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Metro: Last Light doesn’t treat you like a moron

Monday, 13th May 2013 17:00 GMT By Dave Cook

Metro: Last Light is a dark, provocative shooter that neither coddles or insults your intelligence. VG247′s Dave Cook plays the final code and explains why it’s a breath of fresh air.

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.

You can read my interview with Glukhovsky – in which we discuss how he wrote the story and more – right here.

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

Narrative in shooters can be hit or miss. On one hand you could try to crowbar sentiment and empathy into a game like Call of Duty, only to obliterate the impact by following it up with yet another bombastic duck-shoot sequence.

Does the hail of gunfire that threads these scenes together water down the plot, or do these tales get in the way of the action? Should these games simply shut up and get back to the wanton slaughter of faceless foes, or is there room for deep stories in the genre?

I’m guessing that the answer would be different for everyone but personally I’ve experienced – actually, ‘endured’ is probably a better word – countless scenes that are supposed to be touching, only to have them crippled under the weight and din of the ludicrous battles that followed.

It worked in Half-Life because of the game’s ambiguity. Most of the story is left up to your imagination, and that is a neat way to tackle these particular problems.

The world is largely what you make it, just like Gordon Freeman is – in essence – a blank canvas for the player to paint his or her characteristics onto.

I’m quite far through Metro: Last Light now but due to many factors I’ve yet to finish it. So this isn’t a review by any means, but I really wanted to touch on the way the game treats you with real respect in terms of both plot and gameplay.

It’s a remarkable thing that delivers real narrative heft, hammering you constantly with its bleak tone, scenes of extreme violence and lack of hand-holding. It’s about time we had another FPS that doesn’t shepherd you every step of the way, or corrodes its own integrity with dialogue that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Jason Statham film.

So we all know that Metro: Last Light is a game about the apocalypse. World War III has turned the planet into an ashen wasteland where radiation has rendered its surface uninhabitable. In Moscow, the populace has taken up residency in the city’s sprawling Metro underground network.

Protagonist Artyom is on a path of redemption, trying to make amends for a terrible deed carried out in the first game – I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t played it. So off he trots, wading right through the middle of a bubbling civil war between the Metro’s various factions and getting his hands very bloody in the process.

But for all of its harrowing scenes and sense of constant despair, it’s an optimistic game. Life before World War III is scarcely mentioned. Instead, NPCs talk about soldiering onwards, about salvaging what they’ve been left with, about rebirth. You see families with young children enduring their lot in life, and it’s clear that this is – in actuality – an optimistic story.

It’s still as depressing as hell though, but it’s very smart too. The dialogue is clever, there are personal stories to be found everywhere – be it a mother consoling her child after he loses his teddy bear, or people citing Russian poets. These stories are tangible and they are told in a believable tone. As a literary work, – to me – Metro 2033 author Dimitry Glukhovsky has penned a compelling piece in Last Light. Writing is subjective after all.

There are no ‘OORAHS’ or ‘broseph-speak’. Just people with stories; avatars emulating life. You can still kick back and play the game without giving the plot much thought, but you’d be fool to do that as the Metro network is a place you really can invest yourself in if you spend time hearing people out. The end result is that you’ll have a greater appreciation for Artyom’s station in the world as you progress.

It’s a tough place to live, clearly, and this actually translates to the game’s central mechanics too. There’s a notable lack of typical HUD elements. There’s no health bar, no constant ammo counter, no mini-map and best of all, none of those intrusive objective markers, I’m glad that the latter is absent as it’s really becoming an excuse for lazy signposting lately.

Artyom’s flashlight will run out of juice over time, and it doesn’t simply recharge on its own. Instead you have to find a safe spot and whip out his battery device and pump it up manually. If you want to see where you need to go next you have to equip Artyom’s compass, leaving him open to attack unless you’re careful.

It’s a hard game too, with hidden treasures – both in the form of loot and NPCs tucked away – down roads less-travelled, and it never once treats you like an idiot. I recently wrote a blog about a hidden area I found off the Metro line, in which a young woman is almost raped.

If you save her in time you don’t get an achievement, and there is no loot reward. She just curls up in a ball and cries. I found it strange at the time. But that’s how it would happen in real life, and while it may seem like a small scene, it challenged my pre-conceived notion of game design and reward mechanics.

This is a bold game that will absolutely challenge your perception at many junctures. It can surprise, shock, upset and scare you all in one chapter, but most important of all it will entertain you. Thoroughly.

So if you’re sick to the back teeth of the way some genres and franchises seem to deliver more explosions and chest-beating bravado, than brain cells and provocation, then I implore you to play Metro: Last Light. It may be murky and at times downright sad, but it’s given me hope that shooters aren’t turning into mindless run-and-gun exercises.

Alongside BioShock: Infinite, this – to me personally – deserves a place as one of the best-written shooters of the generation. The streamlined core gameplay is, sadly, cause for another debate entirely. But then again I’m yet to finish the game, so maybe this is something worth returning to once I’ve beaten it?

Let us know what you think if you check it out when it releases on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 across North America from May 14, and across Europe from May 17.

Disclosure: To assist in writing this piece, Deep Silver sent Dave a copy of Metro: Last Light on Xbox 360. No merchandise or advertising was offered or accepted.

