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Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Metro: Last Light (PC)

Metro 2033 was an interesting game that had a lot of really good ideas, but plenty of rough edges as well. Metro: Last Light is 4A Games' followup adventure featuring Artyom, the protagonist from the first game. Metro takes place in a post-nuclear Moscow where survival is challenged in a variety of ways. The air is no longer safe due to radiation, mutated creatures roam the surface and the worst in human nature presents itself repeatedly. Metro: Last Light is heavy on atmosphere, which helps to carry it past some gameplay shortcomings.

This is a first person shooter through and through, and while the combat mechanics feel tighter here than they did in Metro 2033, they are not the best part of this game. However, this is not a quick-twitch Call of Duty game. You have ample time to unload rounds of ammo from a variety of weapons, but the pacing of Metro is quite a bit slower than a lot of FPS. I love that it is done from the first person perspective. It reminds me a bit of the under-appreciated Condemned titles, which used that forced view perspective to keep you on your toes and add extra tension as a result.

Metro oozes dark, creepy atmosphere as you lurk around the often dark passages below the scorched earth. The presentation here is excellent due to both detailed graphics and solid audio design. The visuals are boosted by excellent lighting and detailed textures. The voice acting is mostly good, though a few accents struck me as a bit off here and there. More importantly, the voices are often having genuinely interesting conversations. There are of course scripted scenes, but sometimes others are having their own conversations away from you. If you approach them, you can listen in and it adds a genuine sense of depth to the proceedings. On top of that, the sounds of angry monsters and the weapons you use all carry a satisfying punch to them as well.

Metro: Last Light is an often dreary game, but given the backdrop the story is set against, it is handled very well. Artyom's story appealed to me, but so did different aspects of gameplay that helped shape the story. Moving up to the surface and exploring was tense, exciting and often a rewarding experience. The interactions go deeper than just combat though - even the shop system reinforces the nature of survival in this world. Like the first Metro, ammo is again the currency of the land, though it is handled a bit differently as it is not all just drawn from one big pool - you find military-grade ammo that is of more value and therefore, something to be bartered with.

There are some nagging items that hold Metro back, however. For one, the character animations appear a little stiff at times. Nothing too horrible, but when everything else is handled so beautifully, this does stand out a bit. The AI is also somewhat unimpressive. The stealth mechanic is excellent in theory, but often underwhelming in application. It is almost ridiculously easy to get the drop on sentient enemies. Monsters however, are quite aware of you and barrel at you with reckless abandon, often creating cramped, almost frustrating combat experiences. It feels as though Metro missed a sweet spot between those two different kinds of combat interactions. I also found juggling my inventory to be a bit of a chore now and then.

Another common complaint I have heard is that some people feel the game is too linear. It is accurate to say that while you have opportunities to look about and soak in the game's atmosphere, true exploration is somewhat lacking. I really did not mind though, because I felt the developers did an excellent job in maintaining the narrative's focus.

That said, Metro is not a terribly long game - it can be beaten in about a dozen hours or so, drawing some comparisons to Bioshock Infinite for creating a single-player experience that is entertaining, if somewhat on the short side.



- Nick H
 Senior Journalist
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Review: Metro: Last Light (PC)
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