Metro: Last Light Game Review
In Post-Apocalyptic Russia, borscht eats YOU! Metro Last Light is the sequel to the 2010 game Metro 2033 which is all based on a novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky.
Originally called Metro 2034, its name was changed after publisher Deep Silver acquired the game from THQ which had gone bankrupt since the previous game, which lead to a very questionable business move for the release of this game that I will talk about later in the review. I have not played the first game in this series and I’m not sure why.
If you know me, I have a huge fascination with Russia and Eastern Europe and since this game was made by Ukrainians and Russians with the same setting, I should have checked out the Metro series sooner.
Metro Last Light is pretty much what I expected Fallout 3 to be. I am not a big fan of Fallout 3 at all which is blasphemous to some people, but when I played Fallout 3, I was expecting a post-apocalyptic shooter which is not what it is at all. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not for me. Metro, on the other hand, is the post-nuclear war shooter that I had been wanting. This game has been called like a cross between Silent Hill and Fallout but I found it to be more like a cross of FEAR 2 and Fallout. It mixes FPS action with survival horror and does it quiet well. Put on your gasmask, we’re diving into this review.
Set in Russia in the year 2034, humanity lives crowded and dying in the massive Moscow metro. Subway stations are now makeshift cities and fortifications, the few working subway trains are the only forms of transportation, and the dark tunnels hide mutated life evolved from the nuclear war that made life on the surface uninhabitable to humans. The surface is now populated with monstrous beasts and other things considered to be unnatural. On top of that, humans are constantly at odds with each other in the Metro, trying to go to war with each other over the last bit of resources.
You play as Artyom, a member of the Spartan Rangers, an elite military force that tries to police and keep peace in the Metro. In the previous game, Artyom nuked a mysterious surface dwelling race known as The Dark Ones and there are now reports that there is still one of these beings left. On the mission, Artyom and the Dark One, which is just a child, both get captured by one of the warring factions. Artyom must now escape and complete his mission to find out the secret to this last Dark One and survive the hellish world Earth has become.
In terms of setting, Metro is amazing. The world this game is set in is extremely dark and oppressing as life in a subway system would be. The majority of mankind is destitute or dying and it brings out the worst in humanity. You really get that uncomfortable feeling of this is what life would be life if this really happened.
The story itself is good and comes together well at the end but there are long stretches of time in the game where the story isn’t really moved along at all as you’re just trying to make your way from one area to another.
And there are other times where I was wondering ‘why am I here and what does this have to do with anything?’ But this isn’t too big a deal as it never gets in the way of the gameplay. The game just seems to spend more time immersing you in the setting as opposed to the story. You may take that as a good thing or a bad thing. Most of the male characters are interesting and well acted, especially a guy named Pavel who because a friend of yours. Artyom himself is a semi-silent protagonist though. He talks during the intermissions between levels as he writes in a diary but he never actually talks in the missions. I don’t understand why they chose to do this. I’m not a fan of the silent protagonist in games like this. This then leads me to the female characters…
This is not a game you’re going to be bringing up in discussions women being positively portrayed in video games. 1) The game sports the most realistic and graphic nearly nude lap dance I’ve ever seen in a video game. It’s optional but it’s there and most likely you’ll pay money to see it at least once. In terms of context, it makes sense because this scene happens in a brothel while you’re trying to spy on somebody. It just makes you feel like you’re suddenly in a Duke Nukem game for a minute. 2) The character of Anna. She is the only female in this game that has any real character and it’s not done so well. When you first meet her, she flat out doesn’t like you, and then you don’t see her for a long time. When you finally do see her again, she’s happy to see you for some reason. Mind you, there was zero character development in that gap of time. Then a level later, she basically makes you have sex with her and then you don’t really see her again till the end of the game. She was basically there for a boob slip and a non-explicit sex scene. Now I’m no prude. I have no problem with nudity and sex in video games but it has to have purpose. Had this relationship had more build up and context, I wouldn’t be making a big deal out of this but the way Metro goes about it is borderline exploitive. The Witcher and Mass Effect series did it sooo much better. If you don’t care how games go about portraying their women, then ignore my little rant here.
The game is around 8 to 10 hours long depending on the difficulty you are playing on and the difficulty makes a big difference in this game.
There are a lot of levels. 31 to be exact but the levels themselves are short. While some will feel longer than others, some you’ll find yourself thinking ‘that was it?’ The game does have two endings giving it some replay value and both the endings are well done and satisfying regardless if it’s the good or bad ending. The last level is also pretty damn epic. While the story of Metro is good, it will constantly be the setting that seems more interesting, for me at least.
The core of Metro is like most FPS games so if you’re a veteran of such games, you won’t have too much trouble. It’s all the equipment you have is where it gets interesting. Your guns are not the only things you’ll be carrying on you through the tunnels and wastelands. You’ll have a headlamp, lighter, battery charger, NVGs, med kits, and most importantly your gasmask. They all serve their purposes and you’ll find yourself having to use them throughout the game but everything has limitations. The gasmask isn’t just something you slap on and you’re good to go. You’ll have to keep an eye on your watch while wearing it as the air filter has to be replaced every five minutes or so. The lens of your mask will also get dirty and you will have to manually wipe it off the mud and blood from time to time. Ammo conservation is also very important especially on the higher difficulties.
While finding ammo when fighting human enemies isn’t too much of a problem, long periods of time where you face non-human enemies is where you’ll find yourself starved for bullets.
