At times impressive but mostly just about adequate. Hunters skill lies in its multiplayer but ultimately little else.
It is clear from the start however that such a showcase has come at the expense of the games design, both technically and inventively. In terms of the Metroid design it is all here, but stripped down to the point of worthlessness. The fact that Hunters is in itself a side story from a side series never really bodes well and thematically not only does the game not even reach the heights of its predecessors, it rarely even tries. The plot is a throwaway; while there is the familiar extinct race of sentient beings they are never analysed, let alone examined-there is no substantial lore in Hunters but more importantly there is no real detail either. Rooms now only serve the purpose of funnelling you along-too often through the same tired corridors. Hunters' space sections are frequent sufferers of this problem, with the stations symmetrical layout causing even further confusion through the linearity. Planet side and things fair a little better. Every effort has been made to try and make each room look different, but little to try and make each room feel unique. It ultimately leaves the impression that Metroid Prime Hunters "worlds" are no better at presenting the lives of the Alimbics than Super Mario World's attempt to represent the ecosystem of the Yoshi's.
Unsurprisingly the gameplay follows the same pathway as the graphical design; geared towards the linear, consistent strain of enemies forgoing traditional Metroid staples of puzzling and exploration. The latter two are here of course, but in greatly reduced forms. The effects of this would matter little if the gameplay core was strong, which sadly it isn't. Fundamentally however Metroid Prime Hunters controls well, its set up may cause ache but it is fast and precise and for the most part allows easy access to the other buttons involved. The problem lies in the series it represents however. Enemies continue their tradition of being damage sponges, with both lock-on and fleet of foot required to down them quickly-two features Hunters both lacks. Enemies are also equally vulnerable on all parts of the body, so the use of an accurate, mouse like system over traditional lock on is all but pointless. Exploration is hindered mainly by design limitation. Item accumulation in Hunters is limited to beam upgrades which results in progression being determined by opening doors with the corresponding colour. Rewarding this is not and the obvious structure of the game in terms of visiting the planets results in a game that is obvious to the point of banality.
Enemy design also suffers or rather suffers due to the lack of it. Occasionally, the Hunters themselves will pop up for a random bout through levels. Though tense at first, these quickly become a brutal massacre as you increase in arms and health while they remain resolutely underpowered. It ruins the initially threatening Super Mario Land 2 style death system, where defeat resulted in the stealing of a necessary "key" to finishing the game. Bosses also feature but are arguably the most disappointing thing about Hunters. The pitiful two bosses are recycled throughout the game leading to entirely new reasons to dread such showdowns. Whereas bosses in Metroid usually increase in complexity, here they can only increase in potency; their strength of attack and wealth of life going up in tandem with your own, your struggle to defeat them in later levels more out of boredom than difficulty.
It is both a relief and a disappointing realisation to find that Hunters' multiplayer is far superior to its single player compatriot. Relief that such a shift in design has not been a waste, but disappointing to realise that the quality of the multiplayer is simply never found elsewhere in the game. Here the level design is surprisingly strong, making use of numerous levels, various structures and at times multiple settings. In terms of game modes the multiplayer is also very strong-featuring the staples of deathmatch, survival, capture the flag and king of the hill as well as speciality modes such as the one vs. all Prime Hunter mode and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes' infamous bounty mode. The hunters too offer even further variety-all housing a suitable morph ball replacement as well as a bonus effect for each of their specialised weapons. While some of the characters are overpowered the games Unreal Tournament like nature never really causes this to be a problem. There are mode and feature restrictions online however and although there have been improvements over some of Mario Kart DS' more frustrating online moments (drop-outs and cheating mechanisms) the occasional lag and lack of communication make Hunters a far better local multiplayer game than an online one.
And this remains the surprising thing about Metroid Prime Hunters. It is by far a better multiplayer game than a single player one, which asks the question of why Nintendo even bothered using the Metroid license in the first place. Everything that makes Hunters good is ultimately what makes a Metroid game bad, it is a contradiction of a game both in principle and design and it ultimately fits into its stalwart series by name alone. If anything Hunters is a lazy creation, not because of how it was designed but why it was designed. This was an opportunity for Nintendo to create a new IP to truly branch out its creative licensing but instead it has shoehorned a series into the style of game it was always feared of turning into. Metroid Prime Hunters is not a bad game by any means, merely a bad Metroid game; and for a series that prides itself on such consistent quality it is a real blow. Miyamoto has always stated that he would make a Halo type game if he wanted to. One wishes he would have found the energy to do it here.