In a world devastated by endless rehashes and sequels of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic first person shooters, it always surprises me that I have such a soft spot for 4A Games’ Metro 2033. On the surface, it’s little more than the bog-standard affair; desperate faces of dishevelled soldiers, wielding cobbled-together weaponry to fight a war of attrition clearly analogous of the human condition to continue fighting each other regardless of circumstance – if any of that sound familiar, you’ve clearly been paying attention during the last few years of video games. But there’s something about Metro’s tangible feeling of desperation and survival that has, in my book, put it ahead of most of its ilk.
Maybe it’s the use of ammo as currency, the solemn, raspy breathing inside the gas mask, or the fact that it’s one of the few examples of a book-to-game transition done well – either way, I was as excited for the sequel, Last Light, as I was nervous that the outstanding balance of suspense and action would be lost.
I was given a generous 2-hour window to alleviate or exacerbate my fears. Stepping back into the Metro felt good, like a return home, although with a much nicer shine to it – with the new engine Metro is joining the crowd wanting to put next-generation graphics onto this year’s machines. The colour palette has received a welcoming expansion, as seen when venturing further to Moscow’s nuclear winter-scarred surface and scavenging a plane wreckage. Pushing past skeletons and spider webs, and hearing the flashback screams of the crash victims, Last Light fortunately hasn’t been eager to shake off its survival horror influences, and at moments is outright chilling. Before long, with a crack of thunder and a burst of rain, a horde of creatures appears and combat begins in earnest.
It’s as desperate as ever, and constantly backing away while wheeling around to catch one sneaking behind you is a must, but it’s a different thrill altogether from Metro 2033.
Rather than the feeling of constantly being on your toes being because of heavy controls and a fairly awkward aiming system, Last Light is smooth and natural – but now with smarter and more aggressive enemies. Again, this may sound like standard fare for an FPS sequel, but a feeling of clunkiness was one of the major holdbacks for 2033, and it’s great to see it being made up for in Last Light.
Another problematic area in 2033 was certainly its stealth, and indeed I awaited Last Light’s creeping-around-with-throwing-knives sections with bated breath. For the most part, it was a pleasant experience – accidentally scuffling around a little too loudly didn’t automatically alert all enemies to your exact location, and silenced weapons actually… well… worked. On the other hand, once one soldier’s clocked you, every single one of his friends have a miraculous ability to see in the dark and pump you full of lead, but in all fairness this still puts it on par with most games’ stealth sections. A great improvement, nonetheless.
While the trailer Deep Silver have released for Last Light puts great emphasis on the oncoming war between the Communist and Fascist factions in the Metro, don’t be fooled into thinking this will be a straight FPS that happens to be underground. Last Light is looking to be everything a sequel to 2033 should be: smoother, prettier, and just as spooky.
Metro: Last Light will be released by Deep Silver and 4A Games on May 14th, 2013 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.