Platform | Release Date
PS3, 360, PC | May 14, 2013
Developed by 4A Games
Published by Deep Silver
Beneath the ruins of post-apocalyptic Moscow, in the tunnels of the Metro, the remnants of mankind are besieged by deadly threats from outside – and within.
Mutants stalk the catacombs beneath the desolate surface, and hunt amidst the poisoned skies above. But rather than stand united, the station-cities of the Metro are locked in a struggle for the ultimate power, a doomsday device from the military vaults of D6. A civil war is stirring that could wipe humanity from the face of the earth forever.
As Artyom, burdened by guilt but driven by hope, you hold the key to our survival – the last light in our darkest hour.
If there’s something that the FPS genre is increasingly derided for, it’s developers’ over-reliance on funnelled design. From Call of Duty to Halo, it seems as though we are pushed into tighter and tighter spaces and given less control over the environment around us. Strange then that Metro 2033 never really had any of that criticism levied at it. It was, after all, a game about fighting in tunnels. Yet, in the case of this new sequel, Metro Last Light, the game is absolutely at its strongest when you’re confined to the underground.
The story picks up pretty much from where you left it, at least depending on your ending. In this version of events Artyom brought down a massive barrage of missiles, apparently wiping out the mysterious Dark Ones. As the sequel begins, you’ll discover that these boogeymen aren’t quite gone yet, and are swiftly sent on your way to retrieve the last remaining survivor.
I say swiftly, but to be honest that’s not entirely true. Metro Last Light doesn’t mind slowing things down. Minor characters are given plenty of time for exposition, and although he remains silent through any exchange, Artyom still gets to share his opinion during loading screens. This pacing is often a little off unfortunately, and I found myself doing mad strafing, running around the characters and willing them to shut up and get on with it. The plot is relatively simple, facilitating an 8-hour journey through the Metro underground, and it often felt like it didn’t need quite as much explanation as was given.
This feeling was only exasperated, however, because of how much I actually enjoyed playing through Metro Last Light. There’s a returning focus on ammo preservation, although it’s definitely been tamed outside of the harder ‘Ranger’ mode. So, I naturally swapped to a stealthy, defensive approach to combat. 4A Games proprietary engine does lighting exceptionally well, and the levels are each designed with the same degree of flexibility as Arkham City. It’s a game that Metro Last Light recalls often during your exchanges with enemies; a swift, empowering character at your command. Shifting through the darkness, demolishing an enemy front, all to sneak away at the end of it – this is without a doubt the thing that Metro Last Light does best.
When you’re allowed above ground, things get a little more sketchy. This happens infrequently, but each segment highlights a couple of things extremely clearly. Firstly, the designers spent most of their time thinking in terms of funnelling the player through a level. When presented with the task of creating a fun, open space for play, they struggle, quickly reverting to narrow paths that feel painfully forced. Secondly, the core combat skills at your disposal don’t match up well with hordes of monsters. Your relatively tame weapons leave you feeling powerless against waves of mutant shrimps and bears. This contrast might have been interesting, but mindless shooting doesn’t provide a burst of excitement as you abandon stealthy restraint. It’s just uninteresting. I found myself sighing whenever I saw daylight, knowing what was coming.
But – and it’s a big but – these sections are a really small part of the game. In the tunnels, Metro Last Light thrives, throwing ideas at you at a steady pace. With such a confined space to play in, it’s amazing that 4A Games have managed to generate such variety within the underground. Every time I was in control, every time the darkness was around me, I was having an absolute blast. The subterranean environment felt real, it felt exciting to explore, and it provided an endless array of fun combat scenarios. I could have played this sort of stealth for dozens more hours.
As a package, it’s relatively slim, but I commend the lack of multiplayer – this isn’t a game that needed it. Multiple playthroughs are recommended, and there’s enough to see to merit that investment. On PC, Metro Last Light looks great, and other than a few slightly unsafe autosaves and a faulty night vision feature (which I suspect will be fixed before launch) it was technically robust. It’s the sort of game that you’d complete, play a couple of times, and then come back to some rainy afternoon, only to lose yourself all over again. A surprise treat, even with its obvious imperfections.