May 18, 2013

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Metro Last Light Review

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When publisher THQ declared bankruptcy late last year, it left many gamers wondering whether some of their planned upcoming releases would see the light of day. One of the many titles that I personally was worried about was 4A Games sequel to their underappreciated 2010 release Metro 2033. Set in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, this survival horror title was moody, atmospheric and while flawed was still enjoyable. Although the game didn’t set remarkable numbers, many of it’s fans (like myself) were excited for it’s sequel. After three years though was our wait worth it?

Metro Last Light is a direct sequel to Metro 2033 and as such, this review will be containing spoilers for the first game; however I should note that Last Light features some cinematics from 2033 so if you haven’t played it yet you’ll be somewhat caught it right away. In late 2013 there was a nuclear war which saw Russia targeted with atomic bombs. This war left the surface severely radiated forcing the inhabitants to relocate underground in the metro stations. Many animals and humans left on the surface mutated and became known as the “Dark Ones.” A male survivor named Artyom learns that the Dark Ones are planning an attack on his metro station and is tasked with figuring out a way to destroy them. He sets off to find the means to do so and locates a missile silo known as D6 which has the firepower to destroy the Dark Ones. Before his final decision is made, the Dark Ones make contact with him in the form of a hallucination and it’s revealed that they may actually be attempting to make peaceful contact with him. Metro Last Light picks up one year after the events of the first game where Artyom was left with the decision to either nuke the “Dark Ones” or to spare them.

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Regardless of the players choice in the first game, Last Light proceeds under the former decision in that Artyom set off the missiles. It is one year later and Artyom is now a member of the military force known as the Rangers. He resides in D6 and is visited by a mystic named Khan who informs him along with the Rangers that there is one last Dark One remaining. Khan hopes to make peaceful contact with it believing that it is the key to humanity’s future but the Ranger leader wants only to kill off what he believes is a threat. On top of locating this last Dark One, Artyom and the Rangers have to deal with an imminent war due to a lack of resources underground and growing tensions amongst the other metro stations. Many other metro stations also covet a powerful weapon that D6 holds and civil war among the survivors looks to be a reality. After attempting to capture the Dark One, Artyom is kidnapped by soldiers of the Nazi Reich and the game follows his trek back to D6 discovering twists and turns along the way.

In terms of the the narrative, the world of the Metro series either sucks you in or completely turns you off. It’s very immersive and easily pulls you into it’s dark and bleak future. The surface looks abysmal as do it’s inhabitants and the world underground portrays various ways survivors would be proceeding with their lives. Each metro station visited varies from the last one with some stations worse off than others. Fear is apparent in those living underground and 4A Games did a wonderful job of creating a logical environment. Currency comes in the form of ammo and depending on how much ammo each station has, determines how successful their living situation is. For those stations more booming, the lights and sights are dazzling with shows along with various ways to pass the time. Each station has tons of NPCs around with full-on dialogues that help to immerse the player in the Metro universe. I found myself spending much of my downtime just walking around and soaking in all that each station had to offer. Children inquiring as to what happened with the surface and listening to the residents tales of past days kept me entertained and helped me feel like I was actually in this post-apocalyptic world. Although it isn’t necessary to listen to these people talk, doing so is an added bonus and never really felt like it was tacked on. 4A Games should be applauded for their hard work at creating an interesting world and it definitely has the means to truly immerse players.

Unfortunately, there are many things that do a great job at breaking this immersion. Along with some surfaces not loading, players can actually walk through NPCs and even clip through the environment. Although the stories told by these NPCs are interesting, it definitely takes me out of the experience when some of them are lecturing me staring dead-eyed while their mouths remain closed. These moments while not game-breaking, definitely turned me off at times and although the game did a great job at pulling me back in, these problems did happen throughout my playthrough. This is on top of the fact that players must have either pre-ordered their copy of the game or pay $5 more to get the “truly immersive experience” the developers intended players to play and you can see that there are many factors going against full-immersion. For those unaware, Metro Last Light has a preorder bonus featuring what they call “Ranger Mode” which takes away HUDs and is a much more natural experience for those looking to fully jump into the Metro world. If this is the mode that the developers intended it’s fans to experience, why did they lock it off as a bonus or a $5 add-on? Personally, playing through the game in normal-mode was still enjoyable and the lack of Ranger Mode shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

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Like the first game, gameplay is survival-horror with some acti0n-packed shootouts littered throughout. A good majority of the game is spent trying to survive the assaults of the mutated inhabitants of the surface while being mindful of air-filters. Each air-filter has a short amount of time that it can provide Artyom with clean air and overexposure to the irradiated surface can quickly kill him. On the surface I genuinely felt worried at times because the sights and sounds do a great job at causing panic. Each growl or even rustle of the bushes caused me to jump and the fear of the unknown remained present throughout. Underground Artyom can shoot his way through various soldier-filled segments but the smarter approach would be to use a stealthy technique. Sneaking through each station felt natural and was improved upon from Metro 2033 but wasn’t nearly as good as similar first-person stealth games. The enemies at times reacted robotically and while the weapons were more varied this time around, they still followed the typical fare for FPS’. The actual shootouts themselves ranged from unremarkable to “pretty damn cool” usually in the form of a scripted chase sequence. Boss battles were integrated in such a way that it never felt forced though that isn’t to say they were that enjoyable. A majority of the boss fights consisted of peppering a gargantuan beast until he gets close, running away, rinse and repeat. As a whole though the gameplay was solid enough to never hinder my experience and though it wasn’t outstanding.

My biggest complaint with the game though was how little of a lasting impression it left on me after completion. Though the world is very fleshed out as are it’s inhabitants, I did find myself not really caring too much about what happened to said inhabitants. I never felt as if I had much attachment to Artyom even after playing through the first game and though the summary of it’s plot is simple enough, it didn’t hold my interest as much as I wished it would have. Perhaps if the gameplay was a little tighter or maybe if the path throughout the journey wasn’t so linear I could have found myself being more enthusiastic about another playthrough. The sense of wonder I found in the first game wasn’t as strong with the sequel and though I enjoyed going from point A to point B, I didn’t really feel as strong of a desire to persevere as I’m sure the developers intended. In a game like Metro Last Light, story is the driving force while it’s gameplay is used to help the narration shine. With Metro Last Light the story felt a little too cut and dry and while engaging, wasn’t as memorable as it could have been.

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While I did address many of my complaints, that isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy my experience with Metro Last Light. Post-apocalyptic Moscow is still one of the most interesting environments I’ve encountered in recent memory and the universe is still ripe with possibilities for the future. The foundation for the gameplay is fun though flawed in many areas and the graphics themselves while glitchy, work wonderfully when on point. The story isn’t that lengthy though and unless you loved the first game, you may not find yourself longing to play through the game a second time unless achievement hunting. If you’re a newcomer to the series looking for a FPS with a strong story Metro Last Light might not be the game for you, especially with titles like BioShock Infinite and Dishonored available. However, if you did enjoy the first game then I’d suggest checking out it’s sequel which improves on nearly all assets of the first game. While Metro Last Light won’t win any game of the year awards, it’s still a solid experience that I enjoyed despite it’s flaws.

Metro Last Light
Platform: PC, Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3
Genre: FPS/Survival-Horror
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
ESRB Rating: M
MSRP: $49.99 (PC), $59.99 (PS3, Xbox 360)


7.5
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About James Damian

Hating The Walking Dead Survival Instinct. Enjoying my 3DS though! Follow me at @JamesManGuyPrsn