Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC // Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform Played: PlayStation 3
Developer: 4A Games // Publisher: Deep Silver
The Metro series is inspired by the critically acclaimed novel series of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhousky, in 2002. Metro: Last Light is the sequel to the original 2010 released game Metro 2033, which was based entirely on the first novel in Glukhousky’s series. Last Light is different from the original game, as it takes inspiration from the book series and even Glukhousky himself helped with the game’s narrative, but it has no relation to the second novelisation. Developed by 4A Games, Last Light improves on many of the original’s shortcomings, providing an excellent experience that fans will enjoy. Metro: Last Light is a first person shooter that dares to be different. Although it doesn’t succeed 100% of the time, when it does these moments make Last Light stand out amongst its competition.
Metro: Last Light continues the tale of series protagonist Arytom, who, after the events of Metro 2033, is now a part of the Rangers- the protectors of the Metro. 4A Games has created a narrative that is intriguing, eye opening and easy to comprehend, for the most part. The game’s first two thirds weave together a narrative that continuingly keeps you in suspense, whilst creating a story that is easy to understand, which was something 2033 lacked. The problem comes when the story steps away from the realistic dark toned world Metro provides, instead deciding to focus on the supernatural elements that were introduced in 2033. I found these were clearly the weakest sections of the experience, removing the elements that made the majority of the story so special.
These elements were the extremely brutal world that has arisen, since humans moved to the Metro system. Last Light does an outstanding job on fleshing out the various aspects of the world, introducing ideas such as themed Metro stations. Where did all the actors, artists and culturally gifted go when they went underground? Where did all the criminals hide out? These questions are answered and revealing the different personalities each station represents is like travelling through different cities. They all have their own beliefs, making the world presented quite relatable.
One key aspect to the world of Metro is war. The ideal of war is an element the Metro universe focuses upon,; since the world was destroyed by nuclear war creating the very situation humanity finds themselves in today. In the world of Metro, Communists and Nazi’s both exist and these Factions continue to fight below ground, as they did above. The sense of humanity losing their way is a strong theme, one that hits home during the game’s 10 hour narrative.
The best way to experience Last Light is to methodically make your way through the game’s narrative. Stop and listen to the conversations happening around you, explore as much of the world as possible and allow yourself to invest time into appreciating the finer details of the world. It really is a thing of beauty. I remember watching an old man performing a puppet show for a group of children, using shadow puppets, watching as his hands took the shape of many animals we would easily recognise. However, these kids live in a different world; when we see a bird, they see a flying monster. Watching the children continuously guess the wrong creature, shocked at the fact these animals existed, not only tugged at the heart strings but really made me about think how dark this world has become when even children lose their innocence. This conversation could be completely missed, but those willing to sacrifice time into appreciating what Last Light offers, will be greatly rewarded.
Artyom himself is an odd character in design. He is, by nature, a silent protagonist. However, his personality is greatly showcased in loading screens when he resights an inner monologue of the journey taking place. However, during the game itself he is completely silent, never replying to characters and never expressing emotion. It is a very unique situation, since the character’s voice exists. Despite Artyom’s silence, voice acting throughout the game’s NPC cast is miles ahead of the original game, adding a greater variety of voices and a better ensemble performance all around. Though kids have never sounded creepier and the game’s background audio at times can have very poor sound quality, the overall production eclipses what 2033 was able to accomplish.
Last Light‘s greatest improvements come from combat. Movement and shooting feels refined, smoother and more responsive. All the issues I previously had in 2033 seemed to be corrected; weapons finally feel powerful and the clunky combat has been removed. These refinements make gameplay an absolute pleasure. These are apparent when playing the game in a stealthy fashion. With the added control, skilled players are able to assess the situation and get the upper hand without battling with the mechanics. This can be done by putting out flames, unscrewing light bulbs and shooting out skylights. It is a small addition that I appreciated.
Stealth situations is where Last Light will offer the most exhilarating experience. Ducking in and out of cover, silently taking out soldiers, taking out enemy lights all while listening to their every word as you hide in plain sight was something that never got stale. Though Last Light makes these stealth sections easier, when a “guard” is doing his job by standing in a corner with his face towards the wall it does make you wonder if the game is holding your hand. Though the option to go in guns blazing is definitely optional, silent players will enjoy the challenge of staying unnoticed. When discovered the AI runs around like a headless chicken until they finally find your location. They don’t provide much of a tactical challenge when alerted, making stealth gameplay the preferred method.
