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Platform

DS

 

Genre

First-Person Shooter

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Nintendo

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

March 20, 2006

 

- Wicked multiplayer

- Precise control with the stylus

- Shows what the DS hardware is capable of

- A good soundtrack

- Takes me right back to the good ol' days of Quake

 

 

- Control mechanics can take a while to get used to

- Oh my aching wrist!

- Single-player mode pales in comparison to the multiplayer

 

 

Review: Metroid Prime (GC)

Review: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GC)

Review: Pokémon Trozei! (DS)

 

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Metroid Prime: Hunters

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

Way back at E3 2004, I played a tech demo that sold me on the idea of a handheld first-person shooter Metroid game.  When the DS launched in late 2004, it came packed with a demo of Metroid Prime: Hunters First Hunt, which convinced me of the absolute necessity of a Metroid Prime game on a handheld though it wasn’t much beyond what I saw at E3.  And now Metroid Prime: Hunters has finally hit the small screen… it’s has the flavor of nostalgia, an infusion of originality, all in a sauce of shooter goodness. (Shooter as in, first-person – not the kind of shooters I usually do while cooking.)

 

metroid prime hunters          metroid prime hunters

 

Samus Aran is up to her old tricks again – hunting down ancient artifacts in a galaxy-spanning archeological “dig,” backtracking when necessary with new weapons and generally blowing things up that get in her way.  She faces opposition from intergalactic bounty hunters and more often than not, Samus is forced to do battle with them during the course of an investigation.

 

“Investigation” is a little misleading.  There’s not much substance behind the adventure elements during the single-player portion that so permeated the GameCube versions of Metroid Prime.

 

More than anything, Metroid Prime: Hunters reminds me of my first real addiction to first-person shooters, the original Quake.  I spent many hours logged onto my high school computers playing illicit games of Quake, often setting up weekend fragfests if certain doors went (mysteriously) unlocked.  Besides looking a lot like Quake running at minimum settings, Metroid Prime: Hunters has that same multiplayer taste.

 

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Whether connected over Wi-Fi access against players from around the world or against “local” opponents via unit-to-unit play, Hunters plays without a hitch.  After Christmas I got myself a wireless router so I’ve logged many hours on the multiplayer side of the game – and doing an excellent job duplicating the kind of “joint lock” I always experienced after long multiplayer sessions of Quake. (After being immobile for so long my joints would actually pop when I stood up.) There is one extra injury risk though – wrist fatigue.

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The one downside to Hunters is that you play the game holding the DS with one hand while using the stylus to manipulate your view.  For me, this means a dull ache in my left wrist after about an hour.  The D-pad is used to control movement forward, back, and side to side, with the left shoulder button doing the firing.  The stylus in swirled on the touchscreen to mimic the “free look” that PC first-person shooters have had for years.  The touchscreen is also where you switch weapons, morph into ball mode, switch to scanning mode, and double-tap to jump.  Because the touchscreen is responsible for so much it’s easy to accidentally jump or switch to ball mode.  With a bit of practice it becomes quite easy, though jumping is something I’m still getting used to.  The options menu allows re-configuring the controls somewhat so it’s a good idea to experiment a bit before settling on one control scheme.

 

The multiplayer is great.  There are enough game modes to keep you playing.  Most of the arenas are modified versions of the single-player maps – more constricted but still recognizable – and the action can be intense.  Multiplayer variants include King of the Hill, regular deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Last Man Standing, and Prime Hunter, which is kind of like reverse tag – stay “it” for as long as possible.

 

During the "lobby" phases, you can actually make use of Hunter's chat support, it just unfortunate that it can't be utilized during the match.

 

metroid prime hunters          metroid prime hunters

 

The reward for playing the single-player game is that the bounty hunters that have been defeated become available during online play.  Try leaping online with only Samus available and you’ll like get your ass handed to you.  Each character has an “alt” mode, which makes unlocking all the characters a good reward. (You’ll also find that there are some balance issues though.)

 

If Metroid Prime: Hunters does nothing else, it should kick in the crotch all the braying critics that bemoaned the lack of multiplayer in Metroid Prime and the so-so multiplayer included with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. (And I write that as someone who actually would have liked to see more multiplayer options in both.)  Metroid has been taken into first-person shooter territory and has done so with a rock-solid multiplayer experience.  The more staid and adventuresome sensibility featured on the GameCube haven’t been totally abandoned, but this time out it’s more about shooting first and collecting information later.  Don’t expect many surprises with the single-player game, but if you have reliable Wi-Fi access to the Internet… game on!

 

- Omni

(March 29, 2006)

 

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