Metro: Last Light
Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 80% (based on 35 ratings)
Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 35 ratings with 2 reviews)
Ukrainian game industry has evolved in recent years from a passionate community producing creative, yet deeply flawed games, to a serious, well-recognized power on the international arena. Particularly in the first-person shooter genre the Ukrainians climbed to the top of the ladder. When Metro 2033 came out, players all around the world were enthusiastic to receive this soulful, inspired game, pleasantly surprised by its impressive visuals and level of polish. Metro: Last Light, a direct continuation of the story started in that game, is a very similar experience with nearly identical gameplay mechanics and the same emphasis placed on atmospheric immersion.
Indeed, atmosphere is where those two games beat most of the competition. Metro 2033 drew us into the intimidatingly beautiful post-apocalyptic Moscow, and the sequel tries its best to deliver more of the same. Like the first game, Metro: Last Light takes place alternatively in the dark passages of the subway and on the surface of a ruined city. The subway levels are perhaps even more interesting than before. Besides the usual tunnels and train graveyards, there are also more natural areas such as a vast underground cave system, one of the game's scariest, most nerve-wrecking levels. The stations are also even more extravagant and gorgeous than in the first game. You'll visit the once proud Theater station converted into living quarters and entertainment area pitifully trying to revive the glamorous past; a picturesque "Venice" with quiet fishermen working on the bank of a contaminated green river; a sleazy station where old Soviet trains have been converted into improvised lap-dancing booths, and others.
The attention to detail in these populated places is astounding. Despite their small size and linear structure, the stations are a definite highlight thanks to their credible depiction of everyday life. You'll want to stop and listen to every single character, look in every corner and bath in the splendor of these meticulously crafted locations. Interestingly enough, much of this content is optional: you can choose to rush through a station or listen to the often interesting conversations of simple people, witness their joys and tragedies, and participate in their heart-wrenching life for a brief moment.
The undisputed crown of the game, however, are the surface areas. That is where the improvement over the first title is most clearly realized. In the first game the surface segments were quite short, and you were somewhat too compelled to end them due to the scarcity of gas mask filters and other resources. The sequel downplays that survival aspect a bit, compensating it with much bigger playing areas. And let me tell you, those areas belong to the most awe-inspiring, gorgeous views I have ever seen in a video game. I get goose bumps just from thinking about them. The atmosphere is simply incredible. Profound sadness and almost mystical fear overcome you as you emerge into the bleak ruins of a great city. Screenshots of one particular location, a night trip through swamps surrounding a church, should be displayed everywhere to demonstrate the exceptional talent of the artists. But that is just one example from a row of magical locations that refuse to leave your soul after having penetrated it.
Don't think the reduction of survival elements has made these areas easier. As a matter of fact, I died more on the surface in this game than in the first one. The considerable increase in size makes navigation harder, and there are more hazards than even before. Surface enemies are now much more varied, with horrifying flying creatures lifting you into the air and dropping on the ground, repulsive giant mutated reptiles crawling from all corners to surround you, and packs of ferocious predators jumping at your face before you are able to pull out your shotgun. It's a good thing that there are now more filters to sustain my life on the surface, since this life has become even more dangerous and those areas cannot be escaped with the same ease.
The extra weight placed on surface exploration provides an overall better balance and a sharper contrast to the game's indoor levels. These chiefly follow the formula of the predecessor, though the stealth has been slightly modified, becoming somewhat more predictable and scripted, yet more satisfying to pull off. However, I never really play a Metro game for the stealth. On harder difficulty levels a direct approach usually proves to be fatal, but even if you are not perfect at sneaking you can still manage to dispatch your foes if you have the right skills. The challenge is still there, and enemies are as unrelenting as before, so running through a level while gunning down everyone in sight without thinking is definitely not an option. Setpieces such as riding a draisine, fighting monsters with a partner or facing unique bosses are exciting and add even more tension to the gameplay.
