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Metro Last Light Review: Post-Apocalyptia Never Looked So Good
Well it turns out I’ve been given clearance to go ahead and write a Metro Last Light review, and that is one hell of a treat, because I’ve had an brilliant time with this game and am eager to talk about it some more.
Metro is a very interesting game in that players not listening in or reading notes to soak up more of the story will definitely miss much of what 4A games is trying to show you.
My time with the PC version was for the most part unhitched technically and visually very impressive on maxed out settings. A few times my image would freeze but this was easily fixed by starting task manager and then bringing up the Metro window again.
Despite these small issues that occurred very infrequently throughout the approximately 10 hour campaign, the slightly easy default difficulty setting and the last section of the story, Metro:LL works in what it’s trying to do thanks to a compelling set up, eerily immersive atmosphere and the deep characters that litter this vast post-apocalyptic Russian metro system.
For those that never got the chance to play Metro 2033 (like me) the game does a good job at setting things up in the first cinematic. Following interactions and exposition from supporting characters weave the decisions of Artyom even further into the story and what he decided to do at the end of the previous game.
You are now a Ranger of the Order, the Order being just one of the three major factions that all vie for political and physical control of what’s left of this dilapidated and completely wrecked Russia. Your task is to wipe out a mysterious ‘Dark One’, intelligent creatures born from radiation and seemingly all obliterated in the previous game.
The story itself is very interesting and leads you up, down and outside the metro, supplying enough twists and mystique into what these Dark Ones actually are to keep you guessing up until the end. It wasn’t until the very, very last section of the game that I felt hard done by.
The payoff itself is well, a bit underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, the experience getting to the ending makes this game by far my favorite of the year, but I’m left with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth as to how everything ties up so… haphazardly. There are, however, twists during the story that had my jaw unhinged for a few minutes as I tried to piece together what the hell had just happened.
Part of why this is so impressive is that Last Light is not based upon a pre-existing piece of fiction, but uses Dmitry Glukhovsky’s world (author of Metro 2033 the book) to craft a separate, unique story.
You’ll still barter shopkeepers with Military Grade bullets (you also have the ability to load these bad boys into your guns for extra damage) and the pivotal gas mask returns to constantly keep you on your toes while looking for new filters as you raid the outstandingly immaculate surface of post-war Russia. But this is very much 4A’s game this time around; they are really weaving a story separate from the literary works here.
I love how bleak Metro: Last Light is, how far down everyone’s spirits have been shoveled into the ground. No one is safe and all smart survivors keep themselves guarded. The stories you can come across if you just stop and listen to the myriad of citizens in the Metro are riveting, disgusting and fascinating to say the least. Take your time to listen and you will be rewarded.
Even the notes that are littered throughout the levels, written in the form of Artyom’s thoughts about what is currently happening, add so much depth and at times even explain subtle things in the Metro that the unobservant player just might miss.
I can say with utter confidence that these notes and conversations – that are completely optional to come across – elevate and propel the game to the magnitude I see it achieving story-wise and atmospherically.
Another thing that makes this game so immersive is the lack of User Interface. Press M to bring up your compass in one hand, pointing to the direction of your objective, and your bullet shaped lighter in the other. This is all you need. You can, if playing on normal difficulty bring up a more obtrusive menu that shows how many bullets and grenades you have, but that sucks.
I played on Normal and then dabbled on Ranger difficulty, which is what the developer 4A Games has said the game is meant to be played on. Listen to me, play this game on Ranger mode.
It makes the game so freaking immersive that I had to play with the lights on because I was getting too scared; it also cleans up and makes human enemies much more difficult and less easy to abuse as they were on Normal. And irradiated mutants, beasts that were already hard on Normal, are nightmarish on Ranger, so steel yourself.
There is an invisible karma system that changes the ending depending on what kind of actions you chose to commit during the game. I got the bad ending, though there were times in which I didn’t even know I had a “choice” in certain situations. Whether this is by poor implementation or a design choice I do not know.
Do you want to sneak around levels, slowly unscrewing each light bulb and blowing out each lamp you see, listening into what the oblivious men around you are saying? Do it!
You can just as well take your Russian pre-war machine gun and blow everyone away (like you’ll have to do in some demanding action sequences with irradiated mutants above the surface) though when I did do this on a few occasions, I felt bored.
The human AI isn’t very alert on standard difficulty, as long as you’re crouched and away from any light sources, you can backstab or even side step every guard who gets in your way. Even more frustrating is when you choose to run-and-gun, the AI essentially turns to run and shoots at you, sometimes they call in backup, but almost always they will run and start shooting without any cover or care for their binary lives.
In direct contrast to this, when fighting aggressive mutants, they are really damn aggressive. These things will charge like you’ve stolen their babies and won’t stop mauling at you until your gas mask has been shattered.
I like how aggressive these monsters are, though there are times when swarms of them just keep coming out to attack, this can get to the point of being absurdly annoying. These things are hard to take down, but when you’ve downed the fifth one in a row, you’ll know how to.
Aesthetically, this game is a pure treat on the PC. Built on a propriety engine made by developer 4A, Metro: Last Light rivals BioShock: Infinite’s graphical capability though that is a little unfair considering Metro has a much bleaker and darker colour palate. As usual, you’re going to see a minor graphics hit on both 360 and PS3 consoles.
Shooting – not that I did much outside of mutant combat – is very solid across the board. Shotguns kick and pull away from you and hunting rifles have far reach and great stopping power. In Ranger mode you really need to rely on visual cues and guess work as to how many bullets you have left and can spare for a fight, which I really love.
An unfortunate thing to bring up is that Ranger mode was a pre-order bonus and has to be bought digitally for five bucks on top of your game purchase. Considering this was the mode the devs have recommend playing on for the full Metro experience, I find this a really unfair and idiotic way to make some more money. Taking away difficulty modes and charging for them is absolutely uncalled for and I hope a game never does this again.
Gameplay evenly spreads stealth, heavy mutant combat and smartly done on rail sections while deep within unexplored sections of the metro. Though my favourite times were the slow paced stealth segments and listening in to all the people talking in non-combat scenarios. Also, there is a strip club in this game. And you get a dance. Yeah. Hey, even guys in the Metro need some relaxation time.