Thank you Pavel.
Pavel, my thanks go out to you for more than one reason. Firstly, I want to thank you for… well, I am not going to spoil the story in Metro: Last Light, the sequel to Metro 2033 from 4A Games and the new owners of the franchise, Deep Silver. I will leave new players to find their own reasons for thanking Pavel in the game. But I also want to thank Pavel, the main character Artyom, and every other character in the game for leaving me talking with a bad Russian accent for at least an hour after I finished every play session. Even now, you probably can’t tell but I am writing this in a bad Russian accent (not that the accents are necessarily that bad within the game, just that mine is).
Metro: Last Light takes the player to post-apocalyptic Russia, in a world created by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The original Metro 2033 was based on his work, but Last Light continues the adventures within the Russian underground system without having to follow the narrative of any specific book, and continues almost directly from the ending of Metro 2033 with the return of the main character Artyom. Players who neglected to work their way through Metro 2033 may find themselves a little confused when jumping into Last Light, but a little bit of research online will answer any questions they may have. Realistically though, Last Light can be played without any experience of the first.
Metro 2033 ended with the almost complete eradication of the Dark Ones, supernatural creatures that are able to live on the highly toxic surface world. But here in Last Light, it turns out that one has survived and it is down to our hero to find and destroy this creature, which may actually have the key to humanities survival. But this is a quandary for the player to deal with later in the game. Before that, and in the hunt for this creature, the player will not only have to deal with the hostile environment above ground, but also with the various different armed human factions that just don’t seem able to get on with each other. This brings some much needed reality to the game over the previous title, and Last Light is better for it.
The world of Metro: Last Light is a beautiful as it is gritty. The key word here is atmosphere, with Last Light offering it up by the truckload. Everything about the game, including the rough edges and the inconsistencies, seem to come together to create this incredibly dim future for humanity in Russia. As you move around the dark underground tunnels, players will come across little examples of where humanity is trying to survive, but often failing. The set pieces in Last Light are more varied than in Metro 2033, and the story gives the player hope that something better is in store for humanity, but it still manages to be a very humbling experience.
Life in Metro is very much lived on the edge, and this is exhibited in the game through the constant struggle for the supplies needed to survive. The weapons are limited and bodged together, military grade bullets are used as currency and only actually fired as a last resort. Wearing a gas mask is essential at times, so keeping an eye on the filter is necessary, and having decreased visibility becomes an obstacle that the player has to overcome. At times, the player will even need to wipe their visor to clear away mud or other sight reducing substances.
The gameplay in Metro: Last Light is linear. Whilst there may be some wide open set pieces, the player is carefully navigated along a very linear path, from one encounter to the next. Open world shooters may be popular at the moment, but being ushered along a story is still enjoyable. The shooting mechanic works well with the less than perfect weapons available, and there is an emphasis on stealth with the player being able to monitor how well hidden they are, and even remove light bulbs to remain in the shadows.
The stealth and shooting is slightly brought down by the unimpressive enemy AI. For the non-human enemies, a certain amount of stupidity should be expected, such as running headlong into a hail of bullets. But for the human enemies, there really isn’t much here to worry about, they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. This kind of removes the need for stealth in many areas, but it is an option for players who like sneaking around.
Visually, there feels like improvements have been made over Metro 2033. The shadows through which the player can move around while staying hidden, not only add to the atmosphere, but also look really nice. The world and the characters found within it are gritty to look at, created with a depressing overtone that makes sense but leaves the game feeling of lower quality than certain big budget games out there.
Despite the rough edges and occasional glitches, Metro: Last Light is an absolute joy to play. The story is actually engaging and the slightly easier gameplay will appeal to those who were put off by the gameplay of the original. That being said, those who found the original Metro 2033 just right will be able to take advantage of an increased difficulty.
Whilst the gritty outlook on post-apocalyptic life in the Russian Metro system may have remained, Last Light is a much more approachable shooter which will appeal to many more gamers than the original Metro 2033. Metro: Last Light is a brilliant, single-player, linear shooter that manages to fill a bleak future with exciting gameplay and an interesting story. Well worth picking up.