Metro Last Light is not your standard FPS affair. This is not a run-and-gun game. Rather, it rewards slow, patient and methodical play. While there is certainly enough action and bullet slinging to satisfy your adrenaline cravings, Metro Last Light’s greatest strengths lie in its details and its small, quiet moments.
Metro Last Light – Remarkable Adventure
Metro Last Light is based upon the world created by author Dmitry Glukhovsky and is the sequel to Metro: 2033, released in 2010. Metro Last Light takes place in an apocalyptic vision of Moscow; mankind having destroyed itself in a nuclear war 20 years ago. While Last Light stands on its own story well enough, it will be infinitely more enjoyable to those familiar with 2033 as you are reintroduced to characters you met in the first game. That said, the varied endings of 2033 don’t come into it here; Metro Last Light simply assumes players chose the ‘bad’ ending of 2033 and wiped the dark ones out. In Metro: Last Light, Artyom is sent on a mission to investigate reports that a dark one is still alive, somewhere is the ruins of Moscow, and to kill it. Things quickly take a turn for the worse and the resulting game is a remarkable adventure through the ruins of Moscow.
Combat – Improved, but not Brilliant
It should be stated from the outset that developer 4A Games have made significant improvements to the game since last time around. If you played 2033, you will remember a game that was ridiculously and unfairly hard. I’m not talking about Dark Souls kind of hard, which was finely balanced and brilliantly tuned. I’m talking about stupidly, unfairly hard. Luckily, 4A have learned from their mistakes and, although the game retains much of its difficulty, the player now feels equipped to deal with whatever nasties are thrown his way.
4A tightened up on this point, Metro Last Light could have been one of the FPS greats.
Last Light’s weapons come in the familiar shotgun/assault rifle/sniper moulds, although there are a couple of exceptions. Each weapon has different attributes for damage, accuracy and stopping power, and they feel different enough that it’s worth trying each one out; and they each come with their own advantages and disadvantages. A personal favourite of mine, the double-barrelled shotgun, for example is slow to reload but can knock back enemies with each shot. Each weapon can be modified with silencers, scopes, barrels, and stocks to increase their usefulness.
Metro Last Light – Stealth
Metro Last Light doesn’t really encourage the player to tackle enemies head on in a bullet-fest. Rather, you are given the much more effective option of using stealth. You can flip fuses, shoot out lights, and extinguish flames to give yourself the advantage. You also have the option to knock-out, rather than kill human enemies although this seems to have little bearing on the outcome of the story. The best thing about using stealth rather than just blasting your way through is that you get to overhear the conversations of your enemies – soldiers bitching about their officers, for example, which really helps to add to the immersive quality of the Last Light.
It’s in the Little Things
This, I think, is where Metro Last Light strengths lie. And, they are much better appreciated when not fighting anyone. They are in its details, the environment and the atmosphere. 4A have done an amazing job at creating a world that feels real and lived in. Below ground, in the city’s metro tunnels, humans have come together in small clusters to seek out an existence. These small towns and cities are a pleasure to explore and taking your time to do so really adds to the experience of the game. The noises of people laughing and arguing and going about their day-to-day lives really create a feeling of safety and hope that is starkly contrasted with the outside.
Outside of these towns, danger lurks around every corner of the metro. The combination of brilliant lighting and use of sound create an environment that is both fun and terrifying to explore. You might be forced to divert from the main metro tunnel in search of a power breaker and find yourself in the middle on a dark, creepy, spiders nest – your only source of light is your ever faltering torch and you can hear the scuttling of giant spiders somewhere in the darkness. It is at moments like this that Metro Last Light becomes a truly frightening affair. I have to admit I jumped out of my skin at several points during the game.
Although much of the game is spent down in the dark, claustrophobic metro system, you do get to adventure above ground, too. The contrast between the cramped metro, and the wide open, bright, city of Moscow is brilliantly done. It’s a strange thing, but you instantly notice the weather when you’re above ground because it’s, obviously, absent when you are in the metro. Moscow has thawed a little since 2033. The snow and ice have been replaced by boggy marshland. Sun pierces and clouds and wind and rain come lashing down. Post-apocalyptic Moscow is actually rather beautiful.
One of the side effects of a nuclear war is humans cannot live above ground. When you are outside, you don your gas-mask – its filters have to be regularly replaced in order to keep Artyom breathing. As your filter runs out, Artyom’s breath becomes more and more laboured, giving you the clue to change the filter. This is a very simple mechanic yet works brilliantly in giving the player yet another consideration when exploring the ruins. Should you explore that house in search of more ammo, or rush past to reserve your filters? Added to that the need to recharge your flashlight and night-vision goggles regularly and this quickly becomes a game about reserving resources to survive.
The Evils of DLC Strike Again
Unfortunately, most gamers will not appreciate this aspect of the game. On ‘normal’ the game’s combat difficulty is balanced fairly well, but resources such as ammo and filters are too readily available. On ‘hard’, the game reduces the resources available but raises the combat difficulty level substantially. Controversially, 4A have included another gameplay mode – ‘ranger’ – which is advertised as ‘the way it’s meant to be played.’ Ranger mode takes away the HUD altogether (which is already very limited), further decreases availability of resources, and increases combat difficulty. Ranger mode is only available to those who pre-ordered the game, or those willing to pay an extra $5. As downloadable content goes, this seems a new low. How can something that is ‘the way it is meant to be played’ be an additional extra?
Metro Last Light is a graphically impressive, immersive, thoughtful shooter. Although its combat mechanics are not as refined as other shooters, this is a game worth playing. This is a game made special by its attention to detail – from wiping your gas-mask clear of mutant blood, to exploring the wreckage of an aircraft. These small moments make a game that is a welcome change of pace from your CoDs and your Battlefields. Very enjoyable.
Metro Last Light: The Good
– visually stunning
– incredible attention to detail
– let down by some poor AI
– some performance issues, such as texture pop-in.
8/10 A superb game let down slightly by some poor combat. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it.