Game Review: ‘Metro Last Light’
Played on PS3
I never played Metro: 2033. Not sure why. It’s the kind of thing that should appeal to me. Metro: Last Light was also something that should really appeal to me, and something I am surprised I hadn’t been following more closely in the lead up to release. I was browsing for something – still a few weeks away to The Last of Us and I was hankering for something to play. I saw it on the shelf, the back looked interesting. Thought I would give it a whirl.
Oh what a good decision that was.
Set in the ruined world of Russia circa 2034, Metro: Last Light takes up a year after the previous game ended. I know this from reading the wikipedia article before I started playing but it turned out to be unnecessary as the game does a great job of recapping the action of the predecessor in the opening. You are Artyom, a survivor and ranger in the Metro system of the former Moscow. Each station is a self-contained and self-governing pseudo-city, with some warring between them, naturally.
Some are followers of new religion, some are true communists (the Red line, naturally) and of course there are Nazis because there are always Nazis and boy do I hate Nazis.
The game follows Artyom as he is thrust from terrible situation to terrible situation, all the while at the mercy of his fellow man, the strange and terrible Dark Ones (usually Watchmen, a sort of mutant hybrid wolf-lion-bear or the demons that fly around and are generally assholes) not to mention the environment itself. The world, devastated by nuclear war, is irradiated and deadly and as the player you must always wear a mask, and have a viable filter, in order to proceed through the above ground world of Moscow. This comes into play now and then, as filters degrade rapidly, need to be replaced often (a timer is available on your wrist) and often add only a minute or two to your breathing time.
It makes for quite the atmosphere as do the gorgeous visuals.
Part of the early game is set in the abandoned tunnels of the metro, between inhabited stations and pursued by mutated spider-things. There is little ambient light, in fact all that lights your way is a chargeable lantern, your comrades lantern and whatever you manage to set fire to along the way. The light is also your only real weapon against the beasts, as it burns and terrifies them. They run towards you from all sides, and your lantern only illuminates a small sliver of space before you. You turn, frantically tracking the beast, casting some light on it and watching as the skin burns and flakes off. But it isn’t dead yet and more are coming. You run towards it, burning it with your lamp and hoping the one you can hear behind you doesn’t gank you before you can spin around.
It’s one of the most terrifying sequences I have ever played in a game and highlights what makes Metro: Last Light truly special.
This is not Call of Duty. This is no run-and-gun actionfest. There is genuine tension and as much of the game relies on stealth and strategy as it does pumping hot lead into your enemies’ faces. Hit targets allow for headshots, giving you the option of silent take-downs that reduce your chances of being discovered – particularly by human enemies who are often better equipped than you. There is also the option to sneak directly up and either kill or knock-out the enemy. Sneaking through the Fourth Reich station was a much better option than gunning my way through and most of the gunplay comes from your encounters with Watchmen, those shaggy bear-dog-lions that hunt the surface world in packs of ten or more.
Metro: Last Light is a welcome surprise. Just when I was thinking I’d never get a new FPS that wasn’t Call of Duty levels of mediocre (seriously, they held a press conference about a fucking dog, and AI that allows fish to swim away from the player. The bottom of the barrel has been scraped people) a game arrives that is not only fucking gorgeous, but a true joy to play. The pacing is wonderful, it’s scary when it needs to be and grim the rest of the time. There is just enough action and suspense to be thrilling while still giving you time to really see what the nuclear war has done to humanity.
For added authenticity, do what I’ve done and set the language to Russian and turn on subtitles. You’ll miss some of the non-subbed incidental NPC chatter but it’ll drag you into the game in a really deep way.
It’s visceral, gorgeous and truly brutal.