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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 12:00 GMT
Metroid and Killzone offer limited thrills
By Darren Waters
BBC News website

Metroid Prime Echoes and Killzone are two of the biggest game releases for the GameCube and PlayStation 2 respectively. But do they live up to expectations?

METROID PRIME ECHOES

When Metroid Prime was released on the GameCube in 2002 it was almost universally praised with the exception of possibly just one reviewer - me.
Metroid Prime Echoes
Metroid Prime Echoes is a visual feast

While I appreciated the quality of the production design - graphics, sound, etc - I felt there was something curiously lacking in the gameplay.

Essentially a platform game in a first person shooter guise I felt it betrayed both genres resulting in a rather dry experience.

But scores of reviewers and thousands of gamers disagreed with me - Metroid Prime was hailed as a classic.

So with a sequel now finished - called Metroid Prime Echoes - I approached this review with some trepidation.

Gameplay

Echoes is an appropriate title as developer Retro has altered little of the core gameplay elements of the title.

The emphasis is still on exploration - with Samus unravelling the plot of the game by scanning objects and reading textual logs.

Once again I have to stress that if you find the narrative involving and have no quibbles with repeatedly locking on to objects and scanning them for information then you will find the sequel as enjoyable as the first.

The ability to add equipment to Samus' suit continues in the sequel - although some of the trusty beams have been dispensed with.

Exploring new areas and solving basic puzzles remain the core gameplay element, while combat is still a mix of and ducking and diving while locking on to your enemies and shooting with the appropriate weapon.

Thoughful

Combat can be rather repetitive and a lot of the boss battles are exercises in learning weak points, dying and then trying again. There's little skill involved.

Metroid is not a blaster - it's a slow-paced, thoughtful game of exploration. If you loved the original and wanted more plot then Echoes is for you.

Once again, the production design is first rate - it also makes you realise how under-exploited the GameCube has been as a piece of hardware by developers.

The game has no obvious flaws but it is question of whether you will find the whole approach appealing.

KILLZONE

Hype is a seductress and an established part of the entertainment industry but sometimes it can prove to be a cruel mistress.

Killzone
Killzone looks good in stills but not good in motion
During development Killzone was billed as a Halo beater but it is clear now that it is merely an adequate first person shooter which tries to hide many obvious deficiencies beneath bombastic production values.

There is no doubt that the game looked fabulous in concept drawings - but as a game it is found wanting.

Taking charge of one of 4 squad members you lead an assault on the evil invading Helghast.

But for an action FPS the game is rather dull - inflexible controls, cumbersome animation and poor AI result in a bit of a mess.

Despite some varied locations, the game's colour scheme makes everything feel listless and drab, reinforced by endless waves of Helghast solders who look virtually identical.

At times the action on the screen slows to a crawl, making some sections of Killzone a real chore to complete.

Three years ago Killzone might have been regarded more favourably but with titles like Halo 2, Doom III and Half Life 2 pushing the envelope in terms of graphics, playability and innovation the game looks tired indeed.

Thankfully there is a multiplayer option which provides decent online gaming for the broadband-equipped faithful - but it is little compensation.

So what is the use of hype? Well, it means Killzone will probably sell more copies than it really deserves to.

Metroid Prime Echoes and Killzone are both out now.




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