Published on May 25th, 2013 | by Hubert McReed0
Metro: Last Light – Preview
Unfortunately some of life’s great lessons are learnt too late. Case in point, THQ with the fantastic linear first-person shooter Metro 2033. A release a bit frayed around the edges for sure, boasting more bugs than your nearest butterfly farm, but in terms of atmosphere and mechanical brilliance, Metro’s bleak post-nuclear war world proved infinitely more interesting than the vast majority of other games out there, even giving Half Life 2’s City 17 a run for its money in terms of bleakness and human suffering.
Look, what we’re getting at is if THQ ploughed more money into promoting Metro 2033 rather than betting their future on developing the flawed uDraw tablet, then maybe they’d still be trading today.
This overriding thought offered up a tinge of sadness and regret as we considered our recent experiences with the substantially polished sequel Metro: Last Light, a game which has transferred wholesale from Toy HeadQuarters to the German publisher Deep Silver. It seems to be one of those rare sequels which simultaneously polishes up every aspect of the original game while dialing down further into what made 2033 so special in the first place.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, Metro’s universe is based on the Metro 2033 novel written by Dmitry Glukhovsky, which is set in the backdrop of a nuclear holocaust, with Moscow’s abandoned underground network functioning as an arc protecting humanity from fatal levels of radiation. In both 2033 and Last Light, players assume the role of hardened survivor Artyom who with other gasmask-equipped warriors, labelled as Rangers, ventures overground to search for anything that may help the women, children and elderly below continue their difficult existence.
This promising setting translates to some fantastic survival horror gameplay. During quieter segments you’ll venture underground exploring both populated and abandoned stations, mixing it up with fascists and communists fighting over who gets to rule this utterly ruined world and bearing witness to how regular citizens are struggling to survive by eating green mushrooms and harvesting cats for food, while the next you’ll be battling hellish mutants above ground with heavily modified Steampunk rifles – all the while keeping a keen eye on your wristwatch ticking down making sure you don’t run out of gasmask filters and expose yourself to the irradiated air.
These diametrically opposed components sum up Metro’s appeal in a nutshell: one claustrophobic and heavily story-based, while the latter proves a action-orientated and traditional first-person shooter experience. That delicate gameplay balance hasn’t altered.
In Last Light players still have the opportunity to take their time exploring Moscow’s underground network, including a new station known as ‘The Theater’ which boasts its own burlesque house, and interact with complicated characters, but the world overground has gone through a dramatic change, as nature slowly recovers from the effects of the war.
Grass is growing, flowers are blossoming. Moscow is no longer just a land of grey death. Mutants still litter the landscape, but the world is ready to be explored once again.
Against the backdrop of this renewal however, three factions vie for control of the underground: the communist Red Line, the Fourth Reich (guess which Führer they favour…) and the capitalist Hanseatic League. All three factions seek the spoils of a formerly hidden military bunker known as D6. This important location in both Metro 2033 and Last Light holds the key to humanity’s future, and each faction thinks raiding this spot will guarantee their long-term supremacy. Artyom plays a key part in this civil war and much like the original, ultimately the fate of the Metro system will play into both his and, by extension, the player’s hands.
More But Better
Throughout multiple preview days we’ve attended, 4A Games has drawn particular attention to the improvements they’ve made to Metro’s core combat mechanics. AI behavior is more predictable and easier to understand, and the pace of combat has quickened, giving gun battles more of a responsive feel. There’s still the option to stealth your way through levels by disabling lights and silently taking out enemies from behind, but by the same token weapons like the bolt action ‘Valve’ rifle or chaingun still allow players to engage enemies loud and proud.
The bullet-based economy has also been tweaked a bit. Not changed we hasten to add, just explained in more detail, allowing players more opportunity to recognize that using grade-A bullets means that they kill enemies faster, but using this ammo may impact whether they can get that shiny weapon upgrade later on.
Of all the sections we’ve witnessed during Metro: Last Light’s development, be it that spooky foray into a downed 747 in the Moscow wilderness, prompting a nifty flashback to the plane being downed just as the Nukes hit Russia’s capital, or the memorable return to the flooded Metro station known as ‘Venice’, what’s clear is that Last Light is every bit as special as its predecessor – only tighter and more refined.
Who knows whether 4A Games’ sequel would have saved THQ if it arrived a bit earlier, but in the grand scheme none of that really matters. What does matter is that Metro: Last Light is the kind of cerebral first-person shooter experience gamers the world over are crying out for.
If the likes of BioShock and Half Life floated then you should expect Last Light to make as big an impact in your game-playing psyche.