The problem is these stealth sections against human AI are what the game does best. When you are challenged with monsters instead, these stealth options are thrown out the window. Monsters will always detect your locations no matter how silent you become. These frenzied beasts quickly surround you and turn Metro‘s unique gameplay into your typical shooter. Last Light also tries to offer variety by adding scorpion monsters that must be killed Alan Wake style, by using light to hurt them before moving in for the kill. The problem is the AI of the monsters only has two things on their mind, run and attack. The scorpions will constantly run into your light without hesitation, while the other creatures will run into incoming fire no matter what. These sections alter the tactical side of combat, originally encountered, into a typical guns-blazing spam of gun-fire. You’re not rewarded for skill, rather how quickly you can hold down the fire button.
Last Light also offers the ability to modify weapons, allowing you the chance to purchase features such as scopes and attachments. In the Metro universe ammunition that was manufactured before the nuclear war is considered currency due to its effectiveness and rarity. The system is a cool addition, but it becomes an afterthought. There are only a few options for each section, limiting the amount of variety available. With most of these weapon additions found on enemies throughout the game, I never found the need to use this feature more than a couple of times.
Exploring the underground tunnels of Last Light is truly a memorable delight. The attention to detail throughout the Metro tunnels is superb and the desperate atmosphere the world presents, kept encouraging me to explore every inch of the dark and decrepit landscape. Scourging for that extra ammunition for upcoming battles, finding the collectible diary entries Artyom writes along the way or the extremely valuable air filters that will save you during your time in the wasteland, they all become second nature as you become invested in the world. Last Light makes you feel this desperation to survive, though exploring may cost you a few bullets, it becomes a risk reward system that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The final third of the game was not only let down story wise, but it also lacked exploration. Without spoiling the game’s conclusion, a majority of the game winds up taking place above ground. Whenever Artyom is above ground he must wear a gas mask, using the filters you discover throughout the game to provide fresh air. Last Light allows players to see how much air is left in their filters more clearly than in 2033, but this reliance on a constant timer sacrifices exploration. With the constant threat of running low on filters, I never felt like I could truly explore the creepy post apocalyptic environment, which was disappointing. These areas provided a sense of uneasiness that I found intriguing, the intense atmosphere providing goose bumps. I understand the constant threat of death above ground is meant to be a serious issue, but when your enemies are nothing more than monsters, A.K.A. bullet sponges, it feels like the risk reward system is thrown out the window.
Metro: Last Light‘s environments look beautiful, the wastelands look stunning and the lighting effects throughout the destroyed city look gorgeous – even on the console version. However, this same quality is lacking from the character’s throughout the Metro. The lack of attention to detail when it comes to characters is striking in comparison. When you decide to scan your area and see the same character model about 7 times it is quite odd. Once I even saw the same character model located next to each other, which is something you wouldn’t expect from a game that provides so much detail in the environments around you.
The game also suffers from some noticeable freezes due to the game’s insatiable appetite to auto save, these few seconds continue throughout the experience and did cost my life a handful of times. Though I haven’t dealt with game freezes requiring a restart, I have heard the console version suffers from them, especially the PlayStation 3 version.
Metro: Last Light is what we should come to expect from sequels. In an industry where the annual release or the half-baked next chapter has become ever-present, 4A Games should be applauded. Metro 2033 did a good job at setting the world of Metro in motion, but it is Last Light that has been able to build upon the world and flesh out what could definitely be one of the most intriguing franchises going forward.
Though Last Light cannot stand amongst some of the AAA first person shooters, such as Halo, Call of Duty or Battlefield, in terms of quality, it provides a fresh, unique journey, for those seeking a shooter outside the normal set-piece riddled movie-blockbuster, most shooters have come to provide.
Metro: Last Light is a must buy for fans of the original, but also a sequel that can change the opinion of those who found 2033 unfavourable. The world of Last Light is not for the faint of heart, but the experience inside the Metro is one not forgotten.
+ Refined shooting mechanics
+ Exceptional attention to detail
+ Gorgeous environments
+ Better than Metro 2033
– Supernatural elements hold back the narrative
– Final third of the game
– Questionable AI