Sections

Metro: Last Light has earned its mature rating

Tuesday, 26th March 2013 12:08 GMT By Dave Cook

Metro: Last Light is rife with adult themes. VG247′s Dave Cook steps into 4A’s brutal post-apocalyptic hell and speaks with the studio about life beyond the brink.

Metro: Last Light

Developed by Ukraine studio 4A Game, Metro: Last Light is the sequel to Metro 2033

While Metro 2033 was based on the book by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro: Last Light is a brand new story set in the same world. The game’s script and dialogue were penned by Glukhovsky, and will make up part of his next book Metro 2035.

Last Light’s new publisher Deep Silver released the game’s latest trailer yesterday. It’s called ‘Salvation’ and you can watch it here.

Metro: Last Light hits PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 across North America from May 14, and across Europe on May 17.

I played three hours of Metro: Last Light recently and I came away feeling dirty. It’s a game that doesn’t shy away from mature themes, and it certainly doesn’t present them in an unrealistic manner.

There’s even an attempted rape scene.

At one point I was trudging down a dark tube line towards my next objective. It was deathly quiet, but I could hear a commotion drifting faintly on the breeze. It was echoing from an ancient part of the Metro littered with rusted train cars.

Going off the beaten path I headed towards the sound to see a gang of male raiders cornering a young woman. They were threatening to force themselves on her, so without thinking twice I gunned them all down with my gas-powered rifle.

But there was no XP reward, no HUD marker to tell me what a good job I had done, because this is what gaming has taught us to expect, even during moments of intense pathos. Nothing happened. Instead, the woman curled up in a ball and laid down on the soiled mattress. She started to cry.

I stood around waiting for something to happen, expecting some dialogue to say thank you, or perhaps an escort mission to take her home. Then I realised that these things don’t happen in real life, and that’s precisely how Metro: Last Light wants you to feel: uncomfortable.

As I walked away from the train car to carry on my mission, I could still hear the woman wailing behind me in the distance, as if it was following protagonist Artyom like a spectre. As the sound eventually faded I started to think about the way 4A Games handled the scene, and about my reaction to what happened.

About an hour before that I had to get to the other side of a city square, and the only way across was through a downed passenger jet. Artyom’s comrade Pavel helped me prize open the side door, and we were met with the corroded skeletons of holiday-makers.

If that wasn’t grim enough, the pair suddenly became possessed by a strange force that showed them the moments leading up to the crash. Looking out from the cockpit, I saw the pilots shrieking as they tried to steer the plane away from the nuclear blasts below.

Lights on the cockpit controls flashed and droned loudly, as buildings crumbled and collapsed on the streets. Finally, a heatwave surged through the craft vaporising everyone and bringing Artyom back to consciousness. It’s clear that Metro: Last Light has earned its mature rating with gusto.

After my session I spoke with Dmitry Glukhovsky, author of the Metro book series. You can read my full interview with him soon, but he told me that the key theme of Last Light is mankind squandering its second chance at a new life, and repeating all of the same mistakes as before.

This feeds into the game’s plot, which sees several opposing factions fighting for control of the Metro line while trying to track down the last remaining Dark One. There’s even a regimented order called The Reich that bears parallels to the Nazi movement, complete with red insignias and a rigidly militarised hierarchy.

They populate the station below the Bolshoi theatre, where cabaret shows are performed on the hour to the whoops and jeers of drunk soldiers on downtime. The whole experience shows a world where mankind has regressed to worn ideals, immense sexism and a degree of inequality best condemned to history.

It’s clear that the residents of the Metro line haven’t learned from the terrible mistakes of the past, but developer 4A Games has learned a lot since Metro 2033. Not only are the mature themes displayed with sobriety instead of glorification, the game is a huge leap from a technical and gameplay perspective.

It surpasses its predecessor on all counts. The stealth works this time, and it falls in line with last year’s Far Cry 3, giving players multiple routes and options with which to plan each silent attack. Turning off lights and tripping circuit breakers can create shadow, increasing your chances of slipping by unnoticed. It’s empowering and smacks of smart environmental design.

The studio has also made its currency system easier to understand. Military-grade bullets are still used as money, but here they are clearly marked so that you don’t accidentally use them in battle. You can still use them in your gun of course, but you are prompted before each use just in case.

