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Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: Metro: Redux (Microsoft Xbox One)

Review by Nick H.

We've already seen plenty of remastered games this generation. Some are well worthwhile (The Last Of Us), while others are most certainly not (Tomb Raider). Metro 2033 and Last Light were both excellent titles, and now they've been given the update treatment, with a variety of improvements and a visual update to make better use of the new hardware. The result was that I was more than happy to revisit the bleak literature world of Metro.

There's more to this remake than the simple visual update, however. With Metro 2033 A4 Games has opted to give players a couple of options for how they'd like to play. The first is to play the game as it had been designed during its initial release several years ago. This mode is akin to a survival game, with a focus on managing limited resources an emphasis on stealth.  This style of play is very much in tune with the Dmitry Glukhovsky novel that the game is based on, with a style of gameplay that suits the represessive atmosphere and sense of hopelessness. However, for people who are less interested in atmosphere, there is the option to up the action and turn 2033 into the more standard style of gunplay that characterised Last Light. It's good that the developer did give players the opportunity to trade in the divisive gameplay of the original in favour of something more traditional, while at the same time not punishing those looking for a "pure" experience.



These games were always dark, bleak and unrelentingly atmospheric. Light, shadows and particle effects were among the best to date, at times forcing even my beefy machine to bog down just a little when I played in on PC. It was important that the visuals were cutting edge, because much of Metro's impact was told through environmental storytelling. In a world that had been reduced to decrepit ruins and people are barely scratching out an existence, the rise of the various cults and villainous groups made sense. If the world itself lacked visual impact the presence of many of the enemies also would have made less sense. So what has the developer done here with Redux? Metro 2033 has been significantly updated, with visuals that are closer to being on par with Last Light. Both games are running at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second as well. The development team really seems to have locked down how to make the best of the Xbox One hardware.

The setting is a post-nuclear Moscow where people have taken to the tunnels beneath the surface in an effort to survive. The world above is a harsh, terrifying place and some of what lives up there now wants to gain access to the people below. This is not uncommon territory for post-apocalyptic action, but the voice actors do a pretty good job of portraying the tension and downtrodden despair people feel in this new world. One of the benefits of being based on a novel is that there is some literative merit to Metro's narrative, and while the setting itself isn't all that unique, if you take it within the context of modern Russia, and the political tensions between various factions, the game's narrative has greater meaning than most other shooters.



As intelligent as the dialogue and the setting feels, the enemy is more artificial than intelligent, and this hampers the quality of both games as, well, games. This was more notable in 2033, which was in many ways a raw game when it game to offering challenge. I can't verify this, but it did feel like there was some kind of effort that went into updating the AI, though it's still not up to standard by any means. Enemies follow very predictable patterns and are rarely a challenge on default settings. That said, stealth is still an exciting mechanic, just as they was. The need to sneak around does soften the game's pace, but that works to the game's benefit as well, as it gives players more time to drink in the ambience and better feel the tension.

That is really what is most impressive about Metro: Redux. In an era where every title feels like it is trying to play catch up to Call of Duty in the FPS genre, Metro still stands out as being willing to take a few more chances. It wants you to spend time in its darkly atmospheric world. While Last Light was compromised to an extent to appeal to the broader FPS audience, as an overall pack Metro is as brilliant as it always was and Last Light is a nice bonus.

Further, brought together these games represent one of the better "next gen re-releases" in terms of raw quantity.


- Nick H.
US Editor



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Review: Metro: Redux (Microsoft Xbox One)
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