If you expected Metroid Prime 3: Corruption to be a high-quality continuation of the series, you'd be right. And yes, the Wii controls are terrific and intuitive, so if you hoped that controlling bounty hunter Samus Aran would be a dream, that wish has been granted, too. All told, even though Corruption's easier battles and conservative design sometimes seems like less of a sprawling Metroid adventure and more of a straightforward first-person shooter, it's still a great action game that does exactly what you expect it to do, no more and no less.
Of course, the five years that have elapsed between the original Metroid Prime and the trilogy's final hurrah is an eternity in gaming, so even with its smooth, Wii-specific controls, there is a strong sense of familiarity here. While Metroid Prime spectacularly ushered Metroid gameplay into a 3D vision, Corruption is content to be a solid successor. Yet you shouldn't let some spurts of predictability dissuade you from checking it out, particularly if you are a Metroid enthusiast. Corruption offers its own formula tweaks while staying true to its roots, and like the previous games in the Prime series, it sends you on an atmospheric journey of discovery and enjoyable boss fights.
This sequel is aptly named. Samus and her fellow bounty hunters are struggling to repair an organic computer that has been infected by a mysterious virus. As always, these things are never what they seem, but rather than risk spoiling any sensitive plot points, we would rather safely say that the ensuing adventure sends Samus across a number of lush alien worlds and bizarre landscapes. (Not that the Prime games have ever strived to set standards for gaming fiction.) There is a plot here, but it's never been about the destination: It's about the voyage. As before, there is a ton of written backstory to discover, all dispersed among strange, imaginative worlds. You'll also meet up with a number of old acquaintances, friend and foe alike.
But all that is part and parcel of a terrific series. The obvious change here is in the controls, and Corruption leaves behind the methodical maneuvering of its GameCube brethren with an intuitive and configurable scheme that sets the standard for first-person shooting controls on the Wii, despite Corruption's battles not being all that challenging. (More on that later.) All of your aiming and turning is done with the remote, while moving and strafing is handled by the Nunchuk. It's been done before, of course, but not to this degree of success. Almost any player will be at home with the "advanced" scheme, where moving the remote moves your targeting reticle but also turns your point of view as it approaches the edge of the screen. The other schemes require your reticle to hit the screen's edge before turning commences, which is more than a bit annoying. You aren't stuck free-aiming at your enemies, though, since the Z button allows you to lock on to your target.
Suffice it to say, Metroid Prime 3 takes on characteristics more akin to a standard first-person shooter than its predecessors did. The good news is that moving about is less frustrating and plodding than before. Your enemies fall faster, boss encounters require less controller fumbling, and there is an overall ease to travel and movement that the series lacked before. It's a double-edged sword, however, because while most Metroid Prime hallmarks--object scanning, careful exploration, complex puzzle-solving--remain, Corruption feels less like a probing adventure than a regular shooter.
But a highly enjoyable shooter nevertheless. When it comes to blasting stuff, Retro Studios kept things simple this time. Samus begins with the trusty arm cannon and soon gains the use of homing missiles. These are, more or less, the weapons you will keep for the duration, though not as you are given them. As you progress through Corruption's 20-hour campaign, you'll earn cumulative upgrades, so the standard fire becomes plasma fire, which evolves again come the next power-up, and so on. You never lose any abilities with a new upgrade, so once you've earned the ability to melt through ice, you aren't in danger of losing it later. But don't expect a barrage of constant enemies; nor should you expect much of a challenge from the standard foes. Yet even without a sense of challenge, shooting feels great in Corruption. A lot of this has to do with the smooth controls, but even more of it is due to the good variety of alien and mechanical monstrosities you do battle with.
The biggest addition to the shooting is that of the Phazon Enhancement Device. The PED allows you to enter hypermode by holding the plus button. In this mode, Samus' attacks do outrageous damage. But she has limited phazon in her reserves, so once it's all gone, all you can do is wait for it to replenish. You've got to pay attention, since entering hypermode depletes Samus' energy, and you also run the risk of overloading her with too much phazon and being forced to fire it all away lest she bite the dust. Another new element is the nova beam, which is a great cannon upgrade in and of itself, but is also used in conjunction with the x-ray visor to shoot at enemies and objects through solid walls.