Even though the game is very linear for the most part, a few levels are reasonably large, and there are even optional areas here and there. Particularly the surface levels are impressive in this respect, allowing you to wander around quite a bit. But even some tunnels have branching ways, with the draisine level in the middle of the game being particularly interesting, as you can disembark it and explore on foot areas you could just drive by. Exploring optional areas as well as making some crucial decisions during the course of the game will award you "morality points", a sufficient amount of which unlocks the game's "good" ending.
Metro: Last Light is similar to the first game in most aspects, but it feels more polished, more confident, more direct in its tone. It is more aware of its international recognition and a near-blockbuster status, and as a result has an even more focused design, with more cinematic treatment and tighter scripting. And while the first game was a bit careful with its storytelling, the sequel goes all the way. Its story is much more appealing and emotional than that of the predecessor, touching upon important themes with more clarity and poignancy. The antagonists are by far more developed, the drama is more coherent, and the pacing of the plot is impeccable.
Metro 2033 wasn't a very original game, but at least it introduced a few interesting gameplay-related ideas. Metro: Last Light doesn't really introduce anything new: it simply copies said ideas (e.g. the necessity to wear the gas mask on the surface) and builds another game around them. There is nothing substantial here that distinguishes this game from the previous one. This lack of originality has plagued many good sequels, and can be arguably justified by the well-known rabid conservatism of many video game fans. And yet I fail to see how a few well-placed, fitting enhancements could destroy a game that tries too carefully to be the exact same thing as its predecessor.
The linearity and the lack of interactivity are particularly aggravating because they are so badly concealed. Yes, there are optional areas, but most levels are full of inexplicably impassable barriers, and some locations literally confine you to a narrow path surrounded by artificial borders. Surface locations are much better in this respect, but I was most disappointed by the stations. Bustling local life and attention to detail are just decorations: there is nearly nothing to explore in the stations, and temptingly-looking areas are irritatingly blocked even when they appear to be very much within your reach.
Voice acting in the original Russian version can often get stiff and unnatural. Too many voices sound too similar to each other, and the strangely slow, overly articulated delivery doesn't fit at all these characters with their rough life. Even more annoying is the lack of swear words: a Russian soldier shouting "Damnation!" instead of a long row of grammatically sophisticated sex-based expletives is a non-existing phenomenon. At least some people now say "ass" instead of "butt", which can be regarded as a small improvement over the first game.
The Bottom Line
Metro: Last Light is one of those games where you don't pay much attention to actual gameplay mechanics because everything else is done so, so well. Yes, it's just a linear over-scripted shooter that doesn't even change the formula of its predecessor, but who cares when it grabs you and possesses your soul from the beginning to the end? A more polished and more dramatic replica of the first game, it is once again a treat for everyone willing to plunge into a masterfully created, magically atmospheric virtual world and spend there some unforgettable hours.
Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (180476) · 2014
- Gorgeous environments and effects
- Awesome art direction
- Incredible atmosphere makes the game scary, sad, and poignant
- Story is extremely memorable
- Lots of great set pieces
- Stealth is rewarding and fun
- Successfully mixes stealth, shooting, and survival horror
- Surface segments are more frequent and are still the highlight
- Good voice acting
- Feels fresh and unique
- Highly immersive
- Awesome sound design
- Human enemy A.I. can screw up at times
- Engine is poorly optimized, especially for ATi cards.
- Human models are still kinda creepy
- A few loose ends in the story
- Story might confuse newcomers at times
- I wish it were longer
The Bottom Line
Back in 2003, I moved to Russia for a time to help my sister with her children as she had a time demanding job. I ended up spending 4 years there, and in 2005 I picked up a recently released bestseller by the name of "Metro: 2033" by Dmitry Glukhovsky. I became an instant fan. The book had one of the most vivid and imaginative portrayals of the nuclear apocalypse, and its world was rich and detailed and like the best of Russian style sci-fi, it was philosophical, scary, and embraced the supernatural as well as the scientific. I immediately imported Metro: 2034 when it came out, and when I heard that they were making a game based on the series - I was ecstatic.
