Published on May 17th, 2013 | by Hubert McReed0
Metro: Last Light – Review
Summary: It's not a thrill-a-minute game... rather, Last Light relies heavily on setting and narrative to tell a tale.
The fate of Metro: Last Light was something that a number of people wondered about when the news of THQ closing its doors came up. However, that publisher’s IPs were snapped up by numerous other publishers; Last Light went to Deep Silver, which allowed it to be released pretty much on schedule.
The game takes us back to the devastated world of Moscow after a nuclear holocaust. Survivors of the disaster have found refuge in the dank, deep and dark tunnels of what was once the Moscow Metro. Here they fight to exist amid crime, corruption, violence and political rivalries. It’s a miserable place to be, and developers 4A manage to capture that feeling beautifully. But we’ll get to more of that a bit later.
The original title in the series – Metro 2033 – was based on a best-selling novel by Dmitry Glukhovsy. This new work is inspired by that same novel and once again puts the player in the shoes of the near-mute Artyom, the hero of 2033. As the game kicks off, we learn that his actions in 2033 have seen him elevated to the status of Ranger, working with the Spartan Order. This group holds no affiliations to any of the Metro political movements, but rather acts as a self-appointed security detail, trying to keep the Metro safe. Soon, though, new threats to the people of the Metro see Artyom hurtling along a path that leads him to uncovering a terrible conspiracy.
Unlike most shooters out there, Last Light is very reliant on its plot. The story is not complex at all – in fact, it gets rather predictable and a little pedantic towards the end. But it is refreshing to see a first-person shooter that isn’t all about headshots and killing hordes of enemies. The story, simple as it is, is central to the experience.
This means that Last Light doesn’t play out like other shooters. There are a lot of scripted events, and the game is extremely linear. A single play-through is likely all that you will get to, unless you are a massive fan. Additionally, Last Light needs the player to pay attention – not just during combat sessions, but also during the often protracted cut-scenes. In fact, even walking around a corner may have the player happen upon a conversation that is vital to the plot, or helps further the idea of life in this dystopian future.
That play style does exclude all those players who are just after unbridled action… and there are a lot of them. There are long stretches in this game where dialogue is the only thing going on, and as much as this drives the plot forward, it may not sit well with some.
Speaking of dialogue, one could be excused for thinking that the voice acting is a bit poor in Last Light. But all of the actors are native Russian speakers, bringing even more authenticity to the game through heavy accents and often strange pronunciations. This authenticity is furthered by excellent character models. The devil is in the details; whether you’re encountering a political leader, an underground fisherman or a stripper offering you a lap-dance, all the characters in Last Light are memorable. There is some repetition in character models, but this does tend to be in the case of uniformed enemies and mutants that the player needs to fight off.
Graphically, the game is pretty decent overall. The PC version is the strongest in terms of visuals, with some weak textures showing up in the console versions. However, the lighting effects – which are core in a game that often dumps the player into very dark areas – are excellent.
The overall play dynamic of the game feels, at times, rather chaotic. Combat sequences can have the player either stealthing around in the dark, or running in guns blazing. Both will work, because the enemy AI is not the greatest. It is better than that of 2033, but it still leaves a bit to be desired. Mutant enemies tend to swarm the player, resulting in intense fire-fights. While ammo can be scarce, the player who takes the time to gather up resources will likely never run out of bullets and makeshift grenades, particularly if they do a little exploring in the limited number of areas that allow them to do so.
Because of this, the game doesn’t really go through a difficulty curve, but rather peaks and troughs. It’s more realistic, really, adding a somewhat organic feel to the game’s progression. The player’s weapons are the same scratch-build type of items from the previous game, and ammo is a commodity. So much so that high grade military rounds are treated as currency. They can also be used to add a little more damage to the player’s attacks, but the game never gets that tough that you will be spending your money on killing bad guys rather than buying useful stuff.
Another aspect of the game is going outdoors. Artyom will need a gas mask and air filters to do so, as well as to access certain hazardous areas in the Metro itself. This is the same as the previous game, but Last Light tends to be more generous with air filters, meaning that the time constraint on missions is lessened. That said, the claustrophobic tunnels of the Metro are easier to deal with in combat situations, because to you know more or less which direction trouble will be coming from.
With a cast of memorable characters, unique weapons (including an awesome four-barrelled shotgun) and a heavy dependence on the narrative, Metro: Last Light is a fairly unique title. And as is so often the case with unique titles, it will have a smaller following than the next iteration of any given copy-and-paste military shooter. It’s lack of multiplayer and linear delivery will limit replay value, although Ranger mode (which is available as a download) can allow for a tougher second experience, should the player choose to re-experience the tale.
Even with just a single play-through, Last Light stands as a good example of how a story can be told in a first-person shooter. The pacing isn’t break-neck, and the combat sessions tend to be smaller – more personal, even – than what we generally get. Both of these are refreshing aspects to the game, making it stand out in the crowd. Sure, not everyone’s going to love it, but for those who want to play a game to be entertained, rather than earning kill-ratio bragging rights, Metro: Last Light is a great option. Having played the original helps, but it isn’t essential… the story here is interesting enough for it to stand on its own two feet.
Moving away from the norms of first-person shooters is a fairly bold move for 4A games to make, but they have a story that they want to tell, and experiencing the tale of Artyom’s second set of adventures in the Moscow Metro is worth the effort.