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Metro: Last Light Review

Metro: Last Light Review

Having missed the 2010 release of Metro 2033, I came into this sequel with virgin eyes. Beyond knowing that the game was a post-apocalyptic, first-person shooter, set in - and around - the Russian metro tunnels during the fallout of nuclear war, I didn’t know what to expect.

Guns? Yeah, guns would be in there, for sure - guns are awesome. I had also heard that the title contained stealth, and that, my friends, is my favourite genre.

Stealth is all about staying under the radar and taking people by surprise. So bravo, Metro: Last Light, you were never on my radar, and now my face is stuck in a perpetual state of shock and you have me in a chokehold.

This isn’t stealth from the Metal Gear Solid - hide behind stuff - school of thought, though. This is Stealth 101 through the eyes of Sam Fisher - which makes a change from staring at them inside his hollow head because you were too close to a wall.

In Metro: Last Light, darkness is your ally.

Metro: Last Light

Opposite to darkness, you also have light. Light is your enemy, but also your ally. Artyom - our protagonist - has a bit of a complex relationship with the electromagnetic substance, you see. One second he’s popping off shots from the best pistol in any shooter, ever, to try and shoot out distant bulbs to mask his approach. The next, he’s using it as a shield against the - sensitive to light - denizens of the deepest depths of the metro tunnels.

Another situation when light is simultaneously Artyom’s best friend and most hated foe, is when his enemies from the Metro Red Line are using head torches to search for him. On the one hand, the head torches highlight his enemies - he can see their exact location and he can also see exactly where their stupid heads are looking. On the other hand, if the light touches him he’ll look a bit silly, crouch-walking as he is.

The stealth mechanics are great, and whether you’re blowing out light sources with your mouth or shooting distant bulbs with awesome weaponry, the brilliant lighting only heightens the tension. When Artyom is completely shrouded in darkness, and he is surrounded by patrolling enemies, beams of light scanning and overlapping, even splitting and poking through cracks in scenery, it is magnificent.

Other lighting tricks, like strobing warning lights, and workmen welding machinery are also employed to dazzling effect.

Metro: Last Light

Even when Artyom ventures out of the tunnels and onto the irradiated surface of Moscow, the lighting is consistently awe inspiring, and even more so at night, when the light of the moon reflects on the freshly wet floor. The game, visually, is just as comfortable with sweeping, expansive vistas, as it is with dark, dank corridors.

Considering it’s a relatively linear game, Metro: Last Light, also manages to squeeze in a multitude of weather conditions, from raging monsoons, to lashing winds. The more visceral of these are massively convincing, utilising some amazing sound design to make the wind whistle through your ears.

The sound really does add to the immersion, with there being many occasions where it’ll send literal shivers up your spine - especially during some of the game’s more supernatural sections.

The game has quite a few clever things to say about killing, and even death, but I’ll let you discover those for yourself, and it has the tendency to make you wet yourself by sneaking in some ass cheek-clenching situations. Artyom will make his way through abandoned houses, where you’ll hear footsteps, doors slamming, babies crying, and many other horrible things that’ll make you want yo’ momma’.

Without actually being a horror game, or even trying to be one,  it manages to trump the majority of actual horror games effortlessly.

The terrifying sound and the beautiful lighting are tied together perfectly by some brilliant art design. It’s official, Metro: Last Light, has the best billowing cloth effect in any game, ever. It’s all down to the little details, like the way water bubbles in a pan, or the way debris tries to escape from a ramshackle raft that you pilot across an underground river, or you might appreciate the way flies and dust particles dance in cracks of light.

Metro: Last Light

The level of immersion is unprecedented, and is helped along further by some clever visual tricks that are tied into the gameplay. The most important of these is the gas mask. You are solely responsible for finding new filters for when your stopwatch tells you you’re running low on air, and Artyom physically screws them into place during play.

The visor of Artyom’s gas mask gets covered in dirt, condensation and even the blood of the various creatures that attack him. The responsibility of wiping the mask is also yours. A tap of the button causes our hero to wipe his visor, briefly smearing the various fluids across the plastic.

Along with this, your head torch must be manually charged by pulling out the charger, rendering you defenceless, and manually pumping it until fully charged. A compass can also be used, pulling you in further, instead of using any overlay to find your bearings.