You still need gas mask filters when venturing outside, and there’s few things as tense as hearing your wrist-watch beep miles from the nearest safe area. When this happens you’ll be scrambling around like crazy looking for new air filters before you suffocate.

If you don’t have enough air, don’t go outside. If you want to save your military rounds, use stealth instead. If you get lost, don’t expect there to be a mini-map because there isn’t one. This is a game that doesn’t treat you like a baby, and that’s why it’s so enjoyable.

Before my hands-on I spoke with Deep Silver’s Huw Beynon about Last Light’s dark tone and to get a handle on how closely the plot looks at life before World War III. “There are elements of Artyom’s past in there,” he replied, “as he goes through his own personal journey. But the reasons and the ‘why’ behind the war are never explained, because this is ‘year zero’ for the remnants of humanity.

“It’s irrelevant who did what. This is the new reality, the new dark age that people are living through and we don’t have to dwell on what happened before. It’s more about how people are eking out this dark and bleak existence, and somehow trying to – not just live – but thrive, survive and to find some kind of meaning in their life when everything’s been blown to shit.”

Metro: Last Light’s town hubs depict all of the above, and are fleshed out incredibly this time around. There’s a great sense of post-war depression running through each station, as beggars stumble around drunk, families tend to swine, and parents play shadow puppets with their children. It all feels tangible and very, very sad.

I was going to close this article talking about how technically impressive Metro: Last Light has become. The PC version looks next-gen for example, while the console builds squeeze their respective rigs to the limit. It’s simply a proficient and accomplished game.

But I want to return to the rape scene instead. As shocking and deplorable as it was, it begs many questions as to the literary and emotional value of titles like this. It’s a horrid scene that exists off the beaten path and bears no relevance to the mission structure. Yet it’s in there waiting to test the resolve of any gamer who comes across it.

This is a mature game, one that handles difficult themes and questions with care, skirting around the ham-fisted approach employed by other studios out there. It’s a reality check that catches you off-guard and is likely to get people talking for some time to come.

Some may condemn it, while others may celebrate 4A’s bravery. Either way it should spark debate, but the question remains: Is the industry mature or capable enough to handle such thorny issues properly? Discuss below.

Disclosure: To write this piece Dave attended a Deep Silver showcase day In London. All travel was paid for by VG247. While catering was offered at the event, all food and drink was bought by Dave. No other merchandise or advertising was offered or accepted.

Latest

28 Comments

  1. BULArmy

    Battlefield 3 didin’t made me swithc rigs, neither Crysis 2/3 or even BF4 most problably wouldn’t made me want to get new rig, but this game, oh yes. I absolutely love the books, I even got the one that are translated only in German of the mroe popular languages and are written by other authors and expand the universe.

    The first game is my GOTY of 2010 even if the game had its issues, just for the atmosphere. The days really can’t come soon enough.

    I really hope that we will see a multiplayer game in the Metro universe. But something in the Planetside 2 case. Choosing a faction and fighting for control over stations. I know this is almost impossible, because everything is the game is claustrophobic, but a man can dream.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Matt27

    No doubt mainstream press will get one wiff of this rape scene and call for it to be banned/tell the world video games make kids violent.

    I hope it doesn’t come to that, this is a game with a mature rating and should only be played by people who are of a maturity to appreciate the tone this game is setting.

    When I upgrade my rig I might have to get hold of this one.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @2 “I hope it doesn’t come to that, this is a game with a mature rating and should only be played by people who are of a maturity to appreciate the tone this game is setting.”

    This is the big question yeah. Can games start to approach these things with realism and sobriety or will censors keep blocking the industry? It’s become a tricky question lately.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Weefz

    I quite like this handling of rape, if such a thing can be said. It’s not there to justify a character transformation, it’s not there as a Kick The Dog flag to show evil. As Glukhovsky says later in the article, humanity is making the same mistakes they did before and humanity can be pretty awful at times.

    This is the sort of thought-provoking treatment that is worthwhile, both building up the atmosphere of the world and playing with your video-game trained expectations to make a point. Horrible things happen and something you can’t do anything about it.

    Bravo to 4A Game for including this.

