Game Review: Metro Last Light (PC/PS3/Xbox360)
Following on directly from the events of Metro 2033 when our hero ‘Artyom’ delivered an all mighty attack in a desperate attempt to wipe out the beings simply known as ‘The Dark Ones’. Artyom is riddled with quilt upon the devastation that he had left, after which he discovers that a single Dark One survived the attack, thus he goes on the search for a prisoner that is said to be the “key to survival”, and the one shining light that will pull them away from not only the human war for power that reigns within the Metro, but with hopes that humanity will reclaim their motherland. But the question remains, what is the Dark Ones true purpose and who is the real enemy? The humans, or the Dark Ones?
First of all I’ll start off by saying that the character animation is very well put together and the mannerisms are very believable. It might sound like a small detail, but I really hate it when a character in a video game has the jaw movement of a Thunderbird puppet. When the lip syncing has been done right, as it has in Metro Last Light, it’s a powerful, yet subtle tool in the games storytelling and can go a long way in aiding its believability.
Most games disguise some lackluster visuals when the majority of it is set in the dark, especially when located in underground tunnels like the Metro games, and when you visit a brighter environment, the textures show their true colours, so to speak. But despite Metro Last Light having you spend most of your time underground, at times it looks stunning.
The dark, eerie and claustrophobic tunnels add a lot of fear factor on their own, obscuring your view, knowing that someone or something can jump out at a moment’s notice. Really these are the key ingredients to what horror games should all be about, and Metro Last Light blends them all together effortlessly, resulting in one of the creepiest games in recent times. But then when you leave the dark tunnels and visit the surface, suddenly unlike the previous game, the visuals seem a lot more vibrant and textured, well as much as a nuked city can be. It’s almost inviting you to explore its decaying buildings and Fallout like wastelands. I suppose in a way, Metro Last Light is almost split into two very different worlds, the underground and the surface. Each with their own unique and strong characters in their own right.
It would be easy to think that Metro Last Light would be like any other First Person Shooter, after all it is in First Person and it does require a lot of well…shooting. You can approach Last Light as another FPS and you will get a lot of enjoyment from it, but you won’t be getting the best out of the game if you did. For instance if you went into a room all guns blazing then you would over complicate things for yourself, as not only will the enemies react to the sound of the gun fire, the Nazi enemies will sound the alarm to call for reinforcements. There will be times when this method would be the most effective way to approach a situation, but your most powerful tool would be to lurk in the shadows and take the enemy out quietly. By approaching the game this way, unless you are spotted by the enemy, you should be able to clear out a room without triggering any kind of alert.
I also found this method to be the most satisfying from a personal stand point, because when you cleared out a room of enemies without a single alert, you know it’s a job well done. There is also some more logic in using stealth tactics, other than silently taking down the enemy. As all horror games should be, ammo is very scarce and many times you will find yourself out of ammo. So bringing down the enemy via hand to hand combat or the trusty knife, will go a long way in keeping your ammo stocked up and there for when you really need it.
Now when you take out the enemy with stealth tactics, there are a number of ways in which you can do so. One, you could pop them in the back of the head with a silenced weapon or via some very handy throwing knives (which you can retrieve back from a dead enemy). Personally I found that my preferred method was to distract an enemy into a darkened area with a sound (in which I had removed all the light bulbs to help me hide)and then when he’d walk past me, I’d knock the scum bag out.
You do have a choice however on whether to knockout an unsuspecting enemy or to simply kill them, in most cases I chose to knock them out. You will have similar choices to be made throughout the game, such as when an enemy will lower their weapons and surrender, you have a choice to accept there surrender or pull the trigger, it’s 100% up to you and these kind of moral choices help immerse you more into the world of Metro Last Light.
Other than being obviously hidden in the shadows knowing that you can’t be seen, you will have a very useful watch that you will rely on a lot. When you are hidden, it will glow blue, so make sure to always keep an eye on that. Speaking of being hidden, one sure fire way to give away your location would be to use your flashlight when there are enemies around. The underground is a very dark and dangerous place, so it would be wise to use your flashlight and the trusty lighter (which makes a return), so use them wisely and sparingly. However, the flashlight is not only a tool to help you see in the dark, it’s also a very handy weapon too.
Other than the human enemies, there are also some very nasty mutants to contend with, most of them have never seen the light of day, and as a result, hate light. So you can use your flashlight as a very valuable deterrent to push those nasty mutants back, before pumping them full of lead.
There are many subtle improvements made to Last Light from 2033, but there is one in particular that I favour. While much of the horror and suspense is related to being down in the dark and dingy underground system, you spent very little time above ground in 2033 and that was a part of the world that I really wanted to explore and know a little more about.
