Metro: Last Light – Sorta Review

I will admit right away that I haven’t played Metro 2033. The way it was described to me made it sound like it was not a thing for me. So why did I get Metro: Last Light? Basically, I had heard they had made some changes in the Metro sequel, and now it did sound it was a thing that would be for me.

Behind this door: Terrible things.

So I got a PC box from Gamestop, where all the boxes said “Limited Edition” and included that Ranger Mode DLC that everyone was complaining about before launch. Not that I have any plans of playing the Ranger Mode. I felt the game was crazy enough as it was, on Regular Mode, at Normal Difficulty. I don’t play games for the challenge, I admit that freely. But if you do want the Ranger Mode, you might consider getting a boxed copy “Limited Edition”, since it cost me no more than Steam’s digital edition without the DLC.

I was honestly not sure what I was getting myself into. I had read a couple of reviews, and watched Totalbiscuit’s WTF Is… of the game before I actually got it for myself, so I had a vague idea of what I was supposed to do and how things worked. Yet I had only just scratched the surface.

And loot.

Thar be spiders in them thar caves.

Upon completion of the game I was quite surprised at how short the credits-roll was. Metro: Last Light is long, and vast, and that it was created by such a small team just makes it all the more impressive. 4A Games have really put some fine work into this. It is not without bugs, even a few game-crashing ones (probably due at least in part to Fraps), but I heard the same could be said for its predecessor. Not that that’s exactly an excuse, but personally I found myself willing to forgive them.

That’s not to say there aren’t other annoyances, like the abundance of invisible walls, the occasional lack of clear directions (I’m glad Yahtzee’s ZP of the game tipped me off about shooting the tank wheels) and the rather dodgy voice-acting. Maybe I should have set the voices to Russian, but since not everything was subtitled, like background dialogue, I decided to endure the dodgy accents.

The whole introduction sequence is pretty fantastic.

I see people in there! Hi people!

And yet in spite of these issues I had a great time with the game, for several reasons.

I am not the type of player who always needs the bestest graphics and whatnot. I can be just as happy playing ugly pixel games as the newest artistic wonder, but I can’t deny that Metro: Last Light is gorgeous. It can often be hard to see properly, as the Metro tunnels are dark, but I was regularly impressed at what my light was showing me. They have really brought this world to life. And the surface is haunting in both its beauty and ugliness.

Just look out for demons.

It can be tempting to just stare when you’re up there.

I would also like to note that this game has some of the best fire effects I’ve ever seen. Especially on your lighter. I have no clue what fuel the thing ran on, but it never seemed to run out, and the smoke would curl up and be pulled towards drafts, and you can light torches and burn away cobwebs. And provide the little extra light you need to keep the spiderbugs away when they try to just ignore your headlight. Or perhaps ghosts will mess with your electronics, and suddenly the lighter is your only source of light…

But you have to put it away when reloading...

Yes, you can dual-wield the lighter with most guns.

And I greatly appreciated the little glimpses of civilisation you come upon. It was nice to see that people had adapted in the post-apocalypse, and it really felt like places where people lived. It was a nice touch that added a lot of flavour to the world. Okay, you can say they cheated on the world-building by basing the game off of a book-series, but I think they did a great job at bringing that world to life through visuals and audio.

The dancers seemed very agile.

I got to watch a whole variety show.

It’s also one of the most atmospheric games I’ve played. It would suck me in and hold me tight, and on three occasions it ramped up the tension so high that I actually had to quit and take a break because I was all “Nope. I can’t deal with this right now”. Things can get utterly terrifying at times, and in an impressive show of restraint, there is almost never any jump-scares. It’s just atmosphere as thick as pea soup, with brilliant use of light, shadows and audio cues.

It's called 'being scared out of my wits'.

Of course I had good reason to turn my light off.

When you’re not stumbling around dark tunnels (or the surface) in what feels like survival horror done right, you’re up against human opponents. You can choose to just shoot at everything you see, or try a stealthy approach. I usually started with stealth whenever I could, but I tended to get noticed part-way in and then had to shoot things as best I could. And if you’re not careful it’s easy to be overwhelmed and killed, at least in the latter half of the game. The stealth worked pretty well though, for the two reasons Yahtzee mentioned: You have an indicator on your watch that tells you whether or not you’re visible at all times, and there’s an audio cue if someone is about to notice you so you can duck into hiding if you’re fast enough. If that breaks your immersion, try to think of it as a sixth sense or something, since Artyom hardly seems like your average human being.

My watch confirms it.

They can’t see me up here.

Further adding to my enjoyment are the little touches.

The portable dynamo you carry that you can hand-pump to build up more charge for your headlight (and later your night-vision goggles). It adds an interesting extra bit of resource management, as you have to judge when it’s safe to take it out and crank out some extra power when navigating dark areas full of scary things.

Just to be sure.

Better charge up before the next dark place.

The gas mask, and the way it can get cracked. Having to change air filters. Wiping the mask manually when it gets covered with blood and grime. And I like that the watch keeps tabs on the filter and alerts you when you have to change, even if you can also hear Artyom’s breathing get heavier. If that makes me a casual whore, then so be it.

And self-cleaning.

That glove has to be super-absorbent.

The ammo as money mechanic. I’m sure this was taken from the books, but I really find it interesting. The really good ammo, the stuff from before the bombs hit, made by professional munition-makers, is the local currency in the Metro. You use it to buy anything you need, the few times you come across vendors. But if you’re in trouble, like I was a few times, you can also load it into your guns and fire it for a big damage boost. If you’re dead, you won’t be able to spend it anyway. I didn’t have to do this often on Normal, but a few times I was desperate enough that I saw no other option.

Little details.

Clever.

Now the protagonist is a curious case. He’s not-quite-silent. Whenever you’re playing or in cutscenes, he’s the perfect silent protagonist, but he talks on the loading screens, summing up his thoughts on the current situation. And he even writes journal entries during the missions. So why doesn’t he talk? He clearly has an established personality, and there’s no real role-playing to be had here. Not that it really matters too much, it’s just a bit curious.

So, yes, I recommend Metro: Last Light. If you want a shooter with horror elements that has an interesting story, a rich world, good gunplay, good stealth, and is just a bit different, then you might want to check this one out. Just be aware that it might terrify the crap out of you from time to time.

~Wulf

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Posted on May 30, 2013, in Games, Sorta reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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