FROM RUSSIA WITH
Metro: 2033 slipped under the radar for many of us. Those who played it will have experienced something rather unique. On the surface, it seemed like another run of the mill FPS. Yet, beneath it's post-apocalyptic setting, there was a blend of stealth and survival horror. Developer 4A Games created an immersive world that dragged you in, but at the same time, had you struggling to survive. It was little touches, such as having low ammo, no visible HUD, and forcing you to equipt a gas mask in toxic environments. These all added to the immersion. It worked well, but some poor enemy AI and a lack of polished detracted from the experience.
Metro : Last Light is inspired by the novel, Metro 2033, from Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It continues in the footsteps of Artyom, the protagonist from the first game. One year has passed, and since then, a lot has changed. The nuclear winter has vanished, but the survivors still remain refuge beneath the ruins of Moscow. Those exposed to the toxic fumes have turned into hideous monsters, lurking throughout the subterranean tunnels and catacombs. Factions are fighting control over a super weapon, and a civil war is brewing. Artyom is the key to saving mankind. I don't want to spill the beans on any twists and turns, but I will say it's a very dark, creepy, and gritty journey. It's a slow burner, but one that's well written and fleshed out.
The sequel continues the trend of leaving out an HUD display and on-screen objectives. It's an obvious choice, as the developer wants to provide players another immersive experience. Like the original, you are equipped with different items to guide you on your journey. By simply pressing the RT trigger, you can bring up a clipboard. Written on it is your main objectives, along with a compus to point you in the right direction. If it's a little too dark, you can ignite a lighter in your left hand, allowing you to see the board and your surroundings. Some levels are fairly linear, so you may not find yourself examining objectives often. However, these are nice little touches that have a big effect immersing you in the game.
Stealth is something the game is partially built around. Most of the underground has a blend of light and dark. Whether you remain hidden and silently take down foes, or simply go in shooting, it's entirely up to you. However, taking the Sam Fisher approach can provide a more valuable outcome. Objects, such as light bulbs, lanterns and fire stoves brighten up the environments. All of them are interactive, allowing more space to move. Bulbs can be unscrewed, lantern's blows out, or water poured over a stove. With enough darkness, you can sneak up on enemies, either stunning or killing them. It can make the game too easy at times, especially when they don't react the way they should do. The AI is far more intelligent than it's predecessor, but I still came across a few dumb moments. Remaining in the shadows is the trickiest part. You have to keep an eye on your surrounding. If detected, things turn into your average FPS experience.
Thankfully, the sequel addresses many issues it's forebear had, one been the gun mechanics. Before, controls felt sluggish and unnatural, but here, they seem tighter and fluid. There's a nice handful of pre-war weapons at your disposal. From assault rifles, pistols, shotguns and sniper rifles. What's great, is you can purchase them, along with attachments from the metro. Whether it's adding a red dot sight to your assault rifle, placing a silencer on your pistol, or adding night vision. There's a nice variety, and they all pack a powerful punch.
Ammo is used as currency, so this can dramatically change the way you play. If your looking to upgrade, say, your new assault rifle, you may find yourself silently kill enemies more often. Searching boxes and enemy corpses also provides ammo. Playing on easy difficultly does offer a decent amount, yet you never feel crowded with them. There's only enough to survive, and you may be left with empty clips if your trigger happy. However, stumbling across upgraded weapons isn't rare. There's always some weapon not to far away. Sometimes, it's better to pick up a new weapon, rather than purchasing new upgrades.
The game moves at a steady pace. You never feel like your constantly doing the same thing. A lot of your time is spent underground, either shooting creatures in cobwebbed catacombs, or riding along rail tracks in a makeshift car. There's a few light puzzles throw in, where you must change the tracks course, or go find a power supply. These sections provide some of the horrors that haunt Moscow. Entering dark buildings and catacombs can be unsettling. Hearing noises of the creatures that lurk in darkness may send shivers down your spine. It's nothing too scary, and there's no jumpy moments. But 4A Games have created an atmospheric vibe that most games never achieve.
Parts of the Metro system are filled with lively activity. Taking your time is the best way to soak in everything there is to see and listen too. You will see different cultures living their life as usual. Whether it's drinking at a bar, entertaining children, or serving food. The sheer amount of detail is impressive, and it's some of the best on this console generation.
On the surface, it seems like a different game. The wasteland is filled with lush plant life and abandoned buildings. You must change your strategy when outside. Gas Masks must be worn at all times, due to toxicicated areas. As you continue with your objective, you also have to keep an eye on your wrist watch. This tells you when a filter needs changing on your mask. Doing so only takes a few seconds, and it's never bothersome. This is mainly due to filters littering the wasteland. More filters or gas masks are never far away. Over time, your visor may become cracked from taking damage. This can be very intense when surrounded by enemies. Blood, water and other substances also splash onto the visor. It looks great, and you can even press a button to wipe it off.
Various deadly mutants are filled throughout the bleak wastelands. They run around, swim in the swamps and fly in the sky. If left alone, most of them will not harm you. Shooting or getting to close will send them charging. They are rather ruthless, especially on easy difficulty. Taking them down isn't much trouble, as their attack patterns are simply just charging at you. They are the weaker of the AI, but it' still provides a nice change of pace.
Metro : Last light isn't just a shooter. It's a journey that provides one of the most captivating experiences in video games. It sets the bar high for story-telling, atmosphere and visuals. Not many games achieve what Metro : LL has. This is one of the best post-apocalyptic titles this generation.
Review by Gareth Smith