Being a little late to the game as Robert covered Metro Redux on the Xbox One when it came out almost two years ago and enjoyed his time with it, I only recently had the chance to sit down to these titles. Being just about as much as a scaredy cat when it comes to horror as a good portion of the team, I was a bit worried while settling into these but after going through both Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light? These have to be some of the best First Person Shooters that I’ve had a chance to sit down to in a long time.
While there are guns and there are explosions, Metro isn’t all about go to A, shoot everything in sight, go to B, rinse and repeat. Instead, these two titles that are inspired by Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033 are instead narrative heavy following the journey of Artyom as he travels away from his settlement in order to find a Ranger named Miller. Living underground in the Metro systems since a nuclear fallout twenty years prior, the paths are wrought with their own danger from mutant creatures to various groups of bandits, Nazis, and Reds that hold various sections. With dwindling supplies and increased attacks from a more powerful group of Mutants known as the Dark Ones, the journey both below and above ground will not be an easy one.
Separately, Metro 2033 and Metro Last light are both good experiences. Together though? Together these two titles are amazing as going right from the start of one to the end of the other is an experience that leaves a satisfaction that I have not felt in a long time. Normally finishing a great game, book, manga, or anime leaves that sense of emptiness or loneliness. Combined there was never a “when will it end moment” but instead “that was good”. Hell. That was very good. As mentioned I’m a chicken shit when it comes to Horror so I generally stick to the B level stuff because it’s funny more often than not and the cheese factor helps but the tensions created down in the Metro or even above in the snow covered poisonous air of Moscow was in a league of its own.
I’ve never played the originals so I don’t know how the Redux versions compare to those, and unfortunately my Brother who’s played all the above, only came in while I was finishing up Last Light and only got my commentary as I made my way through. That being said however, they both ran very smoothly and offer different styles of gameplay. Before choosing a difficulty, there’s the option to choose the more original Survival modes with limited ammo, limited air filters, hell, it’s a post-apocalyptic world and the bombs went off twenty years ago without much warning or preparations. Breathing any air from above will kill Artyom and others rather quickly. The limited resources sell the survival aspect as you never really know when, or if, you are going to find more. Added however for the Redux is the ability to switch over to a Spartan Mode that apparently creates a more First Person Shooter style over a Survival one. Not having originally played these? I went the survival route.
Gameplay is done in the First Person and is relatively linear. While the end goal is a specific location there is some leeway at times in how to get there. At times this leeway is almost a puzzle of sorts in order to figure out how to actually get there which becomes very tense when air filters are involved. Guns blazing is an option but with the limited ammo reserves it’s not that great of an idea. Sneaking up and using your ever trusty knife is an option but so are silencers and throwing knives. Any of these will do the trick but don’t miss because Metro implemented one of the more interesting features that I’ve seen for this style in a long time. If enemies are unaware, their guard is down. If their guard is down, their adrenaline isn’t pumping. They are easy to take out. Once the adrenaline starts pumping though things become much harder in order to finish what you started which can lead to some ammo depletion. When there isn’t that much to go around? That can be bad.
In regards to ammo and weapons that’s where Last Light does a better job at things than 2033. While 2033 was designed more as a survival horror than its sequel, it’s not the amount of ammo that can be picked up but how much ammo is required by the end of the game in order to take things down. It’s not unusual for the difficulty to increase, or even artificially ramped up by the end of a game. 2033 unfortunately followed a path in which the same enemies from earlier on now had more hit points and were harder to take down costing at times an obscene amount of ammo because the encounter was obligatory one. Last Light did a much better job at this as even nearer to the end the same enemies could be taken out in the same way with the same levels of ammo being used. Tougher enemies were just that, they were tougher and it flowed better in that respect.
