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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

We flew to Frankfurt to go hands-on with what could be the greatest Metroid yet. Giant shoulderpads - activate!

To seasoned Primers, a warning. Never has a game's subtitle been so apt. Just as Samus faces infectious Phazon (neon-blue, mutagenic - very nasty) trickling through places you really don't want Phazon trickling, we find the tried-and-tested Prime formula corrupting along with it.

Famed for their eerie all-alone atmosphere, past Primes prided themselves on casting Samus into hostile environments without a friend in the world. For some, the mere inclusion of talking statues in Prime 2 was too much of an encroachment on the solo gamer sanctum - bad news for them, because Corruption is shaping into a bustling epic of Star Wars proportions.

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Upping the aliens
Entering the opening level - a Galactic Federation battleship - we were sure we'd fallen victim to some bizarre game-morph phenomenon. Reminiscent of countless FPS openers (Half Life and Doom 3 to name two), it presents the normalcy of a techno-environment disrupted by unforeseen circumstances (check 'Mother Goose' for spoilers). Before all hell breaks loose - the ship attack previewed at the Wii launch event - you're moseying through a social environment. In Metroid terms, this is more alien than the swamps of Tallon IV.

Marines throw you a how d'you do, and others form stars in their eyes, squeaking with enthusiasm as they meet their favourite bounty hunter. "Oh Samus, such a pleasure to meet you," they gush. Samus, on the other hand, we half expect to break into a cold sweat at the idea of human contact after so much time alone.

This quiet moment lets you soak in the beauty of the control scheme - the tightest and wisest Wii FPS setup yet. With varying levels of invisible box-dom, we select advanced - a tight invisible box with near one-to-one pointer/perspective shifting. She turns just when you would want her to turn - all that mouse-and-keyboard-equalling big talk is justified. When you see how the aiming speed lets you juggle cargo crates in the air with rapid blasts, you may as well stamp your old GameCube pads to pieces - you won't be going back.

The implications are great - pin-point shooting allows for foes that would have been merciless with analogue sticks. Retro Studios can confidently chuck 50 scuttling nasties at you instead of three, and shielded enemies no longer politely sit around with massive 'shoot me' signs flaring up - when they reveal their weaknesses, it's only for a second. Sound hectic? It's not, thanks to the controls. 'Hand interactions' are just as smooth. Heaving out the door locks, rotating and slamming them back in is brilliantly rendered by tight one-on-one control mapping. The remote may be a white oblong in your hand, but it may as well be Samus' severed arm. And they've added more. Door locks now need key-codes, typed in with a pointer-aimed Samus finger. Plonking away on keypads or poking buttons inside Samus' ship make for immersive fun, though strictly context-sensitive finger appearance means no eye-poking moves are available. For shame.

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Going through a phazon
Well, the opening battleship attack and subsequent planet Norian generator maintenance - a terrific sequence that sees four bounty hunters trying to prevent a Phazon monolith from ploughing into the surface - are more of an extended opening movie than game proper. However, even these levels have parts we can't wait to return to and explore once we have the correct weapons. A trip to the Elysia-based Skytown reveals the Prime we know and love.

Bounding between Bespin-ish aerial platforms shows you that the best FPS jumping ever conceived hasn't been lost in the move to Wii, blasting any doubts over Corruption's integrity from the mental airlock. A Chozo-built network of aerial temples, Skytown presents all the clambering we'd been hankering for during the largely corridor-based opening levels.

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