    (I am presuming, of course, that there are plenty of women in the world of Metro who haven’t been raped. All Men Are Rapists is just as terrible a clichĂ©)

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @4 thanks for reading Debbie :)

    Yeah it’s a weird one, and I felt guilty about expecting a reward for saving her. I think that’s what games have taught us to expect – do something noble, get something in return. The world doesn’t work that way, and the fact that it’s not even a sign-posted event means it has potential to change up each player’s experience and get them thinking about what happens.

    I think it’s a brave thing to do, but it remains to be seen how the mainstream press treat it, if at all.

    Thanks for posting.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Eversor

    First one was really good… I have very high expectations for that game.
    Thanks for good article, it was a big pleasure to read.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. YoungZer0

    @3: I doubt it. Remember the whole Lara Croft debacle? I mean it wasn’t even confirmed and people went absolutely insane.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Dave Cook

    @6 Thanks for reading :)

    #8 2 years ago
  9. redwood

    but what would have happened if you hadn’t stopped it?

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Eversor

    @8 Dave, I like your style of writing – not only information and facts, but your toughts and reactions…. I think it’s simply much more fun from reading in that way =)

    #10 2 years ago
  11. 2-K

    First one was a Flawed Gem The sequel is looking Fantastic Gotta upgrade my rig and BTW Great Article Dave

    #11 2 years ago
  12. YoungZer0

    And the article is good, as always. Can’t wait for the interview.

    I loved the first game, bought and read the books after finishing it. I actually managed to finish the game with the good ending. Blew my goddamn mind when the book’s official ending was the bad one. I really like how – in order to get the good ending – you have to stay and listen most of the time. Not actions define it, but the complete opposite.

    For example, you’re a in hub and there’s an old man telling stories of the old world. If you stay and listen, he rephrases a character from the book, when he’s done with his story, you see a flash and a confirmation that you did good. Very subtle. If you didn’t knew it was a confirmation, you wouldn’t know.

    Also I remember infiltrating a Nazi camp, listening to two guards talking about their lives and how they can barely provide for their family. Listen to it long enough and you did good. I dunno if you get – points if you kill them after that though.

    … god the first game is soooo good. Not many games manage to build such a beautiful atmosphere. What I really love about the game is the pacing. A lot of the time it’s just you exploring the lonely tunnels of the metro. You always have a look out on your watch, changing filters as time goes by, always on the edge, afraid a demon could attack you any moment.

    I. Love. That.

    With most games it’s just action-action-action, with no pause. It’s boring. So far only Ukrainian developers seem to understand how its done.

    I played it as a stealthy character and although the gameplay wasn’t as refined as it should be, it was an immensely enjoyable experience. I remember one level in particular where the reds were fighting the nazis and both would be fighting you if they saw you. I jumped, climbed and sneaked my way through, while there was a whole war going on. Nobody noticed me.

    I fucking loved it.

    Even managed to finish it on Ranger difficulty.

    I very much doubt the rape scene will be received well. It’s not the industry that’s at fault here, it’s the journalists (Not you, Dave, you know I love you) and the community. As mentioned above, before we even had a confirmation that Lara could actually get raped in Tomb Raider, People already started flooding the internet with their opinions on how games shouldn’t touch the subject.

    Same people probably argue that games can’t be art, because they don’t tackle important topics.

    Also, I’d think it’s reasonable enough to think that -if she wasn’t rape – she should be able to at least run away. This is the world of Metro we’re talking about here, people should be used to those kinds of horrific acts.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @10, 11, 12

    Many thanks guys, really nice to see strong feedback like this :)

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Hussar

    Metro series (books + video games) deserve much more recognition, in my opinion. They’re so flawlessly executed, containing amazing postapocalyptic worlds where humans are uninvited. It’s thrilling. Every adventurer in heart should experience what Metro series is like. It’s THAT enjoyable.

    Thanks for this insightful review. Last Light will definitely overwhelm me as 2033 did. :)

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Samoan Spider

    Wow. Just wow. This is right up near the top of my radar all of a sudden. I’ve been looking for something to captivate me like this for a while.

    Stalker in all its buggy glory was the last game that got me right in the spirit of being in a hell-hole and in real shit All of the time. I’m hoping this turns out exactly as it sounds. Good article Dave.

    Sad thing is I have had 2033 on my Steam list for months and never got to playing it. I’m guessing I ought to get that under my belt.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Edo

    Thanks Dave…now I want this game even more :) .

