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Metro 2033 Retrospective

Metro 2033 Retrospective

At the time of Metro 2033’s release ten years ago, it was something of an unknown title to me. During the post-Amnesia horror boom, I needed something to scratch that itch. Metro 2033 was the game I would eventually stumble upon, but it was just too early for the horror revival in 2010. What was fantastic about Amnesia was its atmosphere, however, there was a distinct lack of opportunities to get involved. The game made you useless. You see, there were two types of popular horror games by the end of 2010: an atmospheric setting without combat and an atmospheric setting with combat.

Amnesia was a prime example of the first one. You walk around, you get spooked and you hide from the spook. Metro 2033 fell into the latter. You walk around, you get spooked and you fire your gun wildly at the spook. Very similar aims, yet vastly different executions. That run-and-hide style of Amnesia seemingly dominated the horror genre for years. Not until the release of Resident Evil 7, did it seem the genre started to shift back towards the combat approach.


Despite the domination of the genre by games like Amnesia, Outlast and Slender, Metro 2033 did a fantastic job of bringing the action back to horror games.

Within the tight confines of the Russian underground, Metro 2033 creates a chilling atmosphere. Controlling the protagonist, Artyom, the game makes the player push forward, rather than forcing them back. This style means the tension in the game is completely shifted. There is no hiding from what lurks in the shadows. What Metro sends your way, you have to send it back - and that’s a hard balance to get right. Non-combat horror games dominated was their difficulty. There was no AI to properly balance. It’s not too difficult to design an unstoppable monster when all you have to do is run away. Metro created enemies that were both unnerving but believably beatable.

The aura of those enemies stems more from the game's atmosphere than their actual design. If you put those mutants in a different post-apocalyptic setting, like Fallout, they would become another generic mob. The mutants, at their core, are a mundane enemy. Their one purpose is to drain your supplies. Yet, the ambience of the game is so well crafted, it makes them worth so much more. It takes these easily beaten, insignificant enemies and builds a horrifyingly tense air around them. Metro 2033 has these gorgeous environments. Every pocket of space you explore feels like a triumph. Not always because of the loot you receive, but because the detailed worlds of the underground are gorgeous. For such a condensed game, Metro 2033 has some of the finest environmental storytelling.

The setting of Metro 2033 is fantastic and the game does well to emphasise it. It’s very brash, in your face and highly unforgettable. At the same time, the gameplay draws its fair share of criticism. I always found Metro to be a serviceable game in terms of its gunplay. Although it never really sets the world alight, it does enough to be enjoyable. A frustrating element remains the game's stealth sections. The foundations of Metro 2033 are built on slow-paced level design with short busts of actions. The stealth section of the games becomes a slog as one mistake leads to a heavy hit to the resources you have collected. Your retort to that would likely be to “get good”, but it’s not quite so simple. Metro is a game built on level design and atmosphere. Creepy monsters prowl the underground and you do your best to survive. The human-AI aspect feels tacked on. The stealth sections feel forced and can infuriate you, simply because they are not well balanced. If you make a mistake, every enemy in the area knows your precise location. It’s a frustrating system, especially with a game that is set up to punish offensive tactics against other human AI. It does feel like the game is forcing you to use some of the ammo you have conserved.

Metro 2033 is one of the most intriguing games I have ever played. I thought that ten years ago, and I still think it remains true today. 4A Games nail the tension of a post-apocalyptic civilisation in a way that most others miss. In an era where horror games forced you into the role of a defenseless protagonist, Metro 2033 did a great job of putting you in control. Thankfully, that doesn’t sacrifice the intense atmosphere that you would expect from such a game. The gameplay can be wonky at times. The stealth elements are tiresome because of how broken they are, but the world around you is so incredible it’s easy for you to gloss over any annoying issues and simply fall into this unforgiving world.

Adam Kerr

Adam Kerr

Staff Writer

Doesn't talk about Persona to avoid screaming in anger

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