2010's Metro: 2033 was a diamond in the rough, it was true to Glukhovsky's universe and the themes of the book, it was incredibly atmospheric, had a great story, unique gameplay and once you tweaked it - the environments were gorgeous and it had some nice effects, even if the human characters looked pretty bad. However, the game was incredibly flawed. You were lucky if you could get it running stable and even then, framerate dips were inevitable and the limited graphics settings made it a nightmare. The stealth was also pretty much screwed, it had all the right mechanics - except for one fatal flaw that turned the mechanic sour, the fact that if you so much as exhaled near an enemy every enemy for an entire kilometer would immediately know where you were as if they were psychic, and this was a game that took the realistic approach to receiving bullets - that is to say just two can leave you bleeding to death and all it would take is one or two more to kill you dead, so Stealth was almost always encouraged.
But the good still outweighed the bad, and thankfully it became a sleeper hit and grew a cult audience that warranted a sequel. When Last Light was announced, I was ecstatic - especially when I heard that they had gotten Dmitry Glukhovsky's attention, and he now played a larger role in the development of the game by co-writing the story; mixing story elements from the original book Metro: 2033 and the upcoming Metro: 2035. So how did it turn out? Well, let's find out!
Now, if you are unfamiliar with the Metro series, here's the basic gist of things: The nuclear apocalypse has come and gone. What remains of humanity escaped into Russia's massive underground Metro, to forge a new life in fear of the mutant creatures and anomalies that terrorize the surface and the underground. Each station acts as its own state, and old ideologies are adopted to form 3 majour factions: The communistic Reds, the Neo-Nazi Reich, and the Spartan Rangers. The Rangers wish for peace in the metro, but the Reds and the Reich are at war, as they had been long before.
You play as Artyom, a young man who was merely a child when the bombs fell and while his mother was unable to escape into the Metro, he was spared and taken to the safety of Polis Station - the home of the Spartan Rangers. In the first game, you sought to destroy the menace of the Dark Ones, our evolutionary successors. However, it is too late when you learn that the Dark Ones wanted peace, and that they never intended to harm anyone - but fear got the better of Humanity. Yet this changed nothing, as Artyom used missiles from an old Soviet facility, D6, to destroy them.
Now, it is 2034 and the war between the Reds and the Reich is fiercer than ever, as they vie for control of D6. Artyom's friend Khan, a spiritual man who has more knowledge of the Metro's stranger aspects than anyone else, soon learns that one Dark One survived the bombs and that only it can bring peace to the Metro, and so Artyom must now try and find this Dark One - while overcoming the horrors of the Metro and the Surface alike.
At it's heart, Metro: Last Light plays very similarly to Metro: 2033, but does what a good sequel should do and improves on its weaknesses and strengths. Arguably the biggest update in my eyes is that the Stealth now works. I love Stealth, and since ammunition is still a scarce commodity (In fact, it's THE commodity in the Metro) and it still only takes a few bullets to fell you, stealth is encouraged and sometimes necessary - and now the enemies don't psychically find you out if you don't execute a very specific pattern, and you are given the option to do close up kills or knock out your victims if you wish to take a pacifistic route. The stealth is incredibly tense and satisfying, and the manipulation of light sources and the environment adds a layer of strategy to it all.
When you must enter a fire fight, the mechanics are all there and firefights can be quite intense, albeit very tough - but doesn't feel unreasonably brutal, even on the insanely hard Ranger Elite difficulty your death is the result of failing to adapt to the battlefield and outwit your enemies. Admittedly it's pretty easy to outwit them sometimes through the use of their glitchy A.I., which can be a noticeable problem in some scenarios - I have seen many an enemy get caught running into a wall for eternity. In fact, in one humorous instance - 17 foes (I counted, trust me.) got stuck in a door way and all started spinning like ballerinas. Oh god, I wish I had Fraps on to record it. It was actually kind of sad that I had to kill them to progress, they looked like they were having fun.
