Metroid Prime 3: Corruption may be due for retail release next week, but we were fortunate enough to get our hands on the game this week for one last look. During our exploration, Samus managed to battle a fire-spewing monster in freefall, play cat and mouse with a sharp-beaked pterodactyl, and fall into a month-long coma. Considering all that happens in just a few hours of gameplay, you can see why we're excited to get our hands on the final version.
The first thing we noticed in our time with Corruption was how often you will interact with other friendly characters. We also noticed that there is a lot of speech. In the past, the series has kept Samus on her own, letting the story come together as a result of her mostly solitary exploration. But in the early levels of Corruption, you will receive mission briefings from friendly characters in full speech and even be joined by them in various capacities. It's a lot less lonely this time around, but the gameplay doesn't seem to have suffered.
That isn't to say you won't get plenty of private time. As in previous Metroid Prime games, you will scan objects to receive information about your surroundings. To do so, you need to switch from your combat visor to your scan visor, which is a simple matter of holding the minus button and choosing the needed visor from a radial menu. Once you have flipped visors, you can target objects and hold down the Z button on the Nunchuk to scan them. We didn't just experiment with the scan and combat visors either. Another visor lets you summon your ship to preset locations, where you can then save your game or fly to other destinations.
On our first mission, we had to protect a besieged planet from a pirate attack. This served as an intense introduction to the game's controls and mechanics. Samus is equipped with her standard arm cannon, and to aim, you simply use the Wii Remote to target your foe with the onscreen reticle. Using the default control scheme, you can freely move the reticle around the screen in this manner, but to turn, you must move your sights all the way to the edge of the screen. This occasionally made for some inconsistent turning. There are other control schemes available however, which allow you to adjust how turning is handled. It's also alleviated by the lock-on system. As long as an enemy is close enough--and in your field of vision--you can hold Z to lock on to it, which makes it easier to focus on your target without worrying about keeping it in view. To fire, you press A, or you can charge up a stronger cannon blast by holding the button briefly before releasing.
After a period of fighting space pirates, we checked out the returning morph-ball mechanic. To morph, you press C on the Nunchuk, which turns Samus into a rolling ball--and changes the control scheme. Once morphed, Samus fits in tiny spaces and tight tunnels. For instance, in one puzzle, we morphed and squeezed onto a tiny ledge to avoid walking across a scalding-hot walkway. However, we had to time things just right or the pistons behind the ledge would emerge and fling us onto the floor. Throughout the levels we played, we had to enter security systems and activate nodes in this manner. In one instance, we also had to roll back and forth while activating bombs to avoid the pesky beak of a pecking reptile.
The first level ended with a boss fight we'd seen before. This mechanical monstrosity wasn't a difficult fight, but it was exciting. Once it was over, we moved to the next level, which involved activating generators in the hope of fending off an impending meteor attack. Here, we were introduced to the grappling-hook mechanic. Certain objects can be yanked out of the way. To do so, you target an object and fling the Nunchuk forward, which attaches the hook to your target. To pull it away, you jerk the Nunchuk back toward you. Not only is this useful for environmental puzzles, but you can even use the hook to grab shields from your foes and toss them aside. There were times when the mechanic felt a little loose, but for the most part, it was an exciting way to control the grappler.
Once we'd cleared out the corridors and activated the generators, we were treated to our second boss fight: Meta Ridley. This was a freefall fight, and we excitedly pummeled Ridley with our cannon while avoiding his fire. Once he was defeated, we had to hurriedly activate the final generator. Unfortunately, an attack by a mysterious armored humanoid left Samus--and her allies--down for the count.
Once Samus was back in service, we discovered her newest upgrade: the phazon-enhancement device. By holding down the plus button, you can activate a supercharged attack that deals huge damage but only lasts for a short time. Once briefed, we took our ship to the planet of Bryyo, which held the keys to the leviathans, who were injecting viruses into entire planets. Bryyo had a true Metroid feel: It was silent and eerie, with abandoned ships, buzzing creatures that attacked us mercilessly, plus complex jumping and morph-ball puzzles that forced us to explore every bit of the environment.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption looks a lot like its predecessors, both in style and technology. However, everything is a little crisper and more detailed. For a Wii game, it also looks quite nice. The addition of voice acting--and lots of it--also seems fine, but we doubt we'll get a chance to hear Samus herself speak. But we'll find out for sure very soon. Look for our full review of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption next week.