These small details all collide and overlap to form an astounding whole. It’s telling, really, that up until now I’ve barely mentioned the shooting. Because although the gunplay is brilliant, the game is more than just another shooter.

There are plenty of quiet moments during the story, moments of exposition, where the game forces you to slowly walk through residential areas, listening to snippets of conversation. Sure, you can just walk through, ignoring the refreshing, Eastern European cast. Or you can soak it up, and bathe in the atmosphere.

Metro: Last Light

There are some brilliant conversations to eavesdrop on, like the elderly man teaching a group of children about animals that were alive before the war, via the medium of shadow puppets. One of the children announces that goats are scary, because they have horns and they aren’t even afraid of light - with some of the creatures you face on your journey only vanquished with the aid of illumination.

The game does take the odd misstep during these sections, with a bit too much time spent on making sure every female in the game had breasts that have lives of their own - think of the cloths billowing, but with boobs. But in the grand scheme of things, it can largely be ignored, and just put down to a minor annoyance.

In many ways, Metro: Last Light, reminds me of Half-Life 2: stealth edition. It has the runaway section, the vehicle-oriented chapter, the escalating odds towards the end, and it even has its own twisted version of Raveholm, with feral howls ripping through the night air.

Fighting against the mutated beasties isn’t as immediately satisfying as pitting your wits against the fantastic AI, with a heavy focus on circle strafing and running backwards - inevitably into water. But it does serve to break up the game nicely, with the pacing pitched almost perfectly.

Against the human enemies you have many more options. You can extinguish the lights and sneak past, completely avoiding conflict. You can sneak around, either punching everyone in the face, or stabbing them in the throat, depending on how mental you are. You can use the most satisfying silenced pistol ever to take head shots at them, quickly shooting the lights around the body, enveloping them in darkness. Again, you could use a mixture of these tactics, or, if you have plenty of ammunition, you can just shoot everyone lots of times.

Metro: Last Light

The shooting itself has a satisfying sense of feedback, with plenty of recoil on the weapons, and the bullets themselves ripping through light cover. The bullets ping and thunk off every object they hit and head torches smash, along with gas mask visors, as they’re struck by the bullets.

Bullets are good for two things in the metro: making things dead, and buying things... like more bullets. There are two types of ammunition, you see, with military grade ammunition used to purchase either the regular ammo type for each specific gun, or to buy and customise other weapons. You can also load the special ammo into your weapon for extra damage, but you might regret it later when you could have done with the extra rounds you could have bought with the premium ones.

Everything is down to the player - if you don’t prepare properly, or if you aren’t careful with your ammo usage, you will die. If you approach battles like an irradiated Rambo, your enjoyment will likely take a hit. If you play carefully, however, and actually plan each encounter, you will reap the benefits.

I came upon a patrol in a tunnel during my time with the game. There was a soldier by a fire, carrying a petrol can towards another group of enemies. I’ll let you use your imagination as to what happened next.

There are many unique moments like this during the game, like the time when I was driving the rail car through the tunnels and jumped off to explore, only to notice enemies walking down the tunnel towards my position. I hid to the side, waiting for them to pass. And then it happened, “whose wheels are these?” one of the sentries called to his allies, alerting them of my presence. You need to forget traditional game logic, as Metro often delivers something completely unexpected.

Metro: Last Light

One area that could have done with some of the rest of the game’s polish, is the clunky quick-select system. PC users will likely have no problem, but it’s just down to the wealth of options available to the player, resulting in a clunky menu system. Once you get used to the system, it works fine, but initially it can feel a little cumbersome.

The lip synching is another thing that could have done with a bit more time, with characters’ mouths often opening and closing randomly. I also came across a couple of minor graphical glitches in my playthrough. The funniest being when - fat Hitler-a-like - General Moskovin, decided to take a mid-air lie down during a conversation with one of his henchmen.

I really am clutching at straws here, though, as I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the title. More so than anything else I’ve played this year, in fact. I could see some people having problems with the game, if they’re not cautious players. At one point I finished off a boss fight with one bullet remaining, and I can easily see many people running out completely. There is also a bit of a quality drop towards the end of the game - it also inexplicably introduces a new game mechanic in a fight against a tank right in the closing moments.

