Metro:Last Light Review
Metro: Last Light is the sequel to 2010’s Metro 2033, a game based off of the novel of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The franchise is known for its survival horror-like atmosphere and attention to detail. There have been plenty of other post-apocalyptic games but what sets 2033 and Last Light apart is that they aren’t your typical first person shooter. The combination of excellent storytelling, gritty weapons which seem to have weight and a subtle karma system gives a new feel to the FPS genre.
The game takes place after the events of 2033, starting with Artyom in his new home of D6 and with his new title of Ranger. You have a new mission that leads you all over the metro (and the surface) all while war is brooding between factions clamoring for the resources at D6. There is concern that this war will destroy the metro and any chance to survive.
Story (Spoilers for the ending of Metro 2033)
At the end of 2033, Artyom uses a targeting system to destroy the Dark Ones with missiles. While the better karma ending was preventing this, the developers decided to have the “bad” ending as canon. I found this to be a nice change in pace with modern games, since one usually assumes the best ending is the “proper” one.
After destroying the Dark Ones, Artyom is immediately made into a Ranger and has a new home in D6. However, at the beginning of Last Light, it is learned that one of these Dark Ones survived. Khan, your friend from 2033, informs you of this and suggests that you should try to make contact with it, as he believes the Dark Ones want to make peace. Being a new member of the Rangers, Artyom is ordered to instead kill the creature and finish the job of eradicating the Dark Ones from existence. You receive this direct order from Miller, the head of the Rangers, and Miller has Khan restrained and escorted out of the base for his foolish ideas. Thus begins Artyom’s adventure of tracking this creature all across the metro while also coming in contact with the Reds and, of course, more Nazis. To make the situation more complicated, war is brooding within the metro ever since you found D6, a military facility that contains a nuclear reactor and had stashes of weapons, food, and medicine. No doubt everyone wants their hands on this facility and are willing to kill anyone in their way.
The story is complemented by notes written by Artyom that you can find all over the metro. They detail his thoughts usually relating to the current situation or the area you find them in. Metro 2033 had Artyom express his thoughts during the loading screen between levels, which Last Light still has, but the addition of these notes further explains certain scenarios and adds more depth to the story and to Artyom as a character. I do wish Artyom had lines during gameplay. I’m not against the idea of a silent protagonist, but it feels awkward to me when we can hear Artyom’s voice in between levels but that he won’t respond to characters that talk to you.
Overall, I really enjoyed the story. It seems pretty straightforward at first but the people you travel with, along with the complexity of an oncoming war, adds definition to your main mission. You are also able to listen to peoples’ conversations, just like in 2033. Although optional, I always loved listening to what people had to say in different stations. It made the game more immersive and even affected your karma depending on which conversations you listened to. Even the enemies would have interesting conversations, some of which was useful for planning your strategy in combat. There is even a station that has a theater, in which you can opt to stay and watch the whole show (which was terribly sad, in a funny sort of way).
Similar to 2033, Last Light would sometimes throw a curveball in the form of supernatural phenomenons, just in case you were getting too comfortable with surviving the mutant filled metro. These elements in the story, while unrealistic, is what gives both metro games their personality. Combining the supernatural elements with the mission of finding the Dark One seemed to fit very well, considering how strange and alien the Dark Ones are. The story properly builds up to this supernatural event and has a climax that is both satisfying and intriguing.
The gameplay is very similar to the first game, with minor adjustments. The combat still feels good; guns feel like they have weight to them, stealth is still an important role in combat (and necessary for harder difficulties), and there are plenty of new mutated monsters to encounter. The enemies’ AI is still not spectacular but provides enough of a challenge. Speaking of which, Ranger Mode is back although, unfortunately, is priced as a $5 DLC. The explanation for not having it already in the game was that retailers were requiring a pre-order bonus for all games. They chose Ranger Mode because most hardcore fans would probably have it pre-ordered anyway. I still feel they should have chose something else since Ranger Mode is, “The way it was meant to be played.” In terms of weapons, you can now customize them on your own. In 2033 you could only find or buy weapons with attachments already attached, but in Last Light you have the ability of selecting your own attachments from vendors. This saves you from the frustration of finding a gun with just a scope and then the same gun with just a silencer when you wanted both in the first place!
Stealth is still intensely satisfying. Whether you are throwing a knife or unscrewing a light bulb to stay in the darkness, it feels very rewarding. Last Light makes stealth a bit easier by adding a blue light to your watch that turns on when you are in a bright enough area to be seen. This helped me stay in the shadows and get caught less often. However, guards are not only alerted when they see you but also when they spot a dead or knocked out body. They are not alerted to your location but begin scrambling around looking for you (often with flashlights). This leads me to the one issue I have with the stealth system: I can’t move bodies. So many times I have thrown a knife at someone in light that can’t be extinguished and then a few minutes later the guards are everywhere! This has led me to make sure that I take down enemies in dark places but being able to drag a body a few feet would have been nice, especially since stealth is a main component of the game.
The currency is still military grade bullets and while that idea was very new and fresh in the first game, I’ve noticed that I haven’t paid too much attention to it in Last Light. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the fact that you have to decide between saving the bullets or using them for the extra damage, it just wasn’t as new and exciting. Gas masks are back and you even have a new watch to keep track of your air filters (which is easier to read than the old one). They also added one small action while you have the mask on. You can press a button to wipe your mask with your hand. Your field of vision can get obstructed by mud and blood as you are fighting on the surface and this quick gesture fixes that for you. Why does this impress me so much?
It’s just one button and the animation takes maybe a second, but the level of immersion increases for me every time I use it. I’m not sure if it’s the sound of my hand scrubbing across the glass or the added intensity of a battle when I can’t see through the blood but I really enjoy this very small addition. Sometimes, it is the smaller parts of gameplay that can bring us further into their world.
The graphics of the game are really good when it comes to the environments. The people, on the other hand, are not the most spectacular. Mind you this is on the Xbox, so PC gamers will have a different experience depending on the specs of their computers. The added mud and blood on your gas mask, as mentioned above, is a nice touch and the overall atmosphere creates a chilling effect as you walk through the metro. The downside of having a game take place mostly in a dimly lit underground metro is that the graphics can seem pretty drab. The surface, however, provides a much more diverse appearance that you can appreciate, especially if the sun is out. Getting outside feels very liberating compared to the claustrophobic metro, but maintains a terrifying presence that doesn’t let you get comfortable. If there is anything that the Metro series has done right it’s the atmosphere’s ability to set the mood with graphics and sound. 2033 and Last Light has had the ability to play with my emotions with amazing results.
Audio is one of Last Light’s main assets for making it a great game. As mentioned above, the atmosphere that the game portrays is excellent and the ambient sound has a lot to do with that. The sounds of the guns are also immensely satisfying. Hearing the gun jam or the clunky sounds while you’re reloading adds weight and feel to the guns. The voice acting is alright. It isn’t bad, but not spectacular either. The accents are good (I love accents) and listening to other’s conversations is believable enough to not lose immersion. I’d rather the game have better sound quality within the gameplay than in the conversations anyway.
Metro: Last Light is a great sequel to a great game. It doesn’t make any giant leaps in innovating the series, but it continues to hold my interest in the world of a post-apocalyptic metro. The fact that it is a FPS that feels so different from the typical military shooters that clog the industry makes it a truly refreshing experience. I’m not sure if another sequel would be a good decision based on Last Light’s story, but I am looking forward to whatever game 4A Games comes up with next.