Metroid Prime is a first-person adventure game. Players control a bounty hunter named Samus Aran who must unravel a mystery behind the ruined walls scattered across Tallon IV.
The game opens just as Samus' spaceship docks on a Space Pirate vessel orbiting the planet. Immediately, the beautiful graphics slap you across the face. Trust us, it's a firm slap. A silky-smooth framerate accommodates razor-sharp visuals of efficient machinery and foreign architecture. Meanwhile, a cinematic soundtrack sets the mood and eerie sound effects thicken the alien atmosphere.
By far, the most effective visual effect is that everything you see is viewed through Samus's visor. The entire screen has a convex look, and a digital display provides information ranging from current energy levels to ammunition data. The most effective ideas are sometimes the most simple, and the visor view in Metroid Prime makes a huge leap forward in immersing players in the first-person perspective.
Samus uses a Power Beam to shoot a series of locked switches, and eventually enters a cylindrical corridor very similar to the passageways found in the original Metroid titles. When Samus strides by broken pipes spewing steam, the visor becomes smeared with condensation. Later in the demo, the visor is splattered with the internal juices of ruptured enemy carcasses. Yes, life within Samus' gravity suit is a beautiful thing.
Weapon effects are equally pleasing. Hold the A Button to juice up the Charge Beam, and you see the corridor glow and warp as the blast travels through space. Enemy animation is delightfully disgusting, whether it's a giant parasite queen squirming from the ceiling or a swarm of blood-thirsty critters gushing from a dark hole. Take note: the word "swarm" has been misused in video game reviews for years. With Metroid Prime, we can use the word "swarm" and feel perfectly justified. The screen fills -- FILLS -- with baddies, and the framerate doesn't even blink.
In the Gravity Suit
Of course, graphics are just the glossing on the gravity suit. No matter how good a game looks, it won't get fired up more than once without solid game design and user-friendly play control. In Metroid Prime, both are spot-on.
How do you know if play control is good? If you don't think about it, it's perfect. Once you get a feel for the Controller configuration in Metroid Prime, you spend 100% of your time worrying about blasting enemies -- not thinking about the play control.
The Control Stick moves Samus around, the A Button fires weapons and the B Button makes Samus jump. Press and hold the R Button to enter an aiming mode which allows you to freely look around the environment. The L Button activates an automatic lock-on feature, which makes for easy strafing while firing at a targeted enemy.
Changing weapons is as easy as moving the C-Stick. By pressing different directions on the D-Pad, you can activate the different features of Samus' visor. A variety of visor modes are available including Combat, Scan, Thermal and more. Combat is the normal view, and Scan produces a slightly magnified rectangular viewing strip in the middle of the visor. By pressing and holding the L Button, Samus can scan various items in the environment. Sometimes a scan simply provides additional information, and other times scanning an environmental element can activate a switch or identify and enemy's weak spot.
Pressing the Y Button activates Samus's missiles, and the X Button engages the Morph Ball. The game switches to a third-person perspective while Samus is in Morph Ball form. In Morph Ball form, Samus can roll through tight quarters, place bombs, activate switches and much more.
Exploration is Key
When Samus lands on Tallon IV to begin her investigation of Space Pirate activity, the bounty hunter is stripped of most power-ups. It's up to you to explore the world and recover the many power-ups and weapons which gradually open more and more gameplay areas.
Although this is a first-person game with plenty of shooting action, the heart of the experience is highly exploratory and adventurous. Enemies abound, but there are just as many elaborate puzzles to solve as there are bad guys to blast.
For an immersive adventure unlike anything you've played before, get behind the visor and see what's it like to be Samus Aran in Metroid Prime.