Even if you’ve heard of the novel on which it’s based, there’s a good bet you missed the videogame Metro 2033 when it came out in 2010. I only learned of the first person shooter because one particular videogame journalist talked it up so much and I figured I should try it.
I was glad I did. The first person shooter is set in alternate Russia in the future (2033 naturally) where most of the world had been decimated by nuclear exchanges. Citizens of Russia fled to the subways and only ventured out above ground when they had to—and with gas masks.
Over the course of the game, you were visited by some force called the Dark Ones. By the end of the game, based on your actions earlier, you either destroyed them or tried to save them and see what they wanted.
In the sequel, Metro: Last Light, which comes out in March 2013, the choice has been made for you. Artyom, your character, chose to destroy them (even though they were peace loving after all) and he is on a path to atonement. No longer the rookie fighter he was in the first game, Artyom is now a “seasoned vet” with emotional and physical scars, as I learned during a recent hands-off preview of three levels from the game last month.
Overall, the three levels which I saw were quite good and I’m glad to see a lot of the issues from the first game (e.g. terrible shooting mechanic) have been fixed in the sequel. However, there was two moments during the preview that I found troublesome and maybe even offensive. Rather than let them overtake this preview, I discuss that separately in a piece here.
If you’re a fan of single player experiences as I am, you won’t miss the fact that there is no multiplayer in Metro: Last Light. You’ll also be happy to know that the control scheme and majority of the game mechanics are much more streamlined in the sequel.
According to the person walking me through the hands-off preview, the player will “learn control mapping through non-evasive tutorial.” The controls are almost identical to what you’d find in a Call of Duty game and stealth might very well be your style of play—though it doesn’t have to be.
But, since bullets are still currency, you might want to use them sparingly. When your watch light shows blue, you’re in stealth. You can also now, for the first time in the franchise, knock out or kill your enemies. Don’t worry though—you don’t need to hide bodies.
You can distract a lot of the enemies by messing with the lighting, which is fully dynamic, in the levels. Take out a fuse box, for instance, and they’ll come back to fix it. Hide in the shadows and take them out while they’re working on it.
If you want to go in guns blazing, your weapons are now fully customizable when you’re in any of the station cities. You can even carry three primary weapons now as opposed to only two.
You might not want to rush, however, as there is a ton of incidental dialogue. In one level, I learned that if you were paying attention to what the guards were saying in an earlier level, you’d get a massive hint about where to go in a later level.
In fact, there is no mini-map and a minimal HUD for the player. While there’s one entry point and one exit point in each location, there are multiple approaches with no map and no flashing green beacon that says, “GO HERE.” It’s up to the player to figure out their way through the level and decide how to deal with the guards. It’s a bit scary for someone like me that is constantly afraid of where to go next in a game, but at the same time, it was awfully liberating.
In the first level I saw, known as Camp, your friend Pavel has been captured. The person playing my demo silently took out most of the guards under the cover of darkness – which he achieved by taking out fuse boxes or shooting out light bulbs – until one guard happened to spot him and a firefight occurred.
The next level I saw took us to a station city called Venice. There are no cut scenes in Metro: Last Light as all conversation is rendered in real-time and in-engine. One of my favorite parts of Metro 2033 is how each station city had a different feel and there were plenty of opportunities to see people going about their daily lives. That’s still the case in Metro: Last Light; I even chuckled when my demo-er walked too closely to a random NPC who told him to get out of the way.
We talked a bit about the idea of side quests and/or fetch quests during my preview. You won’t find any of them in Metro: Last Light. You can choose to do some gambling or partake in a shooting gallery if you want. You can even learn that a young child is looking for their teddy bear which you can find out in the world and bring back to them. But in a game that thrives on minimal HUD and no objective markers, I learn that, nope, that “mission” won’t suddenly pop up on your notepad as something you need to do. That would cheapen the situation and realism of the game. Get the teddy bear if you want. Discover what happens if you bring it back. But don’t feel like you have to.
Venice is also the level in which I saw two things that bothered me; I discuss them fully here.
The final level I saw very briefly was known as Swamp. It took us to the surface where again, Artyom needs to wear a gas mask that he’ll need to periodically wipe so he can see out of it—especially if he gets into a lot of bloody fights. You’ll also need to, like in the first game, continually switch out your filters before you run out of the ability to breathe clean air.
There is a day/night cycle in the game. It won’t affect your story, but it will impact the environment—monsters, not surprisingly, will be more prevalent at night.
It’s during the Swamp mission that I learned had I eavesdropped on guards earlier in the game, I would have learned the way to proceed now was to follow the red flags. This kind of subtle storytelling, along with the teddy bear quest in Venice, showcases how dedicated to telling a realistic story that doesn’t feel “gamey” the developers are aiming for.
While I didn’t get to put my hands on the game, the shooting mechanic did seem to be much improved and I had to marvel at how much more incredibly detailed the game world felt.
When the demo was over, I was even more excited for the game when it comes out in March—I just hopefully people will be expecting this one this time and won’t miss it.