Metro: Last Light Review

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Misc Info

Developer: 4A Games

Publisher: Deep Silver

Size: 8.7 GB

Engine: 4A Engine

Difficulty: Normal

Metro: Last Light is the eagerly awaited sequel to Metro 2033 by 4A games.

I myself am very familiar with Metro 2033. I have completed the game a total of 8 times across all difficulties. Metro 2033 had a certain magic to it that other games didn’t have. Originally based on a book (Metro 2033[1]), The game was a melting pot full of excellently thought out ingredients that each complimented each other in a way that made it stand out from other AAA FPS game titles.

Now that Metro: Last Light has been released I was only too eager to pick it up and see if the sequel could live up to my expectations set in place by the first game.

Gameplay

If there is one thing I really love about the Metro games, its the way in which first person is handled. So many interesting features and nuances combined with the general weighted feel of the equipment and environment interaction outline exactly the kind of FPS experience that I enjoy.

Last Light maintained the excellent first-person experience that the first game delivered while adding some new features and even going as far as to progress some of the existing features to reflect the progression in the series’ timeline.

The first part of the gameplay that I really enjoyed was the watch. In last light the watch provides a 24 hour digital clock of real time which is a simple but unbelievably effective feature. In addition the watch also provides a timer which helps to keep track of how long each individual gas mask filter lasts on the surface and a blue light indicator that tells you when you are either concealed in shadow (Light off) or visibly within the light (Light on). Overall that is three new features, each lending to the game’s immersion, that have all stemmed from adding a visible watch to the main character’s wrist. This is an excellent display of a trait that I really like from 4A which is the ability to get so much out of such a small element of the gameplay. One watch, three new features, all of which work together to push the premise of the game forwards.

While I did certainly prefer the mechanical watch from Metro 2033 I feel that the digital watch was a needed change to help make Last Light’s experience unique.

MetroLL_1080p_8.bmp
Hardly a Rolex but Last Light’s digital watch was simple and effective.

Other features such as wiping your gas mask clean (a new feature) or pumping the pneumatic guns all add a real sense of practicality to the gameplay which only goes to lend itself to the hands on post-apocalypse experience that Metro games deliver. In addition its the small features like this that spice up the Metro FPS experience in a way that makes for a refreshing break from shoot, reload, shoot, reload.

The progression of gameplay was linear in some places but each level offered multiple ways to progress for the most part. There were also some areas that you could explore of your own accord provided you had the guts to do so. Later on in the game there is an entire section where for the first time in the series, you are left alone on the surface and you have to fend for yourself. It isn’t explained to you that this is going to be the case either as you are a ranger and it is expected of you, it just kind of sets in once you are on the surface. That sudden realisation of being alone in an overly dangerous post-apocalypse environment sent chills down my spine.

Metro: Last Light seemed to make extensive use of a player’s fear. Using spider webs, monster sounds and isolation from companions to dissuade players from entering unexplored areas was really prominent and it gave the game an overall different flavour which while terrifying, was an excellent direction for the game to take.

My only gripe with the game play would be the ending mission. While it certainly did fit the context of what was going on in the story, the guns blazing ending where you have to pick up a minigun and mow down the onslaught of opponents really felt like a rush to finish the game. The game is still fantastic, its just that the ending felt like a bad finish after such an engrossing experience.

Overall the collective game play experience is cohesive and and invites the player to immerse themselves in the post-apocalyptic world that he game is set in. An overall great experience.

Graphics & Art Direction

Metro: Last Light is set in a post-apocalypse setting. However the way in which the Metro series chooses to portray its post-apocalypse vision really shows how brutal and unforgiving life in a post-apocalypse environment could potentially be. While still fantastic games I feel that other post-apocalypse themed titles such as Fallout 3/New Vegas portrayed a really naive outlook on the post-apocalypse setting. In the Metro games everything is scarce, situations are dire and there is a real sense of fear and death.

