One of the biggest, most obvious enhancements that Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is making is the addition of four-player competitive multiplayer. The split-screen game has made its debut here on the show floor at E3 2004, and we've taken a look at the game's current available modes.
The demo on the show floor contains one map, called Sidehopper Station. This space station has open areas with some cover, making it good for wide-open firefights. There are also quite a few corridors, as well as launchers that will fire your character, in ball form, from one side of the station to the other at lightning speed.
At its core, the control in Metroid Prime 2's multiplayer mode is the same as its single-player counterpart. You still lock onto targets with the L trigger, get to free-look and aim with the R trigger, and toggle between your different beams with the C stick. When you spawn, you're only armed with the normal power beam, and when you're in ball form you're armed with bombs; but you'll also quickly find missiles lying around the map. There are better weapons and additional beams to pick up, so you'll also be able to acquire things like power missiles and bombs, the dark beam, the light beam, and so on. On top of all of that, temporary power-ups are located in a few spots. Entering one of these question-marked circles will give you something like unlimited rockets or beam energy, invisibility, massive damage, and more.
On paper, the thought of a competitive first-person shooter with easy-to-use lock-on capabilities sounds like a really terrible idea. Part of the skill set that makes first-person shooters fun in a competitive environment is having to aim and time your shots just right to hit your enemies. Metroid Prime 2 dodges a bullet here, because from what we've seen so far, the game is still fun even with the ability to lock-on. The map on display has plenty of cover to hide behind, and even plain old strafing is enough to dodge a great deal of incoming fire. Missiles seem to do a better job of hitting your targets, but you're limited on missile ammo. Rolling up into a ball and dropping bombs near an ongoing battle is also a nice tactic, as players don't tend to notice the bombs until it's too late.
There are two modes currently available in the game. Deathmatch is exactly what you'd expect, with a timer that counts down the match and the winner is the player with the most kills at the end. Bounty mode is a little different. It's still time-based, but you must collect coins to score. Coins pop out of players when they're shot and come in one and ten-point variations. The winner is the player with the most coins at the end.
Graphically, the game looks on par with the first Metroid Prime, and the game runs at a really smooth speed, even when the screen is split four ways for multiplayer action. Between the new single-player adventure and this new multiplayer component, fans of the original game should find a lot to like in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. The game is currently scheduled to hit shelves in November.