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Buried Treasure: The heartbeat of Metro: Last Light

Thursday, 20 October 2011 06:32 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Amid the blinking neons and high-pitched squeals of Tokyo Game Show 2011, one game gave off a darker glow. Scrape back the action-packed veneer to see the soul of Metro: Last Light.

Metro: Last Light

Sequel to the 2010 cult hit Metro 2033, lauded for its graphical prowess.

Developed by Ukrainian independent 4A Games, and published by THQ.

A shooter with strong survival horror overtones.

Set in a dystopian future Russia drawn from a world created by author Dmitry Glukhovsky.

In a dark curtained booth decorated with a faded Moscow map and the disturbingly empty eye sockets of a gas mask, Huw Beynon, THQ’s studio communications lead for 4A Games, is playing Metro: Last Light.

He’s using an Xbox 360 controller hooked up to a PC, a modest-looking grey box unceremoniously dumped in a corner. But we’re not looking at that; it’s absolutely essential we never look away from the screen, because every moment of the live code demo offers a spectacle.

It’s not just Metro’s trademark graphical oomph that keeps us glued; this action-packed demo has little in common with the creepy corridor crawls we associate with Metro 2033.

All the elements of the gamescom demo were there – the fire fight, the crowd, the flight, the train sequence – hardly the tense, survival horror atmosphere of the original game. Once again, THQ has brought out just one small aspect of the greater game.

“The reason we’ve chosen that is to show the very real improvements we think we’ve made to some of our core gameplay mechanics – so our combat, our AI, our stealth mechanics, the feel of the weapons,” Beynon offered, working the flawed-masterpiece angle.

“The demo was really designed to showcase how we’ve changed the gunplay, which is an area where we had some fairly valid criticisms with the first game.

“The entire Metro experience is very much going to be there – the slow burn, the survival horror, and the exploration within the stations.”

We’re promised the sequel will contain at least as much content, if not more, than the original and that the full game will bring a number of “unexpected environments”. Depite what we’ve seen so far, we’ll have the chance to explore it all slowly, carefully, and with an eye for survival.

“There’ll be plenty of opportunities, as you can with the first level, to play through without killing anyone,” Beynon continued.

“We know what our fans really liked about the original. I don’t think they need another run and gun shooter.”

“This demo is more of a technical showcase, certainly to show how we’ve changed some of our systems, rather than trying to say ‘that’s the direction that we’ve moved to for the game’.

“We know what our fans really liked about the original. I don’t think they need another run and gun shooter. Next time we show you the game, we’ll hopefully be able to show you the full range of gameplay styles.”

Having said that, the explosive set piece events shown in the demo are almost certain to appear in the finished game – but not mashed together into a rollercoaster ride which speaks little of the property’s ammo-conserving philosophy.

“To illustrate what we wanted to do, with this demo we took several different parts from around the game and spliced them together to create this sequence,” Beynon explained.

“So all these part are actually in the game, but they don’t necessarily happen in this order, or in sequence.”

I still got it, baby
The scrounging, grasping feel of the first game did come through in the demo, provided we were willing to look a little more closely, whenever we got a peek at the boomsticks, cobbled together out of whatever desperate survivors can salvage.

Beynon said the number of weapons has been “dramatically increased”, with a focus on the home built oddities.

“This kind of handmade quality is something that we try to carry into all the original weapons. You saw the chain gun that’s belt driven, and you can see the gauge that shows how much power there is in the barrel; as that slows down, your rate of fire drops,” he explained.

12 minutes of gameplay from E3 2011.

“You might have seen I managed to jam the home made sub machine gun at the end; there’s a pressure valve and a little jet of steam to let you know if you’re about to jam it.

“Our weapons designer is actually an mechanical engineer, so a lot of these improvised weapons have a real mechanical base. There’s a couple I think we could actually make.”

It’s important that this aesthetic shines through because one of the fledgling franchise’s draw cards is its unique apocalyptic setting. The world of Metro isn’t as familiar to English speakers as it is to Eastern Europeans, but like The Witcher, players are beginning to clamour for the source novels in a bid to discover more of the canon.