Anywho, there are plenty of weapons to take out your foes with and you can also buy attachments for your guns that in some cases, can actually transform a gun entirely. I carried with me a pistol with a stock, long barrel, and sight and was able to use it more or less as a long range carbine. You can carry 3 weapons at once, as well as up to 4 claymores, incendiary and fragmentation grenades, and throwing knives - the latter of which are extremely useful in Stealth situations. In a bind, you can also use military grade rounds (That for some reason start enemies on fire now.) with any assault rifle, but always remember that these bullets are literally your money, and should ONLY be used when dealing with bosses or emergency scenarios. Either way though, I recommend a stealthy approach with humans, and saving ammunition for mutants.
And hoo-boy, the Mutants are scarier, more numerous, more ferocious and uglier than before. Most of the mutants from the original game appear save for special mutants like the Amoebas and Librarians, and they've been upgraded. Watchmen now have larger packs, and are a bit smarter and if you thin a pack and see one running away, gun it down first. Seriously, stop shooting the ones attacking you to gun the runner - because he'll be back with a brand new pack soon enough. Demons also return and are still tough bastards, and worse - they can now pick you up and drop you, and they love to drop you into hazards or in front of enemies. There are also new Nosalasis variations that can cling to walls and shoot shockwaves that stun you and leave you vulnerable, and there are two new slug like mutants that dwell in the water (But will gladly chase you out), the first variety being acid spitting "Shrimps" (Though they look more like leeches.) and "Reptillians" that have strong melee attacks, acid spit, and they are also extremely armoured and can be tough to take down if you don't know how to exploit their weak spot.
Health does regenerate, which is a bit of a bummer, but due to how little health you have and the fact that it does regenerate fairly slowly - it doesn't make you feel overpowered like it does in a lot of games.
The surface segments are also more frequent, and just like before - they are the highlight of the game. The games mechanics are different on the surface, and the games survival elements are now in full swing. The air on the surface is not breathable, and thus you must wear a gas-mask, and the gas-mask is a fragile component. Not only can it crack to the point of being rendered useless, you have to worry about being blinded by blood, muck, acid, and such as well as making sure you explore and scavenge for filters, which are precious and necessary for the gas mask to work. You also must avoid hazards such as toxic puddles, ghosts, areas that disable all electronic items, and so on - and the atmosphere in this segments is so desolate, haunting, and frightening that your heart will be fiercely pounding and your senses on high alert.
The game does have a linear progression, however it isn't always on rails like most modern "shooters" and does allow exploration in each level, which is highly rewarding and encouraged - even if it's almost always risky, but the risk/reward factor is high. The structure of the game most reminds me of the Half-Life games, and believe me when I say that Metro: Last Light is almost as good as Half-Life. And y'know the one-line summary above? I mean it. And yes, that means I'm favouring it over even the superb BioShock and its recent and superb third installment, Infinite. I may be biased due to my love of the series and the abundance of horror and stealth, but this game blew me away. It knew how to be a good sequel, and revealed that once most of the flaws of the original were brushed away - a masterpiece lay beneath.
It helps too that the story is superb, but to say much about it other than what I said above would be spoilers. But it is very memorable and there are many moments, characters, and sections that will linger with you.
The biggest complaint I have for the game is that the engine still needs work. It can look absolutely amazing at times, especially the Surface environments, and the lighting and special effects are some of the best around, even if Humans are still a bit creepy looking; though thankfully aren't the screwed up Marionette horror beasts from the first game. But unfortunately while the Engine is at least better out of the gate than it was when Metro: 2033 came out, it is poorly optimized and performance issues abound - especially if you have an ATi card. nVidia users will have less issues, but I tested the game on my new Titan rig as well and even it had some majour flubs technically even if it ran faster and had less lighting corruption than on my ATi rig.
At the end of the day, Metro: Last Light is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Games of this quality don't come along often, so dig in. Even if you haven't played Metro: 2033 or read the books, get it. You won't regret it.
Windows · by Kaddy B. (777) · 2013