LOS ANGELES--After strategically planting ourselves at the front of the Nintendo booth line as the show opened, we had a chance to get hands-on with a number of Wii games, including Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The available demo was actually fairly lengthy, taking around 10 or 15 minutes to play through to the end. The demo started off with Samus flying on her ship to what appeared to be some kind of base or mining complex built into the surface of a planet. Upon exiting your ship, you run into another hunter who informs you that other hunters are running around and will assist you as you go into combat. We actually ran into one of these in cutscenes later on in the demo, but didn't see any during gameplay sequences. The mission objective is to find and reactivate a power generator for a planetary defense cannon, which will help stem the tide of space pirates invading the planet.
From that point the game proceeds much like any other Metroid Prime game, as you explore a series of interior rooms linked by long hallways, fighting indigenous creatures as well as space pirates. You'll use your scanner to analyze different parts of the environments and enemies, and give you background and clues on what to do next. One interesting set of enemies resembled a flock of flying, robotic bees that would attack in groups of four. These flying enemies would constantly have their shields on, and then one at a time, they'd drop their shields, requiring you to quickly shift your aim and take out the one bug that was vulnerable.
Before getting too much further into describing the demo level, we'll talk about how the control scheme is handled in Corruption. The game uses the remote-plus-nunchuk configuration, where you'll want to use the remote in your dominant hand, as that is what handles aiming. Simply point the remote at the screen to aim Samus' arm cannon. The cursor actually moves within the screen, instead of being fixed to the center of the screen as with most first-person shooters. This makes it possible to aim and fire at something you see without moving Samus, but the tradeoff is that your ability to turn quickly is compromised. To turn, you'll need to move the cursor all the way to the edge of the screen, at which point Samus will begin turning. There's definitely a learning curve involved with getting used to how the Wii controller works for aiming, but thankfully you can press on the Z trigger on the nunchuk to lock on to a target, which keeps the interface feeling somewhat consistent with previous Prime games. The lock-on only works if you have an enemy somewhat close to the center of the screen, so it's not exactly a crutch--and lock-on won't work on very fast-moving targets, plus enemies can often break out of target lock by dodging back and forth.
Beyond just aiming and moving, you have the ability to instantly fire a missile at whatever you're aiming at by just tapping the down button on the directional pad. Firing is done with the A button on the remote (the one controlled by your thumb)--you can hold down the button to charge up a more powerful shot--while the B button, which resides on the trigger portion of the remote, is used for jumping. Again, as with previous Prime games, you can double-jump and use air control to easily get where you need to go. The C button, which is a secondary trigger on the nunchuk, is used to switch into morph ball mode. While balled up, you can roll around easily with the thumbstick, and use A to drop bombs. Yes, there will be morphball puzzles in Corruption, as we had to use this mode as well as a few bomb jumps to solve a environmental puzzles and set off some triggers during the demo.
Other special functions you can do with the remote include hitting switches. We ran into a few switches in the demo that required us to reach forward with the remote--this simulated Samus' hand going forward to grasp a handle. We then pulled back on the remote to pull out the handle, twisted it to align some tabs, and then pushed the remote forward again to finish flipping the switch. It sounds more complicated on paper than it is, but using the grappling hook was more compelling. On certain doors in the Corruption demo, there was a metal hatch that needs to be pulled off before you can proceed through. Lock on with the Z button, flick the nunchuk forward to attach the grappling hook, then pull down on the thumbstick to yank. Getting this mechanic down is important, as you'll run into some space pirates who have shields. You'll need to use the grappling hook to latch on to their shields and pull them off before you'll be able to blast them.
The Corruption demo was surprisingly lengthy for an E3 level. Not only were there a number of rooms and hallways to clear, but a short miniboss type fight midway through the level, where we took on some swift, flying space pirates. After knocking those out, we had to fight a small flying craft that hovered around the platform we were fighting on--once that was dispatched, a short cutscene played out, showing another bounty hunter swooping in on a trail of ice under his feet. The unusual way he moved was not unlike the Iceman mutant from the X-Men comics.
After the cutscene we were able to continue deeper into the base. A few rooms and puzzles later, we found a pretty involved morphball maze that was recessed into the wall of a circular chamber. A few bomb jumps and bomb triggers later, we activated a narrow maze that allowed us to get to the top of the chamber. This triggered a cutscene for the final boss of the demo--Ridley! Ridley crashed down upon the platform, pulling Samus down into a deep chamber for the boss fight. Much like Gandalf fighting the Balrog while falling from Moria in The Lord of the Rings, we fought Ridley while falling down a 20,000-foot tube. We had to take out the winged boss before reaching the bottom--a counter appears at the bottom of the screen that rapidly ticks off how many feet you have left to go. As with many Metroid boss fights, the fall with Ridley was a multistage affair, where you'll spend part of the time shooting at Ridley from a distance while dodging shots, and part of the time up close, where you'll do most of your damage. In the close-up segments, you'll need to charge up your arm cannon and fire at Ridley's hand when it flashes to knock it away--if you miss you take a big pimp-slap to the face, and lose a lot of energy in the process. You damage Ridley by shooting its mouth when it opens up. Eventually we were able to finish off Ridley, at which point the E3 demo ended, and another cutscene with the mysterious other hunter spooled up.
From our time playing Corruption at E3, it seems that the game maintains a lot of the same design principles and style that have made the franchise such a hit. The primary difference will be, of course, the manner in which you control the game. It took a little bit of getting used to, but the remote and nunchuk worked about as well as expected. We did have some trouble here and there when the sensors seemed to have trouble reacquiring the signal whenever we put our hands down--finding that invisible plane where the sensor wants your hands to be can be a little tricky or frustrating if you put your hands down for any reason.
Stay tuned to GameSpot for more information on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption as it becomes available.