Mutated enemies do not go down easy, not even human enemies without well placed shots. On the high difficulties it is imperative that you exercise stealth by staying in the shadows and taking out lights sort of like in Splinter Cell. If you remain undetected in the dark, the AI is laughably stupid and you’ll be able to get so many unrealistic unnoticed kills. However, if the enemies are fully alerted to you, they become much smarter and do put up a good fight. That stealth trick only works for the human enemies by the way. Monsters are best avoided if possible as fights with them can lead you to literally fighting down to your last bullet.
If you like your guns unrealistic and crazy, then you’re going to be disappointed. Most of the weapons are jury-rigged old Soviet weapons but they are customizable and satisfying to use. You really feel the punch of these guns. A lot of the guns have a magazine where you can clearly see how much ammo you have left which leads you to using your HUD less (which is already limited). You also have secondary weapons like throwing knifes, grenades, and mines. When you’re at a major settlement, you can buy weapons and supplies at various shops. You pay with military grade ammo. Bullets are this game’s currency which I found interesting. You can even use your money in your guns if you find yourself in a pinch. They do more damage than regular bullets but you are literally shooting money away so this is to be avoided this. Not that it matters much. Most of the time I found it better just to pick up a stray weapon during my travels than spend the money on a new one at the stores. You have no health gauge and it is based on how much red and blood is on the screen like many shooters these days. Artyom can regenerate health if he stays in cover but it happens very, very slowly. You are best using your med kits.
Many of the levels are fairly linear but then again, you are going through subway tunnels so they’re supposed to be. There is some limited exploring that can be done but it never takes you too far off the main path. Some invisible walls and the inability to climb over waist high structures do not help when trying to find cover. That is one thing modern shooters should take away from Call of Duty. The surface areas are a different story. Surprisingly, the dark, claustrophobic areas of the Metro are less scary than the open, bright, surface of nuked out Moscow. That is mainly because out here almost everything is trying to kill you, including the air. You’ll encounter beasts that are nearly unkillable and hazards that will really make you watch where you step. The weather changes radically, being sunny one moment then suddenly you find an acid rain storm is bearing down on you with high winds. This whole time you must keep an eye on how much air you have to breathe. If you’re too busy to look at your watch, keep an ear out for Artyom’s breathing which becomes more labored as the clock runs out. This isn’t the scariest game I’ve played but I was surprised how on edge the surface levels made me feel. Not once did I feel safe on the surface till I was back in the Metro.
Last thing I will talk about is the Ranger mode. This was advertized as the ‘true survival horror mode’ and to true way to play the game.
This was a DLC available ONLY if you pre-ordered Metro Last Light. So if you didn’t pre-order the game, you’re out of luck if you wanted to play the highest difficulty. Not to mention, it would cost a bit extra. Supposedly, this is THQ’s doing, not Deep Silver’s and for some reason due to legal red tape they couldn’t undo this when they acquired the license. Maybe they’re going release the DLC for free in the future but right now, you could only get it through pre-order which is bullshit. You should not have to pay extra for something that should be a part of the main game. If you see another business practice like this in the future, do not pay into it. It is unacceptable and the only way for these game companies to get the message is by hitting them in their wallets by not paying for crap like that.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND:
Metro Last Light is one of the best looking games I’ve seen on the Xbox 360 this year. Easily ranks with Crysis 3 and Bioshock Infinite in terms of visuals and obviously if you want the best visuals, play it on PC. Do I even need to say that anymore? What steals the show are the wastelands of Moscow. They are hauntingly beautiful with burned out buildings, cars, roads, and mutated wild life taking it back. You can see famous Russian landmarks throughout these levels and I’m far more impressed with these ruins than the ones seen in Fallout 3. The weather effects add to the detail of this poisoned Earth. The Metro’s look beautiful as well with excellent lighting effects. The character models all look good though there are some repeating character models here and there.
The sound design is very noteworthy as it greatly adds to the horror aspect of the game. There is nothing more terrifying than walking around in a grassy field on the surface, hearing something roaring in the distance and something moving in the grass around you.
I found myself saying ‘OH GOD, WHAT IS THAT!?’ many times due to the excellent sound design in this game.
The voice acting uses pretty much every Russian voice actor out there right now. If you’ve played many Call of Duty games, you’ll hear some familiar voices. If you’re extra hardcore and want a truly immersive game, play through the game with the Russian language audio selected. It’s like playing a foreign film, though trying to read subtitles while shooting at things is not so easy. The music is fitting but mostly just there with a light Russian folk feel to it. It fits the depressing tone of this world.
Overall, Metro Last Light is an enjoyable post-apocalyptic shooter. It can be a very immersive experience and a challenging one depending on the difficulty you play it on. Like I said, this is the game I expected when I played Fallout 3. If you’re a fan of such shooters, definitely check it out. If you’re expecting something closer to Fallout, then you will be disappointed as it doesn’t have much to offer in terms of exploration that Fallout had. If you liked the FEAR games, I suggest also giving this a try. Considering how it differs depending on the difficulty, and different endings it defiantly warrants more than one play through. I just hope whatever they do next with the franchise doesn’t involve paying for more extra game modes. Thank you for reading! Keep a look out for my next review which will be for the game Remember Me.
- Excellent combat
- Great and immersive setting, good story
- Difference difficulties and endings give replay value
- Ranger mode BS
- Short, linear levels
- Limited exploration