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Dave Cook

    @16 no probs :) Me too, I really enjoyed what I played.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Samoan Spider

    Oh, I meant to ask, is there no hud this time?

    #18 2 years ago
  19. YoungZer0

    @18: The difficulty “Ranger” which was later added via patch to the first Metro includes a no hud feature. So you can definitely expect to see it in the sequel.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. deathm00n

    @15 Play it NOW, if you have it play it. It’s awesome, I’m actually waiting for my new laptop to arrive so I can play it again with better graphics now as a waiting for Last Light

    #20 2 years ago
  21. KrazyKraut

    Metro 2033 is one of my favorite games of all time and personally I think its better than STALKER.

    I will never understand, why a game is only “mature” when it contains a rape scene.
    And why ppl demand it more and more in games.

    Yes, I shoot at ppl and kill them. But at least I kill in the most cases bad guys, who trying to attack or are armed.

    When you rape a woman harmless woman, you break a flower, which will never bloom again. And I am sure, when folks demand a rape scene, the are males. Never females. Think about that. But hey, have fun sick idiots.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. ultramega

    @21

    “When you rape a woman harmless woman, you break a flower, which will never bloom again. And I am sure, when folks demand a rape scene, the are males. Never females. Think about that. But hey, have fun sick idiots.”

    Wow. This article truly went over your head, didn’t it? That’s got to one of the stupidest things I’ve heard in a while. (And I’m not talking about the breaking a flower part, I’m talking about the latter half of your statement).

    #22 2 years ago
  23. nollie4545

    I enjoyed Metro, agree with the above, only developers from Eastern Europe can capture this kind of feeling in a game.

    I feel that comparisons with the STALKER series are unfair though. Both games overlap in content and setting, but their execution and aims are far more different. Metro is a story, it literally is a film in which you are the star. You watch and experience Metro in the same one way street that a film is delivered, the other half is you interacting with the game.

    Stalker creates a similar world, where you also experience a lot from that one way street. However it is an open world RPG, barely feels at all linear, even if you follow the missions rigidly, I challenge anyone not to stray off the exact path. Stalker had some technical issues, and stank of a game rushed to market. But the idea was sound and with some good modding, the game was unleashed. It is literally 10 times the content Metro is, but delivered in the same intravenous way. It is rare to feel truly safe in Stalker, and that is one theme I felt repeated in Metro.

    A comparison with Far Cry 3 makes me sour personally. Metro is not a mindless blaster, in no other game have I felt the gravity of a each kill. The graphics are utterly insane and literally put you in the game in a way few other titles compare. I pre-ordered last light months ago, and I personally wasn’t disappointed to hear it had been delayed. For anyone who is yet to experience 2033, I would heartily recommend you do prior to this game, you can buy it for next to nothing money.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. Telepathic.Geometry

    This game sounds like my bread and butter. Time to renew my pre-order! ^-^ I’m especially in love with games where you have a chance to make a decision that isn’t gamed, by which I mean “You earned GOOD points, you earned the loyalty of this character, you earned a trophy, you earned experience”…

    You just do whatever you feel, and that’s good. I wanna play my way. I wanna have those unexpected moments where I choose to do something and it’s my experience, not with the game screaming “That was part of the game, well done, you did the right thing…”

    #24 2 years ago
  25. zinc

    Glad to read your first reaction was to kill the rapists Dave.

    The fact the game gives you no real closure after such a scene though, smacks of sensationalism.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. noamlol2

    well did he get a quick flash after he saved that women?

    in metro 2033 a flash meant you got a karma point which (and if you gained a lot in your game) it will lead to the altarnative ending

    or did they remove entirely the flash system?

    #26 2 years ago
  27. Luc

    Almost every single time I read an entire vg247 article it turns out the be written by you, David Cook. And once again, after having read the entire article it turned out to be written by you. I’m not sure whether it’s the subjects you write about, or the way you write that piques my interest. Either way, it’s a great article! And I’m absolutely loving 4A’s approach and the entire Metro vibe, I will definitely be playing this game when it comes out.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. KrazyKraut

    @22
    Why is it stupid? Everytime I read something about “raping in games” the word “mature” is not far away.

    #28 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.