Metroid Prime Remastered Review – IGN

In the two decades since the original release of Metroid Prime I’ve had no problem giving it my highest recommendation, along with one nagging reservation: The controls take some getting used to. Thanks to the outstanding updates in Metroid Prime Remastered, I can finally drop that caveat: Metroid Prime Remastered is one of the best first-person shooters ever made, full stop. This updated version goes above and beyond the typical coat-of-paint remaster by adding modern controls along with fabulously improved models and textures – it’s a perfect example of how to both honor a lauded classic and bring it up to code. Replaying it feels almost entirely new, evoking that same fresh feeling as the Dead Space remake or Resident Evil 2 and 3 despite not actually being such a drastic remake itself – and it’s a far cry from the disappointing treatment that the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection on Switch received.

What makes Metroid Prime obviously different from other legendary FPS campaigns like Halo, Half-Life, Titanfall 2, and Wolfenstein is its solitary nature. There’s not a single conversation to be had, no radio or AI assistant voices chattering in your ear, and, just for the record, no multiplayer. This is a game about a lone hunter – Samus Aran – on a hostile world, and Prime revels in that setup. Like other great Metroid games (e.g. Super Metroid, Metroid: Zero Mission, and the most recent Metroid Dread), Metroid Prime’s spareness in its storytelling makes for a uniquely moody magnificence. It’s more horror than space opera, no doubt owing to Metroid’s key influence, Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece movie, Alien.

The planet, Tallon IV, has as much or more development than any character, told in its geology, technology, flora, fauna, and “other” – and yes, in much of the encyclopedic lore you acquire via a HUD scanning function. In this way the story is told through experience with your environment alone, and despite the narrative methods not getting any sort of update, it still feels revolutionary and modern compared to all the very talky games we play today. (It must be noted that attempts at adding a bunch of characters hasn’t been great for the Metroid series, specifically, with Metroid: Other M and Metroid Prime: Hunters being especially goofy in their world-building.)

Prime’s biggest accomplishment is Tallon IV itself.

There are so many things to laud in Metroid Prime, but its biggest accomplishment is Tallon IV itself. Each room has a purpose and a name, with details that make no two places quite alike. A flowing fountain babbles down the side of a sunny sanctuary hall; a furnace chamber pumps heat through conveniently morph-ball sized vents to other areas; a lab deep underground holds experiments in tubes that act as jump-scare time bombs. It’s all logically laid out to reflect the story and setting, but the world mirrors your progress in a brilliant way: Rooms that once took toil and grit to get through can soon be zipped through with the help of a newly obtained skill or weapon.

Arm Canon

Originally the controls for Metroid Prime on GameCube were so clumsy and awkward that its fans had to argue it was not an FPS at all, but something else, such as a first-person puzzle game. You had to lock onto a target and shoot, instead of allowing full, dual-joystick movement, and trying to go from any other shooter to this was like having to learn to walk again. Since then we’ve seen options to use the Wii-like motion controls established in the Metroid Prime Trilogy collection, or a variant of the original controls on the GameCube controller, but none made it something that was easy for most people to pick up and play. The new dual analog stick controls are indistinguishable from modern shooters, though, and actually make some battles a bit easier. You can strafe, jump, dodge, and control your view with so much more dexterity.

The way you experience the ruins, caves, and laboratories of Tallon IV is through a visor, set in a helmet in your suit, which is a perfect setup for immersion in first-person. The visor’s HUD gives you all of your basic info, like many games have come to do since, but it also acts like a real, hi-tech glass dome: it steams up when blasted with flame, muffles Samus’s cries, and in flashes of bright light it’ll even reflect her own surprised eyes for an instant. These are all brilliant little tricks that cause the barrier between you and the world on your TV or Switch screen to melt away, allowing you to meld dreamily into it – which is why it is all the more jarring (in a good way!) when you pop out into the third-person Morph Ball view.

Brilliant little tricks cause the barrier between you and the world on your TV or Switch screen to melt away.

You can enter your Morph Ball mode at any time, and when you do, the camera flies outward so you can watch as Samus collapses into a knee-high ball and performs a number of rolling, Tony Hawk-like maneuvers to solve puzzles, get through cramped areas, or just zoom really fast while backtracking. Many rooms have a feature that requires you to switch forms, ranging from a simple hidden passageway to a maze-like physics-based contraption you must navigate with precision rolling; it challenges your dexterity in an entirely different way than the first-person shooting or platforming. You’ll get occasional looks at Samus in the third person when she’s not in ball form, such as in the rare (high frame rate, completely and gorgeously remodeled) cutscenes, but sometimes you also get a glimpse of her as the camera rushes back into her helmet, a rare flash that reveals the complexity of building a game around what’s basically a first-person shooter / pinball machine mash-up.

Aside from the third-person Morph Ball, Metroid Prime Remastered has you doing a lot of things a side-scrolling Metroid would: jumping across precarious platforms, swinging from a grappling hook, and ascending huge, vertical spaces, littered with hostile critters. This was all quite novel in 2002 but feels standard today: Clever implementation of a double-jump gives you an extra period of mid-air adjustment to solve so many precision-jumping and grappling issues, and Prime is forgiving with what’s under your feet so there isn’t a lot of replaying areas due to frustrating falls. You can definitely miss a platform, but it’s nothing that wouldn’t happen in Super Mario Bros. as well. What’s interesting is how much better I am at platforming in first-person after 20 years of Halo games, because modern shooters just all do this now and it’s in my FPS muscle memory. The Metroid Prime Remaster still sticks the landings – and the jumps.

The Metroid Prime Remaster still sticks the landings – and the jumps.

And while I mostly played on a Pro Controller, the fact that Metroid Prime is portable is still mind-blowing, if less novel six years into the Switch’s life. Of course, all shooters that use triggers are less comfortable on the Switch’s Joy-Con-attached setup, and Prime does have one odd quirk in its default controls that make you hit both the trigger to charge a shot and the shoulder button to fire it. That’s not ideal on either controller setup, but it’s especially cumbersome on the Joy-Cons because those buttons are so small and close together. Wii-style pointer controls using a detached pair of Joy-Cons are included as well, emulating the controls used in the Metroid Prime Trilogy on Wii. They work just as they should, which is a nice addition, but the new dual analog controls are the way to play Prime Remastered.

In Its Prime

Aside from the controls, the big addition to Metroid Prime Remastered is a complete overhaul of the graphics, which never lose sight of the art style that made the original so pretty. Water ripples, steam occludes, insects light the way and cast shadows like lanterns, metal reflects and shines (except for the mirrors; you can no longer see yourself in those for some reason); it all looks exquisite, as beautiful as any modern Switch game.