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Last Updated: Friday, 21 March, 2003, 08:53 GMT
Metroid falls short of prime

By Darren Waters
BBC News Online

Nintendo's GameCube continues to be the most overlooked of the three gaming giants currently battling it out for world supremacy.

Part of the problem is the lingering suspicion that the little cube is for children.

This perception is not helped by a wealth of first party titles from Nintendo that, while excellent, are aimed at the younger end of the gaming age spectrum.

Metroid Prime
When is an FPS not an FPS?
So hopes are high for Metroid Prime, particularly as Nintendo itself now recognises it needs to pitch the machine at an older audience.

On first impressions, the game comes across as a first person shooter (FPS) in the mould of Halo on the Xbox, or Red Faction on the PlayStation 2.

A futuristic adventure, your character looks out on the ruins of a crashed spaceship with a familiar-looking weapon for company.

Graphically, the game is a treat and is easily the best-looking title on the GameCube.

But the controls are counter-intuitive and take some time to get to grips with, especially having to switch between visors, which dictate whether you are scanning objects or shooting at them.

Click, click, bang

On occasion it really inhibits a sense of interaction with the world.

The combat too falls short, with targets locked onto automatically. It just becomes a case of click, click, click, explosion. But Metroid is not designed to be a FPS.

Metroid Prime
Combat is very simplistic
If anything, the game is one of exploration. You must scan your environment, looking for clues and ways to access new levels.

The puzzles, however, are pretty basic and there is little incentive to keep moving forward, other than to be given a fresh new graphical treat.

The key problem is that the game falls between two stools.

FPS fans will recoil at the simplistic and unrewarding targeting system and the reliance on scanning endless numbers of objects, while platform fans may find the first person viewpoint unfamiliar and awkward.

And that is a pity, because the energy and creativity put into the game is tremendous and there is a great amount of depth.

But you will only discover that depth if you have the tenacity to find it and I was greatly put off.

Sometimes re-writing the rules of a genre pays off, and sometimes it does not.

Metroid Prime came close to the former but ultimately achievers the latter.

Metroid Prime is out now in the UK for Nintendo GameCube.

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