But this is Metroid, so of course you'll need to use your wits as much as you use weapons that turn alien scum into goo. Environmental puzzles are generally as good in Corruption as they've ever been, and you'll need to survey your surroundings carefully to find the path to your next goal. Yes, the scanning visor is back, so be prepared to study objects frequently to best know their purpose and potential uses as puzzle solutions. It's easier to switch visors than ever--all you have to do is hold the minus button and flick the remote toward the visor you wish to switch to--so while it makes the scanning mechanic seem less central than before, it also makes it simpler to survey the objects in question and move on.
Corruption truly shines when these mechanics work in tandem, making for smooth, seamless puzzle-solving and occasionally bringing new dimensions into the combat as well. Samus still has a grappling hook, though this time, you'll grab objects (and occasionally, enemies or their shields) by flicking the Nunchuk forward, and rip the thing away by pulling it back. It works and feels great, both in puzzles and in combat, particularly when used in tandem with other activities. Samus can still transform into the morph ball, too, and it's fun to discover new places to squeeze her into, though morphing has its unique uses in battle as well. The context-sensitive actions aren't quite as successful. There are times when you need to push the remote forward and twist it to unlock doors or perform other tasks, and while you can always manage to make it happen, it's usually awkward and doesn't feel the way you think it should.
Undoubtedly, Corruption's finest moments are its boss battles, which may not be quite the challenge they've been in the previous Prime games, but will still manage to impress you by the sheer variety that goes into winning them. A single boss battle may involve using morph ball techniques, the screw attack, entering hypermode, and firing both missiles and beams--often requiring pinpoint precision. Most of these battles are an absolute blast, and most of them have real meaning in context of the story.
If this all sounds like a lot of fun, it's because it is. Yet Corruption's focus on refined FPS mechanics and general sense of familiarity keep it from being as special as the other Prime titles. Just like Resident Evil 4 would have felt different--and arguably worse--had its controls been stripped down to a simple FPS scheme, Corruption loses some of its sense of wonder and strangeness on the Wii. Rather than being a true action adventure, it's hard to lose the sense that it's merely an FPS with trimmings. Its core control scheme is a revelation, but the resulting tempo adjustment and streamlining is missing some of the careful pacing that made Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 so superb. Still, any fan ought to enjoy this outing in spite of those quibbles, thanks to a good number of awesome, involved environmental puzzles and delightful (albeit fairly easy) boss fights.
The exotic worlds of Corruption will excite series fans, and for good reason. Like its predecessors, Corruption features superb art direction, so every level is even more incredible to explore than the last. While it isn't a huge step over Metroid Prime 2 in terms of sheer graphical quality, there are plenty of elements that will catch your eye, such as Samus' visor reflections, or the detailed, complex machinery that brings some of the environmental puzzles to brilliant life. The biggest surprise in the production values is the addition of a good deal of voice acting, at least toward the beginning of the game. You'll still spend most of your time exploring in relative silence, and the eerie, great soundtrack keeps you in just the right mood. But occasionally you'll interact with bounty hunters and other characters, and their lines are mostly spoken. The voice acting is fine, though its presence does reinforce just how effective the ghostly silence was in the first two Prime games.
If you're a Metroid fan, there's no need to convince you to play Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. It's got exactly what you would expect from the last in an acclaimed trilogy of titles: great boss battles, involved environmental puzzles, and a smooth control scheme that cements exactly how FPS controls should work on the platform. It'll also keep you busy for a while, since you can earn tokens for completing various tasks and use them to purchase unlockable goodies like concept art and bumper stickers for Samus' ship. While the lack of multiplayer is disappointing, the single-player campaign won't leave you wanting. In the end, you may not be able to shake the feeling that you've done all this before, but it will still make you grateful for how great it is at its core.