In Depth Review: Metroid Prime: Hunters [NDS]
Brilliant touchscreen aiming; great sense of exploration; excellent environmental puzzles; ; vast, free-roaming single-player; of course, the Wi-Fi capability.
Campaign can sometimes be a little overwhelming in scope; the control system can initially seem a little awkward; morph ball platforming can be infuriatingly fiddly.
METROID PRIME HUNTERS: AN INTRODUCTION
So... it's been a long time coming, but after what seems like an age since the demo First Hunt was released, the full version of Metroid Prime Hunters is finally here, and may the Earth suddenly fall off its axis and crash into the Sun if it isn't one of the best DS games thus far.
Thankfully, Earth isn't going to do such things, because I can tell you straight off that Hunters delivers on all fronts and is a faithful conversion of the Prime series from GameCube to DS. And, even better, it's Wi-Fi enabled, meaning Samus Aran has now ventured for the first time into an explosive multiplayer universe, full of rival bounty hunters and a never-ending crossfire in equal measure.
SAMUS ARAN SCALED DOWN: THE GAMEPLAY
Weird thing is, even for its superficial similarities with its GameCube counterparts, Metroid Prime Hunters feels a little bit like a PC shooter. The touchscreen aiming system is very accurate and it has more in common with a computer's mouse than a thumbstick or a D-Pad. This looser method of control can't be called anything other than brilliant, and it must be the best implementation of the DS stylus yet. The touchscreen is very responsive and always throws your crosshair in the right direction. There are a few problems, though. This excellent touchscreen control can result in some awkwardness in the left hand. The right hand will be holding the stylus, but the left hand has to hold and support the DS while simultaneously using the fire button. The best way to get around this is of course to set the handheld down on a surface, but isn't this meant to be handheld? But anyway...
Something the Prime games are renowned for is their sense of exploration, and even with scaled-down system capabilities, the DS manages to deliver a game that can fit the description "first-person adventure" as well as "first-person shooter." To call Hunters a shooter is almost degrading the game; it isn't intended to be another Quake, Unreal, or Doom, regardless of any similarities.
What Hunters is intended to be is, indeed, a first-person adventure. Gameplay can easily be described as run-and-gun - there's barely any strategy involved in it - but the game has far more to it than shooting. Most of the game focuses on exploration, puzzling, and the euphoric sense of discovery. There's many environmental puzzles and traps stored in the single-player that could trip up Stephen Hawking, and they require far more than thought to unravel; there's a lot of skill needed to get to the right places. Sure, this isn't the strongest platforming in the world, or even on the DS, but it's a small price to pay for some time-sapping puzzles.
At first glance, the levels can seem linear, but after your first hour of play, you've only scratched Hunters' surface. The game opens up to reveal four planets and you can travel between each at will. Each hold their own myths and backstory that Hunters delights in revealing using Samus' brilliant scan visor, and most important of all each hold Octoliths that other bounty hunters are after. Most of the game revolves around exploring to find these Octoliths, and only after you've found the right weapon or object on another planet can you explore the others and find previously locked areas to be completely open.
The GameCube games also had a very good atmosphere set in place, and Hunters continues that tradition. Every planet in the single-player, especially Celestial Archives and the Vesper Defense Outpost, have their own signature atmosphere. It's very abstract; a quiet, obscure, spooky and ethereal scent in the air that really fits in with the quest.
The single-player perfectly captures the feeling of being a bounty hunter, from the intense firefighting, to the information gathering, to the mystery unravelling, the freeform exploration, and the sense of discovery that only Metroid Prime Hunters can deliver.
And then once you've endlessly combed the single-player for missed scans and Octoliths, then you can venture into Hunters' multiplayer universe. You can group up with a bunch of friends or take the game online via WiFi, where you can find thousands of other bounty hunters waiting to take you on. Metroid Prime Hunters' multiplayer forays will keep you going long after your initial purchase or completion of the campaign, and the wonderfully designed arenas house some great shooting antics with all eight of Hunters' brilliant weapons. The friend code system is again in place for you to go
competing online all over again.
A VISUAL TREAT: THE GRAPHICS
Metroid Prime: Hunters, simply, looks astonishing. There's just no way around the unavoidable fact that Hunters is a visual masterpiece. Sure, you'll get the odd glitch, but these little niggles don't ruin this undeniable achievement.
I never did once think that a first-person shooter/adventure would look this good. Metroid Prime: Hunters has some fluid animation in both enemies and other movements. The framerate is consistent and even after 10-12 hours of playing the game I have never seen it once falter. It's very sleek and even when the game opens up and shakes off all feelings of claustrophobia there isn't one bit of slowdown. Environments are intricately detailed and lighting is brilliant for a handheld. Cutscenes are also of an excellent standard.
AUDIO DELIVERY: THE SOUND
The quality of the sound from such a small handheld is mind-blowing. Games have always had great music on handhelds, and Metroid Prime Hunters is no exception; there's some soaring orchestral shifts and weird beats in here. It's just that the assorted sound effects and noises are of a brilliant standard.
Take Samus' footsteps, for example. I wouldn't have even expected this sound to be audible, or, if registerable, then they would be just be jagged buzzes of noise. But no, the DS renders them crystal clear. Guns also sound pretty great, and the enemies are pleasantly quirky.
JOIN THE HUNT: A CONCLUSION
Let me just outline three things:
If you have a DS, you should find it within yourself the desire to buy this game.
And if you don't, then you should find it within yourself the desire to experience the first genuinely brilliant handheld shooter by buying a DS and this game.
And if you own a PSP, then forget the copy of Coded Arms or any other shooter and go buy a DS and this game.
It doesn't matter which rule applies to you. Just make sure you follow the corresponding statement.
Have a nice day.