Exploring the Metro
Back in the dark days of 2010, a little game from the Ukraine was released. A game which, for a number of reasons, I stopped playing pretty quickly. It was scary, it ran appallingly on my machine, and I felt the combat wasn’t up to much. Since then, it sat on my Steam account, always installed, but never touched, until I went back in last weekend. The game? Metro: 2033.
Of course, despite having a beefier rig than back in the midst of time, Metro still ran appallingly when I booted it up and started a new game. The first few moments of combat still left me feeling uninspired, the weapons having no weight or impact to them. I didn’t get far enough to be scared, but I did look into some of the discussions around the game on Steam, and saw others having similar performance problems, and being directed towards the Redux release of the game. The Redux version of 2033 and the sequel, Last Light, was released back in 2014, but I found it on Steam, downloaded it, and started my Metro adventure again.
A week later and I have completed both 2033 and Last Light, walking way extremely impressed, and happy within myself that I didn’t let some pesky early game atmospherics scare me away entirely. Despite the best efforts of iD and MachineGames with Doom and Wolfenstein, there still seems to be a certain disdain for linear, story-based FPS’s. In a world full of Battle Royale titles, MOBAs or sprawling open world RPG/third-person action game mashups, it was refreshing to step back in time and enjoy a shooter for creating an intense atmosphere, and telling a story (debate the qualities if you will) that is straightforward to follow, not getting lost within thousands of side quests.
Perhaps the Redux versions of the two Metro games has taken away some of the hardcore edge that first attracted people to the series eight years ago, but I’ve had an absolute blast. I do have one regret, that I never adjusted the brightness by a few notches at all during 2033, and only towards the end of Last Light. It meant I was playing in a world where I barely needed my flashlight or lighter to see my path in those tunnels beneath the ruins of Moscow. There is no doubt in my mind that not changing the brightness helped me keep the nerves of impending doom at bay, but after embracing the darkness during Last Light, I realised I was missing out. The games have a great atmosphere regardless of how bright things are, but by making things a bit darker, the strengths of the 4A Engine shine through. Light is your friend, and using it wisely, especially against human foes, is part of what makes the action so exciting. Whether the combat and weapons balancing of 2033 was changed drastically with the Redux version, I’m not entirely sure, but I felt more engaged with the damage my guns were dealing to the mutants than when I tried the game eight years ago.
The Redux versions allow you to choose your playstyle. Survival is for a slower survival-horror style approach, while Spartan is a more action oriented mode. I played 2033 in Survival mode, as it was intended, then went gung-ho through Last Light in Spartan mode to match Last Light‘s original gameplay approach. I enjoyed my time immeasurably with both games, and while the game modes I chose probably best match the developers original vision for the game, I am intrigued as to how Last Light would have felt in Survival mode.
For keeping me on the edge more with the atmosphere and “oh shit” moments, the Library level being a must play, 2033 takes the biscuit over Last Light. It isn’t perfect, even being Redux. One moment in the early game, when you are first exploring with Khan, really took me out of the moment of what was quite a spooky section of the game. Khan had told me to follow in his foot steps, and with a ghostly vision at the end of the train carriage…he stopped dead in his tracks. I waited, I shot my gun, I threw some grenades, I reloaded the checkpoint. Nothing happening…until I read that I had to use my lighter to burn some cobwebs away. Cobwebs of a type that I had previously been able to walk through, albeit slowly. Between that, and the almost Xen like final sequence, 2033 was on rocky ground. But by telling a story that wasn’t the straightforward “these guys are evil!”, I think 2033 ranks as a must play, with Last Light a close runner-up.
With Exodus coming out later this year, I’m glad that I’ve been able to bring myself up to date with this fantastic series.