Metro: Last Light didn’t hold back on any of these artistic themes that were presented so well in the first game. During some parts of the game you are left without a companion for the first time in the entire series and the sense of isolation really helps to magnify the “death is around every corner” aspect that you would expect from a post-apocalypse art direction. Aside from implicit danger the environment both inside and outside of the metro showcases gritty, worn down and roughed up environments.

metro-last-light-general-screenshot-1

One thing that I find really interesting in the Metro games is the exploration of ghosts and remnants of the past. The fact that most of these ghosts can only be seen through the shining of your torchlight, and the visions that the ghosts give you if you come into contact with them is extremely powerful and give a real sense of contrast between the wasteland you are actually in and the world that was there before the bombs fell. In essence thats the element that sets metro

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The cutscenes in this game are extremely poignant and caused me to make a real emotional connection to the game.

There is one part in Last Light where you enter a plane and you experience a vision that shows the path of a plane crashing during the nuclear strike. That scene in particular was incredibly powerful in its enforcement of tragedy. When this scene was occurring I felt that it really put into context the horror people must have experienced watching the world literally blow-up around them. The planecrash is not simple either, the cockpit glass is broken from the impact of the nuclear missile and small chips of debris fill the cockpit. [2]

Music & Soundtrack

The music in Metro Last Light was extremely reminiscent of the music in Metro 2033, some of the tracks have even be re-used and to great effect. The music in both games was composed by Alexei Omelchuk and I have to say he has done an excellent job. The music is not always melodic but it has managed to really pull out and squeeze every last drop of emotion from the gameplay and cutscenes. One of my favourite instances of music in particular was used in both Last Light and 2033 and it really does sum up the Metro experience. Official title is unconfirmed but the fan-titled “Destiny Friend” is a truly moving piece of music.

Metro 2033 – Destiny Friend

The sound design in this game is also excellent. Nothing feels amateur and all of the sounds used really lend themselves to the games crushing realism that the game provides. It’s harder to pick out specific sounds but each individual sound byte sounds as though it is part of the Metro universe. Nothing sounds out of place.

Conclusion

Metro: Last Light is both a clear and deeply concise game that will entrance the player both as a standalone and as a sequel to Metro: 2033. Solid art direction, moving events and cutscenes help to forge a deep emotional connection with the game by presenting the player with a strong emotion that is extremely hard to convey in modern media: Tragedy. Rather than most games that try to give a roller-coaster of hope and despair, the Metro games just keep on crushing you with relentless despair in the form of cutscenes and in-game events. There is hardly any up and down in the story and the player moves from one tragic event to another and there is nothing that the player can do about it. It really reinforces the kind of environment that a post-apocalypse scenario would bring and as such I feel that both Metro games are probably the closest we are going to get to properly experiencing a post-apocalyptic world.

The game doesn’t stop at concise presentation of art either. The gameplay is rich, engrossing, innovative and provides an experience that many games simply cannot deliver. My only gripe is that the gameplay is short lived. I managed to get 5-6 hours out of my singleplayer playthrough and that was with extensive exploration. The game is so well executed and so powerful, but it’s only major fault is that it is simply too short. Its hard to think that something so tragic and full of despair can be so beautiful despite even the ending. Triple distilled perfection.

NOTE: I understand the atrocious conditions that the developers at Ukraine based 4A games had to endure during the making of this game. [3]

I hope that the guys at 4A are safe and well. I would like to thank them personally for making such an amazing game. I wish you all the best of luck in the future.

References

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Metro-2033-Dmitry-Glukhovsky/dp/0575086246 (Tested working 20/05/2013 14:15 GMT)

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRIurlkbQ2I&hd=1 (Tested working 20/05/2013 14:15 GMT)

[3] http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-05-15-jason-rubin-metro-last-light-is-the-triumph-of-an-underdog (Tested working 20/05/2013 14:15 GMT)

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