A little off topic here, but as an aside- why is it that Metro’s beautiful title font makes all wallpapers look instantly gorgeous, in addition to nicely armored Spetsnaz-like soldiers? It was the same with Metro 2033…
I’ll admit it, I was quite a fan of Metro 2033, even when others were not. I stuck with the game through thick and thin, enjoying its gameplay, twisting narrative, and combative flaws equally. Sure, it had its rough edges, as do most games, but it was overall the atmospheric experience that evened the playing field the most. I’m proud of what Deep Silver accomplished with this sequel, having taken over from the recently deceased THQ. They turned what could have been disaster into a payday. And it starts with Metro: Last Light. Not only does Last Light fix the vast majority of its predecessors flaws in relation to gunplay and AI, but it also continues to develop the series’ fundamental strengths- atmosphere, story, and the horror/suspense element as well. Sure, I was just as skeptical as anyone when I heard Last Light was still on track for release, and as the May release date grew ever near, I huddled in the corner in fear, hoping with all my heart that it would not be a calamity. And boy, am I happy with the final product. Now, don’t get me wrong- Last Light has its fair share of minimal issues and bugs as well, but it is more closely related to Fallout: New Vegas- being a sequel to the buggy and stellar Fallout 3, and also living up to the Fallout franchise’s name, whilst adding some new flavors to the gumbo as well. Metro: Last Light is even more successful than 2033, and its success lies in strongly catering to the shooting market in addition to that of the original target audience.
Whereas the last game was insidiously difficult, even when not playing on the Ranger and Hardcore modes, Last Light tones things down just a little bit for beginners and casual gamers alike, while still offering Ranger Modes as a downloadable freebie with purchase. Now the survival trip is not just an insanely difficult horror story, but one that appropriately adds well-crafted gun battles and stealth opportunities as well. Speaking of stealth, it is actually possible this time around, while still difficult, to sneak past many enemy encounters- since they are no longer quite so omnipotent and omniscient as before, when foiling your many stealth attempts. Thankfully, while the mundane tasks of checking your watch and gas levels are still there, they have taken a step back in order to not be as tedious or time consuming as in the previous title. As with the first game, there are some explosive setpiece moments that will leave your head reeling, and some really grotesque enemies to bring you back down to earth as well.
The game, while not directly titled Metro 2034 or Metro 2 or something, is in fact a relatively direct sequel to Metro 2033- continuing Artyom’s misadventures, mainly from the “bad” ending of the first game. You will still be making it your main goal to save what is left of the human race from the monsters and radioactive cesspits about Moscow, as well as searching for the supposed ‘Dark Ones’, or supernatural and mythical creatures said to have wisdom and feed on radioactivity. Along the way, you will battle familiar factions, such as the Reich and railway bandits, and give you an opportunity to wade back into the madness and destruction-inducing carnage of chaotic war. The enemies are difficult to conquer this time around as well, but not because of their all-seeing eyes. The AI has been vastly improved, made more intelligent by leaps and bounds, and dissuade players from simply going in guns blazing with their formidable resistance and intellect. Not only do they search areas in random patterns at times, patrolling into even darkened hideaways, but they’ll look for sounds and find you if you aren’t stealthy enough, often calling in backup to take you out quicker. Whereas the human enemies are smarter, the monstrosities that roam the dark and the outside world are dumb beasts, and it shows. Its almost a reversal of roles from the first game, but not too big a disappointment other than in the few mini-boss/boss battles where it is pretty much shoved in your face the entire time.
Since stealth is emphasized a lot more heavily this time around, with good reason, there are many ways to improve your experience and survival chances along the way, throughout the game. These are improvements in every way, from helping the overall feel of the game’s mechanics to amplifying the atmosphere through some strategically used sound equipment. Dynamic music is used almost like in LA Noire- alerting you to when an enemy is aware of your presence or near enough to finding you. You also have an interestingly placed light meter on your watch, telling you what your detection levels are, and plenty of shadows to delve into- at your own risk, in order to hide from your unrelenting enemies. The game is even more linear this time around, although it does give you some opportunities to roam relatively free about the world, and the environments are heavily centered around a more stealthy approach as well. Needless to say, players with the patience to wait will be rewarded justly, whereas players who love to run and gun their way through things will be met with a hail of lead, but if they manage to top their opponents, will be greeted with some welcome compensation as well for their efforts. You can play the game any way you want, which is the best choice of all. As Bane would say… “You can do whatever you want, Gotham!”
The game is far from its grey and grim predecessor, but it maintains close ties to Metro 2033 through an equally grim and desolate atmosphere and tight controls and explosive moments. It serves as both a graphical upgrade and an entirely new adventure. The story is ripe for the picking, and many exploring players will enjoy it profusely, as I did, should they give it the time to flesh itself out fully. Sure, some of the content rings through like a cult classic waiting to happen- laughable voice acting exploits, “arrow to the knee”-like jokes here and there, etc. but overall the sequel is way ahead of its predecessor in many ways, and a great supplement to the fresh IP. It might be more shooter than survival game now, but the difficulty level, the entertainment value, and the core gameplay make it a must play for fans of either genre to be sure. It plays like Fallout and looks like it too, but it has its own brand of grim respite, and even a little dark humor here and there, scarce as it may be. I would definitely recommend Last :Light to anyone willing to give the series another go if they couldn’t stomach 2033, or to someone simply looking for a time consuming adventure for a few hours or a dozen.
Concept: Return to the world of Metro, still based off of the novel ‘Metro 2033’, and experience another excellently crafted, brutal survival adventure.
Graphics: Some of the animations are wonky at times, but the graphics more than make up for that, even going so far as to branch out from the strict color pallet of the first game and adding in some brighter colors and textures this time around as well.
Sound: Conversations sound sincere, monsters terrifying, and weapons satisfyingly awesome.
Playability: It would take a lot to keep the tight controls and newer, more refined gunplay and stealth mechanics down this time around.
Entertainment: The story, gameplay, and atmosphere, as with Metro 2033, will be some of the more memorable moments in recent gaming history for me- especially in Last Light’s endeavors alone.
Replay Value: Moderately High.
Overall Score: 9.0