Hands on with Metroid Prime: Hunters

Is a first-person shooter still a first-person shooter when it uses a stylus and touchscreen?

Hands on with Metroid Prime: Hunters
| Metroid Prime: Hunters

Complicated things are often filed under simple labels. Do It Yourself, for instance, sounds a doddle – and yet in reality what could be harder on the body and soul than a Bank Holiday weekend spent trying to assemble DIY shelving?

Equally, have you ever tried using self-apply tan? Hint – it's more fun, and more practical, with a friend.

It's a similar situation with the hardcore gaming acronym FPS, which stands for first-person shooter. Initially, FPS appears a straightforward concept: First-person, because you look through the eyes of your in-game character, with the only visible part of your 'body' being the barrel of your gun – and so comprising the 'shooter' bit.

There, not difficult, and indeed on the PC, blessed with a keyboard and mouse, the FPS is one of the most celebrated types of games because the control is so intuitive – you move your character around using the keyboard, with the quicker motion of the mouse ideal for changing your viewpoint and pointing your gun.

It's not so easy when it comes to consoles without mice and keyboards though, and even more problematic on PSP, which only has one joystick, and the DS, with its touchscreen.

Which brings us to Nintendo's big gamble on the DS, its first big FPS, Metroid Prime: Hunters. Interestingly, Nintendo has come up with two different control methods, each of which is also offered in right and left-handed versions.

The most obvious method we'll call the 'touchscreen version'. In this, you use your stylus and the touchscreen as a mouse to point your gun at the various nasties heading your way, and use the D-pad (or action buttons, if you're a leftie) to move around.

It works pretty well, in terms of accurate aiming (you might want to go into the game settings and tone down the sensitivity) but at the cost of removing one of your hands from the DS. As a result, as well as triggering the fire button (mapped onto one of the DS' shoulder buttons) and moving you around, your other hand will have to hold the DS, which takes some getting use to.

The other control method Nintendo offers we'll call the 'non-touchscreen version'. Here you hold your DS as normal, using the D-pad to move around and the four action buttons to point your gun (vice versa for lefties). It actually works quite well, apart from when you attack high-flying enemies (which happens quite a lot), as it takes a while to rotate your gun back down.

The advantage, however, is you get a jump button. Using touchscreen control, you have to double-tap your stylus to jump, which means it's not something you'll be doing much in the midst of frenzied combat.

Whichever method you decide to use, the rub is that the touchscreen also acts as your headup display: you'll need to poke it with your stylus to change weapons, use the visor scanner, and to transform yourself from an all-action biped into a Sonic the Hedgehog-like morph ball. And as all these things are regular occurrences, it makes it pretty hard to successfully play Metroid Prime: Hunters using the 'non-touchscreen version'.

All of which might prompt the cynic to say this is a game without an ideal control method. True, but, a game is more than a control method. From what we're seen and played so far, those who enjoy FPSs will enjoy Metroid Prime: Hunters, not least because it supports the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for online multiplayer too. Our definite review is coming soon!

Still in transit from deep space, Metroid Prime: Hunters is due to land in stores on the 5th of May.