It seems like an excellent opportunity for cross-promotion, but while Metro 2033 was a direct adaptation of the book of the same name, Last Light bares little resemblance to Metro 2034, the sequel.

“[Author Dmitry Glukhovsky] wrote a follow up which I think by his own admission is a kind of esoteric, arthouse novel that really wouldn’t suit any kind of video game adaptation,” Beynon explained.

“Instead, Dimitry crafted the overall plot and storyline for Metro Last Light and then the studio has developed the nuts and bolts from that.

“But it’s still very much Dmitry’s concept and creation and we continue to work closely with him on the story.”

The Pretty
At the very end of the demo we’re given a moment to breathe, and just as relaxation sets in, we’re confronted by a rapid montage of monsters, as 4A Games shows off one of its new mutant designs amid a horde of similarly-deformed enemies.

I don’t know which one of these is the new one since my approach to mutant attacks is to scream, close my eyes, and hold down “fire”. I don’t even know how to describe the bewildering array of creatures that pass across the screen. While all of them share a kind of waxy, twisted aesthetic and an obvious urge for our sweet, pure human blood, they’re otherwise wildly distinct.

Announcement trailer.

One looks a little like a rhino, moving with a ground-shaking weight and decked out in heavy plates; another looks like some sort of overgrown rat, with clever paws; another has a baboon-like bare arse sticking out through its manky fur. It’s exactly as attractive as you’d imagine. I put away the chips I’ve been quietly scarfing.

Beynon pointed to other new additions and improvements – upgraded lighting and more dynamic destruction. On the big screen, it was easier to pick up the shimmering reflections and shadows as lightbulbs were taken out and cobwebs set alight, and to admire the puffs of dust as concrete barriers gave way in chunks to gun fire.

Like its precursor, Last Light seems likely to prove an excellent excuse to upgrade your graphics card and monitor. During the engine-powered cinematic the demo opens with, the camera swoops from a macro scale showing impressive draw distances over the devastated city to tiny, baroque detailing on the ruins themselves.

The transition is so smooth I’m tempted to call it natural, but unless you’re some sort of rocket stunt performer it’s unlikely you’d ever see anything as swiftly, dramatically breathtaking out there in the real world.

Astoundingly, this isn’t even the limits of what Metro: Last Light can do.

“We are using [DirectX 11]. Ordinarily we’d have it switched on, it’s an option with the config file, but I can’t get to it,” Beynon confessed, gesturing ruefully at the PC. “So this was running DX10. Who knows what we’ll be using when the game ships next year?”

It’s said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic; we should probably sacrifice a goat to the humble box sitting under the telly, then.

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16 Comments

  1. Fin

    I’ve no interest at all in this.

    Probably play for 500 hours.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Edo

    #1 Yeah…I’m wishing for a longer campaign too but I don’t think it’s going to be that long.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Patrick Garratt

    I’m just playing through 2033 now. I tried it on 360 when it came out and gave up, but the PC version’s brilliant. Really looking forward to Last Light. So glad they’re sticking to their guns, so to speak.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. monkeygourmet

    @1

    LOL :)

    Sounds like an Erth / Scumbag Steve mash up!

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Fin

    @4

    Oh shit, Erth is a scumbag steve meme isn’t he?

    “Says he hates Black Ops

    Plays 500 hours in a summer”

    #5 3 years ago
  6. monkeygourmet

    @3

    Couldn’t get into it on 360 either… Does the graphical oomph of the PC version make it a lot more playable?

    #6 3 years ago
  7. monkeygourmet

    @5

    That’s it!

    “Constantly complains about PS3…

    Per-orders every PS3 exclusive special editions”

    :)

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Patrick Garratt

    @6 – Just digging the control system a lot more, and yeah, I think the graphics do make a difference. It felt like a shooter on 360: feels more like survival horror on PC. Dunno, maybe I’m wrong. Only a few hours into it, but very much enjoying it this time.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. StolenGlory

    It is a superb game. I’ve been playing it through OnLive (BEHAVE!) and am thoroughly impressed by it.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Colin Gallacher

    @9 SOMEONE USES IT!

