Metro 2033 was, by developer 4A Games’ own volition, a flawed gem. The oppressive atmosphere created by its subterranean, post-Apocalyptic Moscow setting remains unmatched by any of its peers. But when it came to gameplay systems it was found lacking.
While primarily focused on shooting, Metro 2033 also featured poorly implemented stealth sections spoiled by crappy AI. What this meant was that as soon as a body was discovered, no matter how deep in cover you were, enemies would immediately blast your face off.
It just didn’t make any sense, and while the strengths of the game overpowered its shortcomings, there’s no denying that Metro 2033 was... well yeah, it was a flawed gem. It’s these problems that 4A Games is hoping to address with its follow-up.
Metro: Last Light is essentially an attempt to deliver on the original’s promise.
While some of the areas in Metro: Last Light will encourage specific approaches, many will allow you to choose whether you go in blasting or tip-toe through rooms, unscrewing lightbulbs, extinguishing lanterns and swinging a dirty great big knife through unsuspecting Russian dudes’ necks.
Alternatively, many of the game’s interior rooms also feature fuse boxes, which when switched off bring enemies to investigate. In this way you can pull people around the room engineering their position for optimum machete murder. And most importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any super-human X-Ray vision enemies any more.
Make no mistake, Metro hasn’t suddenly become Metal Gear Solid. Hell it’s not even Far Cry 3. Last Light merely attempts to offer increased freedom in a way that actually works. Watching the game play out in our hands-off demo seems to suggest that 4A has made significant inroads into doing just that.
We’ll reserve final judgement until we actually play the game ourselves, but the signs are positive.
Elsewhere in the demo there was evidence to suggest that 4A’s knack for world building is as strong as ever. As well as the typically dank and claustrophobic corridors we’re familiar with from the first game, we also got to see one of the game’s station hubs, Venice.
Venice is an independent outpost bustling with activity and telling little environmental details. Pigs snort and nuzzle at their slurry, families chat and children play, bartenders wipe battered counters and locals sit huddled around makeshift fires roasting rats. It’s a desperate place, but it’s also clearly home to a lot of people.
Venice’s defining characteristic, however, is the fact that it’s also home to the Metro’s red light district, a location we visited on some unmentioned mission. Colourfully lit it nevertheless remains a brutal looking place, marked by prostitutes tottering around in high heels wearing body stockings while everyone else is wrapped up in big coats and furry boots.
It’s evidence that 4A is looking to build on the world sketched out in Metro 2033.
This is further evidenced by what’s going on above ground. In Last Light’s world the nuclear winter brought about by Moscow’s apocalyptic blast is thawing and the landscape is changing.
In a section of the demo we ventured above ground, gas mask equipped, and traversed the ruined metropolis in search of a church. For the first time sunlight is bursting through the clouds and new life skitters around in the rubble, swoops through the sky and splashes around in toxic lakes.
Typically, they’re all monstrous mutants. In addition to the winged beasts encountered in the first game there’s also vicious looking aquatic nasties and freaky crab-like things. Being above ground in Moscow has never been the safest of places, but in Last Light there’s a whole new level of danger.
It’s also beautiful, with some of the best visuals you’re likely to see this generation. Or as beautiful as a ravaged land populated by monsters can be. Chuck in the wheezy, ragged breaths you’ll hear while wearing your gas mask, some massive boss-type creatures and the detritus of a ruined world, and 4A’s masterful power to conjure a unique atmosphere seems undimmed.
To reach the church we had to take a short trip across some radioactive water on a makeshift boat. Unfortunately, however, the boat was out of fuel, necessitating a search for gas canisters. Once secured - there are no waypoint indicators, you just have to forage - the boat was filled up and spluttered into life.
Unfortunately, however, the noise roused the locals including one particularly impressive mutant reptile... thing. Before we could escape to the church a huge boss fight ensued, with smaller creatures getting in on the act too. As with everything in the world of Metro it looked like a desperate fight for survival rather than a one man army glory mission.
While suitably dramatic, the success of these sections rests largely on the quality of the shooting, something that Metro 2033 didn’t excel at. In that game the weapons felt a little wooly and imprecise, perhaps due in part to the salvaged nature of your weaponry. But regardless of the intention, it just wasn’t fun to fire guns.
Yet because we didn’t actually play the game ourselves we have no way of telling if improvements have been made. Which brings us to our biggest issue with the game so far.
Nobody outside the studio has played it. Metro: Last Light may look great, feature a wonderfully crafted world and promise key gameplay improvements, but it’s difficult to judge the voracity of many of these claims without actually sitting down and getting stuck in with it. We need to play it for ourselves.
We’re confident Metro: Last Light is going to be one of 2013’s most interesting shooters. Only once we’ve gone hands-on will we know whether it can be one of 2013’s best shooters.
Metro: Last Light is out in March 2013.
Source - X360A