When Metro 2033 was first launched three years ago, it was praised by almost everyone thanks to its setting and atmosphere. However, the game did have the nasty habit of bringing even the most powerful rigs of its time (and even some beasts right now) to its knees. The game did manage to do well enough to get a sequel—Metro: Last Light. Developer 4A Games went through a lot during the development of the game. Even the original publisher of the game, THQ, died before the game was published. However, Deep Silver picked it up and here we are now.
Metro: Last Light picks up a year after the events of the first game—Metro 2033. The first game had two possible endings, one of them being the more “understanding” and non-lethal one. 4A Games decided that the other ending is the canonical one, and thus, story wise, protagonist Artyom decided to rain down missiles on the Dark Ones. Since then, the Rangers have occupied the D6 military facility and Artyom has become an official member of the group. The plot is kicked off when the Rangers discover that a Dark One survived the missile strike and Artyom is sent in to put it out of its misery.
What does a kid do when he finds an almost-destroyed train in a creepy underground system? EXPLORE!
The plot takes a heavy turn away from humanity's attempts at survival and instead goes in to explore the politics and interactions between the three main factions of the game—the Rangers, the Red Line and the Nazi Reich. The game's plot has its fair share of twists and turns and ends up having a better story as a result of it. It's always more interesting to look at how humans interact with each other in a time of crisis rather than seeing them kill monsters.
That isn't to say that there aren't any monsters to kill, though. In Artyom's travels through the metro system as well as the surface of Moscow, you'll face a wide variety of enemies to gun down, both monsters as well as humans. The AI seems to be much better this time around too. Monsters feel the most boring to fight however, especially when compared to the advanced AI on the humans who can make intelligent decisions such as flanking and retreating.
Not creepy at all, kid
Speaking of combat, the gunplay has been improved tenfold this time around. Gone are the clunky controls of Metro 2033. With Last Light, we have a game where the gunplay can go toe-to-toe with some of the best modern AAA titles have to offer. Guns feel more fun to shoot now and enemies aren't as bullet spongy as they were before.
Going around guns blazing isn't the only way to take enemies on. A lot of areas in the game give you the option to sneak around and try to take enemies out one by one without anyone else knowing. You're given a few tools to sneak around—an indicator on your wrist watch that shows you if you're visible, the ability to use noise suppressors on your weapons and silent weapons like throwing knives. However, the stealth ends up feeling very clunky sometimes, but it's useful to have the stealth mechanics around, in case you find yourself short on ammo or health.
Gunplay is a serious step up from Metro 2033
While we're on the topic of guns, one of the best things about Metro 2033 makes a glorious comeback in Last Light—the bullet-based economy. Basically, the ammunition in the game is divided into two: high-quality pre-war military grade ammunition and the low-quality ones that everyone uses. Since the former is rare, it is used as a form of currency in the game's world. This doesn't mean that you can't use the military-grade ammo in a fight. It raises the interesting question of whether it's better to use a little of your high-quality ammo to quickly take down a monster or to save it and later spend it on a lot more of the lower-quality ammo. It also adds to the tension sometimes since, taking influences from survival horror as it does, you'll often be strapped for supplies.
The game manages to keep the tension high in a rather interesting way. During gunfights, you have two ways of gaining your health back. There are med kits, and then there is time. Like almost every FPS these days, Last Light has a regenerative health mechanic, but it's been pulled off differently. Whenever you're low on health, coming back to manageable levels of health takes some time, so you can't exactly depend on the regenerating health to keep you alive in a gun fight. This is where the med kits come in. You can use the med kits to quickly heal yourself up to full health. While the lack of a regenerating-health system would've been welcome, this feels like a pleasant compromise.
The outside feels as oppressive as the underground feels claustrophobic
Much like its predecessor, Last Light has amazing atmosphere. This is of course helped because of 4A Games' in-house graphics engine. The engine looks gorgeous on a PC with almost everything maxed out. The lighting engine is just beautiful and creates a great sense of tension when you're sneaking around a Nazi Reich camp, or a sense of fear when you're depending on your flashlight to keep the monsters away, but you're also running out of batteries.
This is further helped by the amazing sound design. Shooting a gun in an empty corridor sounds how you would expect it to sound. Monsters' shrieks are enough to startle you. The music, when it's there, does a good job in giving any scene the right mood. The only problem I have with the sound is that the voice acting sometimes comes off as a bit hammy.
The new graphics engine is amazing
The gameplay mechanics themselves also tie in well with the game's atmosphere. Staying underground while fending off spiders feels tense since have to keep an eye on your flashlight's batteries. If you don't put away your gun and use your handcrank generator to power up the flashlight again, the spiders will quickly overwhelm you, and then proceed to kick your ass. When you go out to the surface, you have to keep a breathing mask on. The filtration system on the breathing mask only lasts for a short time, and you have to quickly finish the outdoor sequences and run back underground if you don't want to die. Even the gasmask's visor gives us a nice minor gameplay mechanic in the form of having to wipe it clean after rains or enemies' blood splatters.
All this praise doesn't mean that the game is flawless. The PC port has some problems in a couple of levels, especially if you enable PhysX. My modest rig running on a GTX 660 Ti faced framerate issues in some levels, but this was fixed by simply disabling PhysX.
The linear mission structure at the start of the game also hurts it a lot. Though the game is trying to explain all of its mechanics to you before you throws you to the proverbial (and sometimes literal) hounds, the problem is that the first couple of hours of the game end up feeling more like something out of a Call of Duty game rather than Metro.
Minor background events like this help flesh out the world
Perhaps one of my biggest gripes about the game is the way it treated its pre-order DLC. The studio essentially cut out the Ranger Mode difficulty from the game, which fans of the first game would recognise as THE way to play a Metro game, just so that they could sell it as a pre-order bonus, and then later sell it to those who didn't pre-order the game.
The Ranger Mode DLC was a bad call, 4A
Despite these few niggles, however, the game is great. If you have even a passive interest in post-apocalyptic fiction and want a different take on it, you should definitely check Metro: Last Light out. Other reasons to check the game out include liking FPSes in general, liking atmospheric games, liking well-writen stories, and liking unique mechanics—namely the bullet-based economy.
Despite all of the problems that 4A games faced, and despite the stupid Ranger Mode DLC, Metro: Last Light is definitely one of the finest games to have come out this year. The game tries a wide variety of things, and pulls them off spectacularly. The DLC and a couple of technical issues aside, Last Light is well worth its Rs 999 asking price on the PC.
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Oct 21, 2016
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