    #10 3 years ago
  11. YoungZer0

    @7: I lol’d.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. triggerhappy

    @ Pat: PC version is phenomenal. It truly is a survival horror title. Never played the 360 version. Infact metro 2033 was my fav game of 2010. Seeing at 1920*1080, particle effects and everything was breath taking.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Patrick Garratt

    @12 – I love the combat, especially against the humans. Really tense and hard.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. triggerhappy

    @ 13: Yeh I never thought the gun play was that bad to be honest. First fight against human opponents is awesome, throwing knifes one hit kills are super satisfiying. I used my 360 controller and it felt just right.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. The_Red

    @12 360 version isn’t that bad and the main game is the same. Dark and immersive. I finished it twice on 360 and enjoyed it both times (Love both endings).
    Can’t wait for Last Light.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Big_Boss

    Metro 2033 is one of my favorite games ever. I’m really looking forward to this one.

    #16 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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  • Here’s what the final version of Valve’s Steam Controller looks like

    A look at the updated Steam Controller has surfaced via a hands-on post from Polygon. Valve said what you see in the images below is the final version of the controller. The controller has gone through numerous revisions since it was first revealed, but it seems Valve has decided on two touch pads which work […]

  • The Sims, SimCity developer closed down

    The Sims 4 developer Maxis has been shuttered, EA has confirmed. The Sims, SimCity and the rest of the Sim franchise has traditionally been helmed by Maxis, which had its flagship studio in Emeryville, California. Now EA has confirmed with Kotaku that this studio is being closed. “Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to […]

  • Gigantic MOBA coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One with cross-play

    Today during GDC 2015, Microsoft announced that the new IP from Motiga called Gigantic will be cross-play enabled. Slated for Windows 10 and Xbox One, the five-on-five third-person battle arena game allows the player to select from an array of heroes with distinctive powers and play styles. Players will then make their way through areas […]

  • Here’s a look at Unreal Tournament DirectX 12 gameplay

    Epic Games is creating Unreal Tournament using Unreal Engine 4 running on DirectX 12, which Microsoft says “sets a new bar for visual fidelity.” DirectX 12 is a single API developers can access across Windows devices, which can result in a 20% improvement in performance over DX11 running on the same machine. The Unreal Tournament […]

  • Wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers out later this year

    Microsoft announced at GDC 2015 today it will that all wireless Xbox gaming accessories will be designed for and supported on both Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs moving forward. Later this year, a wireless adapter will be released, allowing current Xbox controllers and future devices to be used wirelessly on PCs. This will […]

  • Microsoft offers up more details on Spencer’s GDC 2015 talk

    Microsoft has provided more details on Cross-Buy functionality between Windows 10 and Xbox One as well as the Xbox Live SKU and other announcements made during Phil Spencer’s talk today. During the session, the head of Xbox shared “the next step” in the company’s plans for a unified platform across all Windows 10 devices which […]

  • Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 this summer

    Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 as a Game of the Year Edition. inXile Entertainment announced the news on the PS Blog, noting the edition contains enhancements and improvements. The game has been ported to Unity 5, which was announced over the weekend, providing upgraded visual effects, “improved character models, upgraded environments, and Unity […]

  • Cross-Buy detailed for Windows 10 and Xbox One; Elite: Dangerous coming to Xbox One

    During Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s session at GDC 2015 today, it was announced Elite: Dangerous would release on Xbox One. Spencer also outlined cross-buy functionality across Windows 10 and Xbox One. Spencer’s talk started off with Frontier Developments announcing Elite: Dangerous for release this summer as a console debut on Xbox One, suggesting the Elite: […]

  • Longbeards Culture Pack available now for Total War: Attila

    The Longbeards Culture Pack is now available for Total War: Attila and it comes with three new playable factions. The Langobards, the Burgundians and the Alamans can be played in both single and multiplayer campaign modes as well as custom and multiplayer battles. A new feature called The Lay of Ybor is also included. It […]

