environmental geometry, but this ensures a lightning-fast and silky-smooth framerate throughout which is of most importance in any FPS; the soundtrack isn't anything to write home about, but the crunching sound effects are spot-on. But in any case, Hunters isn't the poster child for audiovisual excellence on the DS, but it uses what resources it has available to heighten the intensity of the main event - which is undoubtedly the multiplayer showcase.
After a humble demo showcasing an average 3D Metroid title on a portable console, it's amazing to see what the end result yielded. The single-player quest is all too brief (about 5 hours or so) and it lacks the Metroid ingenuity with regards to exploration and puzzle-solving; it is perhaps the most linear Metroid ever conceived - even more so than Metroid Fusion. However, multiplayer is where Hunters is at its prime and it is quite possibly the best portable FPS out there. Sure, there are a ton of cheap tactics, like Alt-spamming, and these days it isn't rare to find Hunters that can fly or shoot you through solid brick walls courtesy of various cheat devices/hacks, but Wi-Fi play is only one part of the overall multiplayer experience and local play not only ensures somewhat fair play, but near lag-free battles.
If you're looking for a great single-player Metroid game, look elsewhere. But if a well-constructed multiplayer FPS jam-packed with options and all the bells and whistles once exclusive to the domain of PC/home console FPS's is more your style, go hunt this one down now.
Single player - 6.0/10 Much too simple for a Metroid game; interplanetary navigation makes progress very linear; enemies lack a tactical A.I.; only 3 unique bosses and they all are disappointing
Multiplayer - 8.0/10 Thumb cramps and cheaters aside, this is an unrivalled FPS experience for a handheld console
VERDICT - 7.5/10 Multiplayer reeks of awesomeness; the solo game just reeks
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Metroid Prime: Hunters (US, 03/20/06)
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