So thankfully in Metro Last Light you do spend a little more time on the surface, this is not a huge portion of the game I might add, and if you were to spend too much time above ground, then I believe that would take much of the games character and atmosphere away, but you get teased just enough to wet your appetite and put your curiosity to bed. Now be warned, just like the original you will need to keep an eye on your oxygen levels within your gas mask, and make sure to keep it topped up, otherwise your visit to the surface will be very short lived indeed.
With a game being based on some very popular and well written books, it’s only natural that Metro Last Light tells a fantastic and unique story. The settings and locations are among the darkest you will encounter in the video game industry, and as a result so are many of the characters that you come across too. It’s very rare that you will ever come across anyone truly happy in Metro Last Light, and why should theybe? The city that they used to live in has been nuked, they were forced to live underground in the dark and dangerous tunnels, and to make things even worse, not only are they fighting against Nazi extremists, they’ve got mutated monsters to deal with too. It’s not exactly a bed of roses.
Nevertheless, it’s all these ingredients that makes you want to continue on in Metro Last Light, the horror and suspense grips you from the offset and the desperate fight for human survival makes it very difficult to put down the control pad. I’m yet to read Metro 2034, but I have read Metro 2033 and the story is exceptionally strong, it’s very difficult to put the book down as the powerful storyline certainly comes across in Last Light. I still can’t get my head around the fact that we are yet to see a movie based upon the novels, let’s hope that changes soon, because I would love to see that one.
Above all else, the voice talent that is a part of Last Light tells a superb story and they are characters that you care about, especially Pavel that refers to the two of you as the ‘Three Musketeers’ (work that one out). Then you throw the eerie soundtrack into play and with Metro Last Light you have one of the most compelling and engrossing storylines that you will find with any video game in recent times.
A decision was made some time ago that the originally planned multiplayer for Metro Last Light was to be scrapped, quite simply to due to time constraints and the developers did not want to divert any development time away from the singleplayer campaign, which could potentially harm the quality of the game. Now there are two sides to every argument, Bioshock Infinite raised a similar debate. The first side of the argument is that why a multiplayer mode should be added to a game just for the sake of it, especially if it’s not really all that good, and as a result, should the singleplayer campaign suffer as a consequence? After all, it seems to be a common trend nowadays that a games replay value is judged on whether it has multiplayer or not.
Back in the day, very few games had multiplayer and we played a campaign over and over, just for the sheer joy of playing. On the flip side of the coin, what happens to your game that has no multiplayer once you’ve played as much of the singleplayer campaign as you can handle, finished the various difficulty settings and gathered some valuable Achievements/Trophies? In my personal experience, such games would either sit in my collection gathering dust or they would be traded in or sold. So having some kind of multiplayer would bring you back long after the campaign is finished, giving your game some much needed replay value.
The truth in my humble opinion, is that there is no real correct answer, it all depends on the gamer and what they want to get out of their game. Personally I’m sort of in-between; I’m more of a singleplayer gamer, who likes to play the odd multiplayer here and there, but I would not want the multiplayer to be included if the singleplayer was to suffer. As I’ve already stated, Metro Last Light has no multiplayer, but it does have one hell of an immersive campaign and one that most gamers would probably like to playthrough at least twice over. The main reasons for this is the morale system, you have a choice on whether you kill a person or let them live, namely those that offer to surrender. So seeing how this might effect your playthrough is an interesting one and I will most certainly be finishing Last Lights campaign more than once.
In fact you can actually earn an Achievement/Trophy for completing the game without killing a single human, “unless forced to”. So that would be a worthy accolade for any achievement/trophy hunters out there. There are so many ways that you can approach certain areas, as long as you’re willing to mix things up, you can make each section and playthrough as varied as you want it to be. In some ways, Metro Last Light almost reminds me of an alternative Bioshock Infinite, as not only does it give you the option to approach the game differently, it has an incredibly well told story.
There are also various hidden pages from Artyoms diary to find throughout the campaign, acquire upgrades for your weapons and a host of many other interesting achievements/trophies for you to track down. You may have also heard of a pre-order bonus called ‘Ranger mode’, which will not only make the enemies more volatile, but it will also remove the HUD from your game, ramping up the difficulty by more than a few notches. If you did not receive the ‘Ranger mode’ as a pre-order bonus, then fear not as it will be available to download now, for a small price of course. You can complete the singleplayer campaign to Metro Last Light from anything between 6-8 hours, depending on the gamer and difficulty setting.
Don’t let the absence of multiplayer put you off, because if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, Metro Last Light is a more than rewarding game and one that you can playthrough on more than one occasion. If you’ve played Metro 2033 then you will pretty much know what to expect with Metro Last Light, it takes the formula of the original game and builds upon its foundations. It’s one of those games that does not make any drastic changes from the original, because it simply does not need to. The visuals are much improved and despite reviewing this on the Xbox 360, out of curiosity I would love to see this game run on a top end PC. However it’s these subtle changes, that when added up together, makes all the difference, and Metro Last Light is among one the best games to be released this year.