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19 Comments

  1. Lincks_RUS

    *_*

    #1 2 years ago
  2. YoungZer0

    Yep, Day-1 for me. Gonna buy it for PC, hope my rig can still handle it. I loved the first Metro. You could compare the atmosphere only to the STALKER series. IMO it even surpassed the series by a mile. It simply does so many things right when it comes to narrative. The atmosphere is as thick as it gets, there is no hand holding and the difficulty is just right.

    IMO, it’s everything the Bioshock series is not: Show, don’t tell. The writing is sharp, especially in the russian version. The world and the people in it feel real. They talk about their needs, their situation, the world before and philosophy.

    There is a certain scene from the first Metro I won’t forget. I just entered base of the Neo Nazis and the first thing I heard were two fascists talking to each other. Now, what could they talk about? Probably how they are superior to everyone else of course!

    But you didn’t find that here. Your curiosity and exploration is rewarded, not just with more ammo/money, filters and the chance of a better ending but with things that made the world and its characters more believable.

    Those fascists talked about their families and what would happen to them if they would die here. How they can’t expect the “Sturmbannführer” to take care of their families.

    I went from “Oh yeah, fucking Nazis to kill!” to “I have to do everything I can to avoid a fight with those guys.”

    I remember giving a little boy a piggyback ride to his station, listening to his perspective of the world. The world is so bleak, it’s surprising how cheerful a kid can be. Some of the things he said made me smile, because of how innocent and naive they sounded. Even little things seemed to amaze him. Yet they didn’t put him there just so you have a comic relief. This is a “real” kid and it lost someone, naturally that experience impacted it.

    I don’t even remember if the book had the kid in it, but I’m glad he was in the game.

    Anyway, I can’t wait for the second installment in the series.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Bomba Luigi

    Nah, sorry, but these “Please pay to unlock difficult Mode” makes me feel like an Idiot when I buy this Game. Really don’t care anymore if the Game itself is good or not, was never really sure if I want that Game or not.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. ps3fanboy

    it’s only Deep Silver that treat you like a moron… with their $5 difficult Mode. i don’t accept being treated like a moron, so i am not gonna support this shit!

    if anyone want to play this i strongly suggest you go get it of piratebay. this will send a strong message to the idiots at deep silver that the shit their doing is not accepted.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Lengendaryboss

    @4
    Lock them up, throw away de key and batton down de hatches it time to drink rum and coke and live de good life of a pirate :D Damn my pirate speak is not so good.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. PEYJ

    @ Dave

    Have you any idea how long the game will be? I haven’t read the article as I don’t want any spoilers (only the length).

    #6 2 years ago
  7. noamlol2

    great article
    i’ve read it all and enjoyed every part of it

    yet i’m still angry over the fact of that 5$/pre-order ranger diffculty mode

    -WHY?
    why do they do this? is 5$ soooooooooo fucking neccesry for them to aquire from loyal metro fans?

    i don’t want to support this but i do want to support 4A games

    and people for the love of god (if he cares)
    don’t pirate their work (4A’s) they have no control over the DLC
    only deep silver has

    and those people who worked their ass off for this game deserve a share

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Clupula

    May be an odd question but can the game be played completely in Russian with English subtitles?

    #8 2 years ago
  9. ps3fanboy

    i’ll pirate the shit out of this game. deep silver is going down!! enuff is enuff!!!1

    #9 2 years ago
  10. YoungZer0

    @8: Not odd at all and yes, you can play it in russian with english subs, just like the first one.

    @9: Shut your fucking face.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. MidlifeAxe

    How much face palming I’m doing as I’m reading these comments referring to this whole $5 situation. You realize that was the retailers, don’t you?

    #11 2 years ago
  12. YoungZer0

    @11: No, they don’t seem to get that.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. cyruz

    I just registered to comment. Well-written article, thanks. I pre-ordered the game many months ago. The EU release date is May 17, which kinda sucks, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it.

    Metro 2033 already had pretty good story-telling. Even if there were some technical shortcomings, it’s still a very great game. With the now added polish additional to a great story, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it very much.

    I’ll be very depressed if I can’t save that women though, that’s messed up.

    @Clupula:
    I believe you can. If you dig around their Twitter page and tweets from the last 2 days, I’m sure you’ll find your answer. They mentioned it and I’m positive you can play it in Russian as well as English, but I’m not sure whether you can switch audio language and subtitle language separately.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. YoungZer0

    “but I’m not sure whether you can switch audio language and subtitle language separately.”

    That was possible in the first game, so it should be possible in the second one as well.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Vashya

    metro has always been stalker on rails for console babys

    #15 2 years ago
  16. YoungZer0

    I’d like to repeat what so many people still don’t seem to get:

    If you buy the game at launch (retail), you will have the Ranger Mode.

    Also keep in mind that Ranger Mode in the first Metro 2033 was only free for PC. It did cost Xbox users.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Llewelyn_MT

    @11&12: I’m well aware it’s the retailer’s fault. Therefore I’m not getting it from the retailer. If an independent game studio goes into partnership with a crappy retailer they should blame themselves. These are unfair practices that won’t get support from me. I never preorder, so I will get it one day on Steam sale, thus bypassing the surcharge.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Clupula

    Cool. I don’t speak Russian, but I’m one of those people who always feels it definitely gets me into a game more when the characters speak the language that they would speak in real life (it’s why I am usually never opposed to Japanese games with European looking characters getting dubbed into English and why I wouldn’t play a dubbed Yakuza game).

    #18 2 years ago
  19. CyberMarco

    Does it have a quick-save feature?

    #19 2 years ago

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