The Other “Big 2”

Uh, not Half-Life 2. I am getting an estimate on a machine done now, so if all goes well I’ll be able to play that in the new year. Until then I’m going to have to take every one else’s word.

No. The other “2” is Metroid Prime 2. I’ve managed to find a couple of hours — somehow — between work and multiplayer Halo 2 to play this and get some general impressions of the first bit of the game.

The main point is: this game is gorgeous. I don’t mean this in terms of polygons pushed or dynamic lighting and shadow or bump-mapping or any other technical stats that uber PC-nerds get wet dreams over. Other games (though not many!) do those things better, but very, very few can claim to have the environmental richness that Metroid Prime 2 has. Every area you enter is different, fresh and feels alive — Bungie’s level designers take note.

A few other things that caught my eye (and ear):

  • I like the updated scanning system. Instead of the weird “floating block” thing in Prime you get whole objects lighting up. In a colour coded way. So it’s hard to miss them, and it’s easy to see what types of object they are before (you can easily skip everything except red trigger items, pretty much), and it’s easy to see if you have already scanned something, which is good as the scanning process is still, unfortunately, kinda slow.
  • the motion design / overall design of the title screen is still real good (though not as good). It’s a stupidly minor thing, but I notice things like that.
  • the menu interface is inconceivably annoying. It’s got this weird floating 3D molecule interface that makes picking anything a chore. It’s like something from a online hipster-wanker’s circa-2000 flash site. Ugh.
  • music is cool. Still.
  • Echoes doesn’t seem to be particularly sequence-breakable, but they said the same thing about Prime when it first came out.

The game’s good, but it’s nothing new. If you absolutely hated the original, you’re going to hate this. If not, and you want to see more, then you’ll probably like it. That’s not to say that’s bad — it certainly is the flavour of the season this year, “more of the same” — just not super stellar.

My only hope is that Retro Studios gets to work on a truly original IP next. It’d be a shame to see them rehash Metroid. As good as it is, the series needs an extended break.

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