May 14, 2013

Metro: Last Light Review

Lights Off
5 Incredible
Retails for: $59.99
We Recommend: $59.99
  • Developer: 4A Games
  • Publisher: Deep Silver
  • Genre: Action
  • Released: May 13, 2013
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox 360
  • Reviewed: Windows, Xbox 360

Dmitry Glukhovsky’s book, Metro 2033 was the inspiration of the 2010 game of the same name. Also drawing from Metro 2033 is Metro: Last Light, which does not relate to Metro 2034 novel sequel. You again play as Artyom, a Ranger who is trying to find “The Dark One” who may hold answers to their questions. Along the way is tension, action, betrayal, and loyalty. If you didn’t happen to play the first game, the opening cinematic of Last Light does a good job of catching you up.

What unfolds is a 10-hour plus rollercoaster ride of equal parts action and downtime, providing the ups and downs in this story-driven game. It is very much a linear game that’s focused on delivering a believable world where hubs are inhabited with an impressive number of people to show it is “lived-in” and that everyone is struggling in their own way. This leaves little room to explore areas with collectibles and hidden ammo stashes hanging about. The Underground is harsh, and full of oppression. Above ground is inhospitable and the creatures that roam it are incapable of anything but feral behavior.

Everything from your characters movement to the overall feel of the game is slowed down to that of other first-person shooters. It is less reliant on constant combat to get you through the game. There are some scripted events that progress the story and make for some exciting transitions from location to location. Metro really shines when you can play with light and shadow. While it isn’t a stealth game by definition, under the cover of darkness provides the best tactical advantage. Lights can be shot out, oil lamps blown out, or bulbs simply unscrewed from their socket. Your watch also glows blue when you can be seen, and is black when you can’t. An easy and binary way of letting the player know without spelling it out.

After an apocalypse, weapons and bullets are a rarity. Some weapons deemed as “pre-war” survived, and others had to be created. Returning from Metro 2033 is the currency, which consists of military grade ammo. Yes, military grade ammo is as good as money. You can use it to buy dirty ammo, which is less effective and costs less. All weapons are customizable for their stock, barrel, and what kind of scope you want. Over the course of the game, more weapons will open up for purchase. Even on Normal difficulty, the scarcity of ammo is at a premium.

While navigating the Metro, you’ll be given a lighter and notepad with a compass to tell you direction. A headlamp will illuminate your way, but over time it’ll lose its charge. You can pull out a hand pump and restore it to full brightness. Be cautious of it before and after battles so you don’t have it going out on you leaving you in complete darkness. While the game isn’t survival horror, it certainly tips its hat to the genre. With the insufficient amount of ammo, dark corridors,  and monsters in large size and numbers, can certainly feel like it.

Often times you’ll be required to head to the surface. When exposed to the open air, you start gasping and taking damage. It’s a neat way of indicating that you need to equip your gas mask. Stocking up on filters is a necessity to give you enough air to survive your travels. Your watch will tell you exactly how much time is left before you have to change filters. With the press of a button you can wipe your mask to remove blood, dirt, and water to clear your vision. If attacked, your mask will sustain cracks until you replace it with another one. A cracked visor impairs your vision, increasing stress and claustrophobia sets in.

The surface is a grim place, buildings up close and in the distances are destroyed and monsters lurk about, wanting to feed upon your flesh, as wild mutant animals are wont to do. The surface moments are filled with the greatest amount of uneasiness as you’ll be running across logs avoiding swamp monsters, or from being scooped up by a winged creature, or fighting  a pack of mutated dogs while waiting for a raft to slowly makes it way to you. Combat is very straight forward and the gunplay is tighter than that of the previous game, making for a more tactical experience.

Whether you’re around enemies or in towns, it is worth stopping to hear the ancillary dialogue between characters that flesh out what is happening around them. The conversations can last several minutes and it all makes for a more immersive world.

The biggest offender of Metro: Last Light is the terrible path finding. Your compass does a good job of telling you where to go, and your clipboard tells you what to do. But the environments are so detailed, cluttered, and well done that many times I got turned around or didn’t know where to go. In fact, near the end of the game a piece of dialogue is spoken to you that makes you think you must go somewhere, but you have to do something else entirely.

A close second is the dumb AI, often funneling into a doorway as you shotgun each and every one that comes through, even allowing you to reload in-between. Bugs are pretty minimal in Last Light, only occasionally did I get stuck in a crate or something not activate right away.

Authentic Russian accents do a great job of keeping your head that this takes place in Moscow, Russia. Hardcore players can turn on Russian dubs with English subtitles. Though it is worth noting that in doing this, only the main story will be subtitled and supporting dialogue will not be.

4A Engine is beautiful yet again, much more optimized, stabilized and refined. While the PC version is the superior version as far as graphical options and resolution goes, the engine scales nicely on the Xbox 360. At a glance, it is nearly identical. The Xbox 360 version is locked at 30fps, while the PC can achieve higher frames per second. Though, the Xbox 360 version did have some noticeable framerate drops during high-combat sequences.

My PC Specs:
– Intel Core i7 3770k @ 3.9GHz (Turbo)

4A Games did something not many would expect, expand and improve upon the previous game. This is a talented development house, and brings Dmitry Glukhovsky’s book to life. This is an emotionally packed game full of heart and tension amongst the backdrop of a Russian wasteland. Continuing the events of Metro 2033 make this a great sequel and even a great introduction to the series. The systems of light and dark, gas masks, weapon customization and ammo scarcity make every fight feel like it your last stand.

An early access Steam code & Xbox 360 copy of the final game was provided by publisher for review purposes