Metroid Prime: Hunters E3 2005 Preshow Hands-On

Nintendo gives us a demo of the most complete version yet of its upcoming DS shooter.


Metroid Prime: Hunters

Metroid Prime: Hunters has been a long time coming--a bit longer, perhaps, than early adopters of Nintendo's DS might have hoped. But the game is moving steadily toward completion, as evidenced by our recent multiplayer demo that indicated there may be a lot more depth to the deathmatch here than we'd previously expected. With a host of playable characters (only a handful of which we got to see), alternate forms, multiple weapons with alt-fire modes, and multiple game types and maps to play on, Hunters looks set to become one of the DS's most-played games.

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Just to get it out of the way, Nintendo wasn't prepared to show off any of Hunters' single-player adventure, nor was it really even open to questions about it. Representatives did address the general content in broad terms, stating that while it will feature exploratory elements similar to what we've seen in the Prime games on the GameCube, the emphasis will be on the solid first-person-shooter-style shooting action. Reps mentioned with regard to multiplayer that the team wants to explore the idea that there are other galactic bounty hunters out there besides Samus Aran, and this may well tie in to the story portion as well. Hopefully, the final game will strike a balance between shooting and discovery that fans of the Metroid series will appreciate.

At least we can confirm that the core shooting action is working nicely at this point. As has been widely reported, the prevalent control scheme in Hunters will use the DS's touch screen similar to the way first-person shooters use the mouse on PCs, and the net result is also similar. We played several multiplayer rounds in the latest build of Hunters and found that while it takes a little while to get used to the controls, once you do, running around and aiming are second nature. It's also easy enough to access peripheral functions, such as the morph ball, by tapping the relevant icons on the touch screen. Alternate control schemes and variables like look sensitivity will be available in the final game to let you tweak to your taste.

The original First Hunt multiplayer demo that shipped with the DS late last year gave only the barest indication of the final game's content, but our latest demo showed off substantially more of how the competitive play in the game will be structured. The final game will contain a number of different competitive modes, such as hunter battle, which is the standard deathmatch; system hack, in which you try to take control of and then hold strategic points on the map; and bounty, which is a kill-the-man-with-the-ball sort of mode that has you scoring points by taking a specific object to a goal point.

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When we finally got a look at Hunters, we were most surprised to find out that, at least in the multiplayer mode, you'll have a host of different playable characters to choose from. Our demo contained four--Samus Aran, Noxus, Spire, and Kanden--but Nintendo reps said more will be available in the final game. These characters' unique traits are obvious from the get-go, since each one has a slightly different HUD. In gameplay terms, your character choice will manifest itself most obviously when you switch to your alternate form. Of course, Samus turns into the classic morph ball, complete with bomb ability. Other characters have more unusual secondary forms, though. One turns into a similar morph ball that's covered with spikes, giving it limited abilities to attack and even climb walls. Another character turned into a centipede-like character with multiple body segments, while the fourth turned into a rotating death machine equipped with a scythe. Given abilities like these, character choice in Hunters' multiplayer is clearly going to be a non-trivial issue.

Just like every installment of Metroid, Hunters will give you access to multiple weapons, even in the multiplayer. In addition to the standard missiles, we managed to snag an ice beam during our demo, and other weapons like a magma launcher will be available in the final game. Most of them will have alt-fire modes too, which you'll access by charging them up for a few seconds. The ice beam we used didn't actually freeze our opponents with every shot (that would be a little unfair), but when we charged it up enough, it produced a large freezing wave that stopped cold anyone who was in its path (and that did seem a little too easy). We'll be interested to see what the final lineup of weapons looks like, not to mention how they're balanced against each other.

We're interested to see all the aspects of Metroid Prime: Hunters in its retail incarnation, actually. The developers have done some more work under the hood since the First Hunt demo, improving the performance of the game's engine as well as some of the particle effects, for instance. Hunters is due in October, and we'll bring you more on the game from E3 and beyond in the months running up to its release.

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