Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has a lot to prove. As the final chapter in the lauded Prime series, it's tasked with wrapping up the Metroid universe's unique foray into three dimensions. It's also up against the high technical expectations of the FPS genre, but burdened by the Wii's lack of processing power. And as a first-party title, it's Nintendo's chance to prove that the Wii's unorthodox controls can deliver a satisfying first-person shooter experience.
Corruption once again takes up the story of exoskeleton-suited bounty hunter Samus Aran, who finds herself dealing with the effects of Phazon, a corrupting mutagen introduced in past Prime titles. I won't give away any key plot points, but suffice it to say that Samus, in typical Prime fashion, travels to multiple exotic locations where she battles enemies both new and familiar. It's a slightly more ambitious tale than in previous outings, and provides an interesting background for the gameplay we've come to expect from the franchise.
At its core, Corruption is loyal to the Prime legacy, balancing combat, environmental puzzles, and exploration in an exceptionally well-paced package. Samus' trademark morph-ball abilities are as integrated into the level design as ever, and her scan visor still plays a central role in puzzle-solving and general exposition. Each new area provides her an ability that proves crucial to negotiating the environment or defeating enemies, and frequent small skirmishes are punctuated by minibosses, leading up to the inevitable epic boss battles.
Corruption breaks form in several area, though. Unlike in past Metroid titles, Samus doesn't begin with a full compliment of powers that she immediately loses and must slowly regain. Instead, she starts out fairly capable and gradually adds new weaponry and gear to her repertoire. Her arm-attached beam cannon upgrades are additive, with each new power-up complimenting the ones before it, so there's no need for frequent beam switching as the game progresses. There's also less backtracking than in previous Prime titles.
The most notable change, however, is Corruption's expansion of the series' storytelling scope and methods. Taking its cues from Halo-styled sci-fi epics, its plot is a cutscene and character-rich departure from the comparatively conservative, text-based approach of the last two games. In Corruption, Samus' far-ranging exploits even involve a host of voice-acted characters, including a colorful compliment of fellow bounty hunters, reminiscent of those introduced last year in Metroid Prime: Hunters on the Nintendo DS.
The result is a less sterile experience, but one that's also a bit less mysterious. Corruption doesn't always provide that solitary, Samus-vs.-the-unknown feeling that was so much a part of the previous games' character, and as such the game feels slightly less unique. Unfortunately the dialogue and voice acting fall short of the mark, as do the many of character models and animations that accompany story events. Corruption's cutscenes aren't terrible, but they certainly don't show the same mastery of craft that the rest of the game exhibits.