  • Nvidia unveils Titan X as world’s “most advanced GPU” – video

    Nvidia revealed Titan X as “the world’s most advanced GPU” during Epic founder Tim Sweeney’s State of Unreal session a t GDC 2015 today. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took the stage during the panel stating it contains “8 billion transistors,” and has 12GB of RAM. Pricing wasn’t announced, but it was rumored back in January […]

  • Steam sale discounts titles announced for SteamOS

    With many of the year’s most popular games heading to SteamOS, Valve has decided to host sale in celebration. Here’s a short list of titles on sale. The full list of PC, Linux, Mac and SteamOS discounts can be found through the link. The Banner Saga Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Batman: Arkham […]

  • PayDay 2 announced for SteamOS, celebrating with franchise sale

    PayDay 2 is coming to SteamOS, Overkill has announced. Still under development, a release date will be announced at a later date. “Making sure PAYDAY 2 is available on SteamOS felt like a no-brainer,” said Bo Andersson Klint, CEO of Starbreeze in the press release. “With PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition coming to the next generation […]

  • Magicka 2 has a release date and a crazy new trailer

    Magicka 2 has a release date for PC and the PlayStation 4, and Paradox Interactive has released a trailer featuring “Vlad’s latest lyrical triumph,” which is his rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. Magicka arrived on PC and PS4 May 26 and the game can be pre-ordered on PC beginning today, with PS4 pre-orders […]

  • Nintendo eShop schedule: Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone, others

    Nintendo has sent over a list of titles heading to the eShop in 2015. The schedule contains titles such as Affordable Space Adventures, Runbow, Swords & Soldiers 2, Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. Below a preliminary list of games scheduled to launch in the Nintendo eShop on […]

  • Week 8: Can you win the weekly VG247 GTA Online playlist? Play tonight at 8pm UK time!

    We’re hotdogging tonight. I don’t even know what that means. Eight weeks of ridiculous death. Such a brave, true milestone. We’re going to celebrate two entire months of playing weekly GTA Online playlists with VG247 readers with Hotdogging, a set of six jobs I named completely at random. This one ends with a straight-up border […]

  • Puzzle platformer Four Sided Fantasy coming to PC, consoles in early 2016

    Curve Digital and developer Logan Fieth’s studio Ludo Land are bringing puzzle platformer, Four Sided Fantasy, to PC all major consoles in early 2016. Ludo Land are developing the PC version, with Curve Digital handling the console and Vita versions. Four Sided Fantasy tasks players with venturing across “dreamlike levels” by controlling and manipulating the […]

  • Tropico 5 arrives on PS4 in April – video

    A release date for Tropico 5 on PlayStation 4 has been announced. This is the franchise’s first foray onto PlayStation consoles. It arrived in Europe on April 24 and in North America on April 28. A Limited Edition has also been announced, and it includes The Big Cheese DLC and the Bayo Del Olfato sandbox […]

  • Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain Limited Edition PS4 releasing in Asia

    A limited edition Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain PlayStation 4 system will be released in Asia. The system and its DualShock controller were designed in collaboration with Konami Digital Entertainment and targeted for the Asia region, per Gematsu. It will be released as part of PS4 Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain […]

  • This video shows Sid Meier’s Starships being played on iPad

    Sid Meier’s Starships will be released on iPad alongside Mac and PC, and to give you an idea on how it plays on the tablet, a new video has been released. Watch below as Pete Murray and lead producer Stuart Zissu show off the iPad version. The 4X space-strategy releases on March 12.

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood announced as standalone prequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a standalone prequel to The New Order, will release May 5 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The game takes pace in 1946, and and players take on the role of B.J. Blazkowicz as he embarks on a two-part mission in Bavaria. Part one, Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves, […]

  • Observer Mode coming soon to Evolve as a free update

    Observer Mode will be released for Evolve as a free update for all platforms, 2K and Turtle Rock have announced. The community feature was designed to give Evolve players the ability to observe and add commentary as well as livestream, allowing a sixth user to “passively enter a custom game” with the ability to switch […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes and PS4 top Media Create charts in Japan

    The PlayStation 3 and PS4 skus for Dragon Quest Heroes were the top sellers on the Media Create charts in Japan, moving a combined 594,749 units. Elsewhere on the chart, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D was in third place with 39,751 units moved, and last week’s top seller, God Eater 2: Rage Burst, […]

