We try to discover if Metro: Last Light has what it takes to live up to its predecessor.
By Patrick Lum on April 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm
Metro: Last Light is not a game that thrives especially on its systemic gameplay elements — at least outside of ranger difficulty. Largely, it’s a case of shoot this guy, don’t shoot that guy, crouch to avoid detection, maybe throw a knife at this guy’s head; wait half a minute to avoid enemy patrols, blow out the lights and keep to the darkness. There’s also an awful lot of sneaking up behind people and initiating instant-kill takedowns, too, when you’re not running around in the open with a shotgun shooting mutants in the head.
It’s solid and it works, but it’s not exactly all that innovative or unique. Instead, the most interesting part of Metro remains the actual experience, the atmosphere, of being in a deadly, post-apocalyptic world that is struggling deep below the remains of Moscow.
Developer 4A Games have managed to retain this incredible mix of claustrophobia and tension that pervades every single moment of the game. Our returning protagonist, Artyom, is rushing to find a single still-living Dark One as the various factions of the Underground prepare for a massive all-out battle over the D6 Bunker, a pre-war cache of military equipment and rations.
There’s a bunch of minor psychic creepiness and at one point (as in the E3 demo) you’ll have to wander onto a wrecked plane and have a crazy hallucination where you see the plane crash after the EMP shockwave of the nukes hit — but the bulk of my hands-on experience was spent dealing with underground Nazis and giant mutant spiders.
Metro 2033 was a game very sensitive to its difficulty setting, and this demo run was locked to regular difficulty, not ranger, so don’t take this as a final say on Last Light’s quality. But from what I played, it appeared to have lost the desperate ammo scarcity that was a key component of the first game’s overall tension. Military-grade ammunition remains the currency of choice underground, but with standard ammo so abundant, I never really needed to make the hard decisions of whether or not to shoot people with my cash.
So with the gameplay systems not really doing their best to support tension, it’s really up to the environments and sound design to bring their best efforts – and they really go all out, in every single aspect of the game, from the cramped tunnels of the metro to the radioactive ruins of the surface world. One thing I particularly want to point out is Metro’s absolutely fantastic station segments, which are incredibly effective at creating the illusion of a living, breathing – if severely dilapidated – world. Cramped living conditions create a dense soundscape filled with people talking, gentle guitar music, the hustle and bustle of people trying to live as best they can in these horrible, horrific times.
That’s not to say that the actual fighting, sneaking, and general gameplay are bad, as such. It’s just relatively, well, unremarkable, at least compared to Metro: Last Light’s true strength: creating an immersive, atmospheric environment that provides an intense, violent, crushing sensation of tension, of pressure, of fear and desperation. It’s a hell of a thing.