When we were invited down to check out Metro: Last Light, the opportunity was really too good to miss, having salivated extensively over the teaser trailer. Here’s what Matt Alford found out.
If the world was ravaged by nuclear war, what would it really be like?
We’d likely all die within a matter of months; if not due to the radiation it would be the widespread crop failure. This scenario, however, would not make for a compelling video game. Instead we have games like the Fallout series that present a world full of super mutants, bandits, robots and cowboys which aren’t exactly cheerful but they are a lot of fun. Then there is Metro 2033. When Metro 2033 was released in 2010 it earned plaudits for its immersive gameplay and tense pacing. It also provided a world that was bleak, dark and deep and came from a uniquely post-soviet perspective, complete with Russian sensibilities and superstition.
Metro: Last Light continues where the previous game left off. While players could alter the ending of Metro 2033 based on subtle moral decisions throughout, the canonical ending results in [protagonist] Artyom being responsible for the death of the ‘Dark Ones’. As it turns out, they were trying to make peace with the humans and now Artyom has to live with the consequences of his action. Last Light’s narrative will almost certainly explore Artyom’s guilt at what he has done and how he will seek to atone for his actions.
Our hands-off demo began with a sepia toned shot of a pre-bomb Metro train, which suggests there will be further explorations of Moscow before its destruction. As this flashback fades away we see scurrying rats and great big spider webs throughout the wreckage of the building. Our player puts on his gas mask and follows a companion outside to brave the surface. Artyom has clearly upgraded his watch since the last game, as his fancy new digital timepiece makes it even easier to see how much longer the filter on his mask has to last.
The two have arrived at the spot where an aircraft crash landed on the day that the bombs hit. The potential for decent scavenging loot is too great so we go to check it out.
As we make our way down the side of the building it starts to rain; perhaps the weather will play a role this time around? The rain drops fall on Artyom’s gas mask, obscuring his vision and he has to wipe away the water manually, something that could add further tension to a tense fire fight. In fact, in this demo Artyom gets dirtier than ever. At various points his mask is obscured by water, blood and even spiders that burst forth from a corpse.
Our player splits up from his companion for a moment to check out a nearby room. There are plenty of trinkets to pick up and look at, including a shotgun. While the player picks up and loads the weapon, a mutant pounces and brings him to the floor, causing everyone in the room to jump (including the man from THQ playing the demo for us). Clearly Metro: Last Light won’t be short on the scares.
We make our way to the plane and with the help of our companion, we force the door open. Once inside, the protagonist and his +1 head towards the cockpit, but as they make their way through the fuselage, they begin to see surprisingly affecting visions of the aircraft moments before it crash lands. These visions were usually a sign that the Dark Ones were trying to communicate with Artyom in the previous game, so does this mean that they weren’t all killed at the conclusion of 2033?
The next part of the demo showcases Metro: Last Light‘s combat system. Metro 2033 blended stealth, survival horror and shooter gameplay, although there was probably a little too much ammo to be found on most difficulty settings and the shooting mechanics were a little off. We’re told that Metro: Last Light aims to address these criticisms with a tighter combat system and with scarcer resources and ammo to be scavenged. From what we see it seems to play a little closer to the ‘Ranger’ difficulty settings from 2033, with enemies taking less hits before they go down and less ammo to be found. Artyom, however, still seems able to take a fair few hits so it probably won’t be quite so unforgiving as the aforementioned difficulty modes.
In another part of this demo, Artyom encounters a winged Demon which he must fight before he is flung to the ground and it makes its escape. The two are then swarmed by a horde of canine mutants and a tense sprint to the nearest metro station ensues. The two end up cornered at the doorway waiting for the residents to open up and help them out, emptying clip after clip into the creatures. The gates open at just in the nick of time and a group of flamethrower wielding locals come out and incinerate our assailants.
Metro: Last Light promises something that most modern shooters don’t, which is perhaps why THQ use the term ‘First Person Action Adventure’ to describe it. When there’s is combat in the game, there will always be a narrative context for it. It isn’t a game about finding the next thing to shoot; it’s about the journey. The immersive details and the characters are just as important as the shooting, which is probably why the all out action wasn’t the strongest point of Metro 2033.
We’re not sure how the co-op elements that have been announced fit in with such a singularly crafted experience, but, as it is, the single player is shaping up to be something special. 4A games seem to have listened to the criticisms of the original and retained the atmosphere that made it so special. We hope, then, that when the game is finally released next year it will play as well as these initial reports indicate.
Written by: Matthew Alford