  • Watch Hideo Kojima answer lots of your burning Phantom Pain questions

    What’s better than learning the official release date of MGS5: The Phantom pain? Hideo Kojima talking more about it, of course! Hideo Kojima has decided to answer a few fan questions about Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, to help boost everyone’s hype to insane levels. He talks about the game’s story, his relief […]

  • MGS5: The Phantom Pain Day 1 and Collector’s Edition revealed

    Konami has officially revealed the release date of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain alongside the game’s Day 1 and Collector’s Edition. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain will release September 1, worldwide, as previously leaked. It will be available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The PC Steam […]

  • EU Club Nintendo: Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack back in stock

    Club Nintendo members in Europe can once again pick up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack. For 3000 Stars, members of the program will receive the double-CD soundtrack which features 89 tracks with liner notes from Ryo Nagamatsu and 12 sheet music excerpts. It also comes with 16 Milk Bar Musician pieces. […]

  • HTC apologises over “confusing” Half-Life VR comments

    HTC has misspoke when it talked about Half-Life coming to VR headset Vive. HTC chairwoman Cher Wang has apologised over the comments she made yesterday about the possibility of Half-Life coming to Vive, the VR headset it’s manufacturing with the help of Valve. Sources close to Valve, have indicated to the BBC that the developer […]

  • What do Heists and Daily Objectives tell us about the future of GTA Online?

    Daily Objectives could be more important to GTA Online than Heists. These theories and more, from a giddy Matt Martin. Yesterday Rockstar dropped a bombshell. Not only is it releasing Heists next week – the mythical 4-player missions for GTA Online – but it’s also going to be introducing daily challenges and more modes to […]

  • Breaking down Hardline Premium, is it worth it?

    Having been announced just a few days ago, the Premium service for Battlefield Hardline has been a topic of constant debate among the Battlefield community. Many look at Hardline as a Battlefield off-shoot that will just tide everyone over until Battlefront comes out in the fall. EA has other plans however, announcing a $50 Premium […]

  • Watch Dogs sold more than GTA 5 and FIFA 15 in Australia in 2014

    Watch Dogs outsold GTA 5, and FIFA 15, at retail in Australia last year. According to data obtained by the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) from the NPD Group Australia, last year’s year retail sales charts look a bit different in Australia. The top-selling game was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, followed by Watch […]

  • Watch PC footage of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from GDC 2015

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a new gameplay video available that shows a bit of action from the PC version. The video below was captured from Nvidia’s GDC conference live-stream. Developer CD Projekt RED was on hand to show off The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s graphical prowess running on a PC. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • Dying Light: Hard Mode and Ultimate Survivor Bundle out March 10

    Dying Light’s second DLC drop, the Ultimate Survivor Bundle, and the free Hard Mode, have been given a solid release date alongside a new trailer. Dying Light developer Techland has confirmed that the Ultimate Survivor Bundle, the game’s second DLC drop, will release March 10. The DLC is part of the season pass, but will […]

  • Exploration puzzler Ether One is coming to PlayStation 4

    Ether One, the first-person exploration game that puts you in the minds of other people to help change events of their past is coming to PlayStation 4 this year. Ether One is coming to PlayStation 4 this year, developer White Paper Games announced at GDC 2015. A retail version will also be available alongside the […]

  • Larian “murdered” Divinity: Dragon Commander to focus on Original Sin

    Divinity: Original Sin developer Larian talked very candidly about the business side of development and the many unfortunate events that took place for the game to come out as it did. Larian Studios founder Swen Vincke gave a post-mortem on the troubled development of Divinity: Original Sin, and how it managed to overcome all of […]

  • Firewatch probably has the most natural dialogue of any game to date

    Firewatch developer Campo Santo has revealed the first ever gameplay footage of the upcoming exploration game. Firewatch is the first game from super indie studio Campo Santo. The game is set in the Wyoming forests where the player will be exploring the environment and act as a fire lookout. The game features extensive voice-acting as […]