The thing is, what the game does get right, it gets oh-so right. I mean, we’re looking at a game that manages to even make set-pieces exciting again, and that’s an accomplishment. If you’re bored of straight up shooting, or are a fan of stealth, you owe it to yourself to play this game. I recommend it more than carrying a suitcase of bullets after the impending nuclear holocaust.

9.50/10 9½

Metro: Last Light (Reviewed on PlayStation 3)

Excellent. Look out for this one.

Having missed the 2010 release of Metro 2033, I came into this sequel with virgin eyes. Beyond knowing that the game was a post-apocalyptic, first-person shooter, set in - and around - the Russian metro tunnels during the fallout of nuclear war, I didn’t know what to expect.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
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COMMENTS

Adam2208
Adam2208 - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015

Metro 2033 is awesome and I hope this is too, judging from your review and the score, I'm probably right in saying that I'll enjoy this. More importantly though: I love the Bane quote early on ;)

Reply
Cronos
Cronos - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015

I like how you have to pay extra for the harder difficulty.

Reply
Kaostic
Kaostic - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015

I tried my hand at Metro 2033 the other day and, whilst I enjoyed the first hour, I didn't stick with it past that. I'm not sure what it was but I couldn't get into it. I'd be interested to hear from somebody who has played both and the comparisons between them. From what you've written, Kirk, they seem fairly similar. You could mess with lighting in the 2033 and stuff like that. Plat also said that there were some issues revolving around the PC version which I'd like to hear more about. It seems like a game that I would enjoy just sitting down for a weekend and hammering through but no more than that really. Either that, or something to play at 3AM at a LAN.

Reply
Kaostic
Kaostic - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015

Also, for those that have played both, is this a direct sequel? Do I need to have played the previous one to get more into the story of this one or does it not matter too much?

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The Griddler
The Griddler - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015

Also, for those that have played both, is this a direct sequel? Do I need to have played the previous one to get more into the story of this one or does it not matter too much?

I've completed 2033, not played Last Light yet, but I know that it takes place after the events of 2033, continuing with the protagonist from the first game. As I said, I haven't played the new game yet but some pretty important stuff happens in 2033 so it'll probably tie in to Last Light's story. I imagine the game will have a recap or something to get new players up to speed though.

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Platinum
Platinum - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015

I like how you have to pay extra for the harder difficulty.

[url]http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/1ebv7b/regarding_the_recent_pr_issues_with_metro_last/[/url] Worth a read, sounds like BS to me but who knows.

I tried my hand at Metro 2033 the other day and, whilst I enjoyed the first hour, I didn't stick with it past that. I'm not sure what it was but I couldn't get into it. I'd be interested to hear from somebody who has played both and the comparisons between them. From what you've written, Kirk, they seem fairly similar. You could mess with lighting in the 2033 and stuff like that. Plat also said that there were some issues revolving around the PC version which I'd like to hear more about. It seems like a game that I would enjoy just sitting down for a weekend and hammering through but no more than that really. Either that, or something to play at 3AM at a LAN.

Ahh so that was you on FB ;) I think the PC issues revolved around it being a very quick port and not a huge amount of features, there was a really good thread on Reddit about it but cant find it now. The game itself looks pretty decent though and if your not fussed about playing the realism mode then it should be great. Given that I havent really played the first one to much and the DLC thing is just total bullshit to me ill leave it. No doubt people will pay the extra for something that should be in the game though, shame.

Reply
kirkules
kirkules - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015 Author

I've not enjoyed a game this much for a while, but I am a massive stealth nut. I'm also a sucker for immersion.

Reply
Cronos
Cronos - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015

[url]http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/1ebv7b/regarding_the_recent_pr_issues_with_metro_last/[/url] Worth a read, sounds like BS to me but who knows.

Yeah, it's always easier to put the blame on somebody else.

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Platinum
Platinum - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015

I've not enjoyed a game this much for a while, but I am a massive stealth nut. I'm also a sucker for immersion.

Ill try and get 2033 done in my time off and get this when its on a Steam sale.

Reply
VIKINGS-1428100984
VIKINGS-1428100984 - 11:43pm, 3rd April 2015

Played the demo for about 5 mins, lost interest.

Reply