In that regard though, enemy designs were interesting to say the least. There were a variety of Mutants and even Humans with their factions that needed to be approached in different manners. For simplicity, Humans could be boiled down into “normal”, Nazis, and Reds. The Nazis acted a bit differently than the Reds and had some differences in their armaments which could very be be noticed when trying to cross a bridge in which the two seemed to be in constant war over. And yes, the year is 2033. Crossing that bridge was something else as once either side noticed you all bets were off though there was thankfully more than enough ammunition in this particular case to go around. Amusingly enough there are two trophies in which I had neither. Make it through undetected and make it through with no one left standing. Apparently in the end I missed a few as I got caught sneaking around and had to gun my way out.
The shooting mechanics of both entries are identical with the same weapons and customizations available. Some of these didn’t seem like much at the time though after paying for some upgrades I came to realize that it may not have been the right decision for me. Upgrades come in laser sights, iron sights, and scopes in order to target enemies better. Others come in the form of extra clips, stability enhancers, or silencers. Playing around with these was interesting as Artyom can hold three weapons at a time but they could in fact be three of the same weapon with different customizations. This is entirely a personal choice though remember there’s the ammunition for that particular weapon to think about. Regardless of the chosen upgrades though the differences were noticeable especially when adding an actual scope as it limited the field of vision. The description at least did warn of this…
Along with weapons are other little survival tools such as a flashlight, a gas mask, filters, a lighter, and health packs. Electric charges don’t last very long and a hand crank is provided in order to juice up the batteries. This added a big something to the experience as it was another thing to be added. While the flashlight could work without it, it was dim and the question was always “is it safe to crank this right now?”. The reason for this is that a gun could not be held while pumping electricity into your light. Other light could come from the lighter which doubled as a cobweb removal system as it could burn the webs from your path. Leaving the webs there was entirely a personal choice though while having the lighter hidden added to the stealth factor, having the cobwebs there would slow Artyom down to a crawl.
As mentioned the air is in no way, shape, or form breathable. Left too long without a filter which in and of itself doesn’t last long, and Artyom dies. It really isn’t a pleasant sound as you hear the gasping for air before falling to the ground as nothing more than the remnants of what you were. Making sure to put the gas mask on as soon as Artyom’s breathing changes is fundamental to staying alive. Thankfully knowing when to replace the filters is easily done as every time the filter goes out Artyom’s watch beeps at him as he sets a timer on it for every new filter placed which again thankfully fit on any mask that can be picked up.
Metro is a combination of interesting elements. Along with those air filters is the mask that they attached themselves to. This glass can crack, get water, blood, and other gunk all over it. Looking through cracked glass is no fun so finding a new one is always a pleasant encounter. While in the middle of a firefight though, even if it cracks that will be the least of your worries with the rest of the shit that can land on it. Amazingly, and not really mentioned, is the ability to wipe things from your vision allowing you to reasonably see again before the rest falls off giving you back your full vision. Thinking of having crap fly onto the gas mask was one thing, thinking of having the ability to wipe it off was another things all together and useful throughout both of of Artyom’s journeys.
The overall experience itself comes from the storytelling that is present throughout both titles. Every chapter and sub-chapter begin with Artyom narrating his diary and the events unfolded and what is to happen. What feels a bit disjointed is that while he narrates these essentially loading screens, he himself doesn’t speak during gameplay but is instead silent leaving some questions as to exactly what is said in the one way conversations at times. That aside however the other participant in the conversation is more than enough in order to keep a narrative going. That aside, portions of Artyoms diary can be found scattered throughout the chapters which either fill in blanks or add an extra layer to what is already known. These were all interesting reads especially when the past between the bombs went off and now were concerned.
Finally, this one is more of a personal thing above all else, I absolutely loved the HUD. It wasn’t always there and taking up space but only came up when you needed to. This could sell the creepy as only the creepy was in sight. It also made the more cutscene moments feel as much.
Metro Redux, if you haven’t already done it and are as late to the game as I was, is an excellent example of what can be done with this style of gameplay. Plenty of story and gameplay elements come together very nicely in order to sell this post-apocalyptic world. With the newer Spartan Mode that accompanies the original Survival one, if you prefer a straighter First Person Shooter over having to worry about what you have left that is always an option! Regardless of the gameplay choice Artyom’s adventure is one worth having.
Article by Pierre-Yves