Metro 2033: Last Light Review
The sequel to 2010’s post-apocalyptic shooter Metro 2033, Metro: Last Night is a gritty and shockingly uncompromising game and one of the scariest games you’ll play this year. We review the latest from the Ukrainian studio 4A Games.
If you never had the good fortune of playing the original Metro 2033 when it was released, you should know that it was one of the scariest, most atmospheric and realistic first person shooters released in the past five years. Set in a frozen Russian city ruined by the ravages of nuclear war and beset by gangs of desperate and savage survivors, the game received plaudits for its frighteningly tough combat, creepy and atmospheric visuals and innovative team-based sections, and the sequel looks to improve on the first. Does it succeed?
In a word, yes.
To be succinct, the game is excellent. Much like its predecessor, it succeeds completely in absorbing you into its bleak, depressingly morbid yet strangely charming and quaint world, providing segments of genuine humour, intrigue and culture. The gameplay itself is largely standard first person shooter fare, but is done very well – solidly incorporating elements of stealth play, character interaction, and all-out gun-toting mayhem. In saying that, though, keep in mind the game’s design encourages a stealthy, careful approach. You’ll often find yourself getting gunned down or blown to pieces if you charge gung-ho into every room (much like most modern first person shooters) and the scarcity of ammunition throughout the game means you really have to be careful with the trigger finger. Blasting like a crazed madman on meth at everything you see will mean that the next time you’re ambushed by some giant armor-wearing mutated spiders, you’ll have nothing but a knife to fend them off with.
Much of the game is set in the underground subways and tunnels of Moscow (hence the name, Metro), but occasionally you’ll wander up to the war-torn surface, scarred by pollution and radiation and inhabited by ruthless, zombie-like mutants. The poisoned surface leads to one of the core gameplay elements of the game – the need of the game’s protagonist, Artyom, to wear a gas mask when he wanders above. The gas mask has a limited duration, beyond which point Artyom starts to become poisoned – and he always has a watch on which indicates the amount of clean oxygen left in the mask. If you sustain damage, the gas mask becomes cracked, leading to reduced air duration – however you can collect gas masks from slain enemies and found scattered throughout the world.
The gas mask sounds like a cheap gimmick, but it actually contributes to the game’s uniqueness and charm, and the particle effects when Artyom cleans his gas mask of dirt, mud and rain are insanely gorgeous to look at – it is a very, very well done feature. It’s a myriad of minor details like this that contribute to the game’s atmosphere and immersion – little things like changing your filter when you can hear air in your gas mask running out, the incredibly detailed weather effects when you venture outside, and the tiny yet oft-noticed and much appreciated environmental details like rubbish floating through the streets with the wind.
The game also runs phenomenally well and has been more heavily optimised than the original. We tested it on an i7-950 with a GTX670 at 1080p on max settings and it ran beautifully, achieving steady and consistent frame rates of between 50-60 fps. A lot of users recommend turning off Anti-Aliasing, though, to get a huge performance boost for a slight, subtle decrease in visual quality.
Metro: Last Light is one of the most richly detailed and beautifully rendered games we’ve ever seen, and while it’s available for Xbox 360 and PS3 as well, the PC version on a decent rig with max settings is stunningly gorgeous to look at. It’s right up there with the best looking PC games available at the moment; it might even be the best. It will come down to a matter of opinion as to whether this game or Crysis 3 shades it, but we’d have to lean towards Metro: Last Light. The technical qualities of both games are about equal, but Metro’s art style is so unique and vibrant, and the characters so memorable and deep, that it creates a more long lasting impression and sucks you into its world a lot more than Crysis 3 does.