The original Metro 2033 was somewhat of a shot in the dark, the kind that THQ had earned respect amongst a key demographic for taking chances on. A literary based first-person shooter (FPS) that hedged its bets between story and action, the videogame was met with significant critical acclaim and built a strong following simply due to being a unique experience. Aiming to capitalise on this individuality, Metro: Last Light is a sequel that knows the strengths of its forbearer and builds all them exponentially, while still failing to overcome some of its flaws.
Metro: Last Light wastes no time in getting the player involved in the action, with blood literally on their hands within ninety seconds of pressing Start. You are now in this world; a moment’s peace and a potential chance to bond with your fellow man undermined by the savage brutality of this new, hellish world. It’s not for you to question the trials that have been so unfairly placed before you; it’s simply your duty to survive.
Just a few moments later and you’re up-to-speed with everything going on in the manmade cavern that is now your home. You were once something special, and you did something special, and you’ve been given a reward that is small to some but for those clinging to every last scrap is seen as a sense of empowerment. However, this is not your destiny – no simple disorganised military post would ever be enough for you – so it becomes your job to fight back against the swelling tide, undermining a conspiracy and fighting a vicious evil.
The pacing of Metro: Last Light however is clearly the product of a novel writer, as it stands out from the run of the mill FPS experience like a saw thumb. Close to that of BioShock Infinite to begin with – though Metro: Last Light takes less time to cut to the chase – there are essentially four types of gameplay sequence in Metro: Last Light: plot development, combat against humans, combat against mutants and atmosphere centric set-pieces. These combine into a videogame that will feel immediately familiar to fans of the BioShock or Half-Life series, but in an entirely unexpected way.
Of the two combat types, it’s the fights against the human opponents that are arguably most enjoyable. Convincing the player that stealth is the best option by ramping up the difficult upon exposure in much the same fashion as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Metro: Last Light is very generous with its line-of-sight. Players can be moving around mere inches from the enemy, but as long as they remain crouched and avoid the very obvious pools of light they will easily avoid detection. Stealth kills are the gruesome solution to most fights against human opponents, while mutants ask for an investment in firepower.
There are many different types of mutant in Metro: Last Light, from slug type creatures that spit a noxious chemical to armoured mantis’ to flying beasts that will lift you off the ground only to drop you back down from a great height. The change-up of tactics between mutant types is interesting, but there are those who simply aren’t much fun to fight. Those which look like decaying wolves will spring and bounce far too erratically for anything other than spray-and-pray tactics, while some of the boss fights are the entire opposite, preferring to rely on plan and execution as opposed to blind luck.
Metro: Last Light looks significantly better in its final form than it did when Electronic Theatre previously had hands-on tome with an in-progress build, far more than you would expect of any videogame, let alone one which has been beset by some unexpected turbulence in the form of publishing agreements. Quite simply, Metro: Last Light’s visual design is fantastic. It’s a varied, believable world with a cast of characters who mostly manage to side-step expected archetypes, and with a voice cast of such a high standard you would hope they would have lines worth playing with. Metro: Last Light is a technical knockout, and proof that current-generation hardware still has more to give.
Metro: Last Light is more than a pleasant surprise; it’s a story lead adventure that lives up to the expectations set by its predecessor in creating an imaginative world of pain and sacrifice. Digging beyond the player will find beauty, but the fact that the hours will pass without a second thought as you are compelled onwards is Metro: Last Light’s biggest achievement. In a recent preview Electronic Theatre was very harsh on Metro: Last Light, picking up on many flaws that existed and worrying that the overall quality of the production was not what consumers would be expecting. On this occasion we are very happy to have been wrong, as Metro: Last Light has turned out in fine form as a fresh, addictive adventure through a unique and interesting world.