Metro: Last Light PC Review
Metro 2033 was a beautiful looking first-person shooter that imply oozed atmosphere. The mysterious setting of post-apocalyptic Russia won me over, sticking most of the action in gloomy underground tunnels, where seeing the surface in the game was a luxury full of the weird and wonderful. Players didn’t know what to expect from the game, immersing us with its world and unanswered questions of monsters and “the dark ones.” Metro 2033 was based on a Russian novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky, titled with the same name, and even though the game had some issues with dubious stealth mechanics and less than fantastic gun combat, the rest of the game was absorbing and was well deserved of the praise it received. 4A Games is back with the sequel, which fixes all of the problems that I had with the original, but at the same time removes the challenge that made Metro 2033 rewarding.
Players are put into the boots of Artyom, the central character of the last game – who still remains a silent hero except during loading screens – and follows on one year after the explosive events of Metro 2033, where the surface outside of the Metro was bombed with missiles in an attempt to remove any of the mutated beings that had made the poisonous outside their home. While Metro 2033 introduced you to the inhabitants of the underground network, it never flushed out all of the different cultures and civilians living in their own cultivated habitats; thankfully, this is where Last Light shines exquisitely, delving deeper and offering a broader scope to the variety of people who are living in these awful conditions. Last Light also endorses the outside environment of the Moscow surface, an area mostly used in the first game to install mystery, using rare trips to the surface to show off how ravaged the once flustering area of Moscow had become. The game features many outdoor events that, while sinister and full of dangerous hazards, are striking to traverse through in their own twisted way. If Metro 2033 was known for its harrowing tunnels, then Last Light will be known for is disturbing outdoors. In fact, it should be known for its diversity of the two, making the journey varied from start to finish.
In a strange way, the journey of Last Light reminded me of Half-Life 2. This unwanted world forced on people, the way the game pushes players through small areas of downtime from visiting one of the friendly zones, where you’re given time to look around and take in the world, even enjoy its pleasures, repeats itself and adds to the incredible sense of atmosphere. Flashbacks help to show eerie story points, such as being in the seat of a plane crash when the bombs drop. Then you arrive at charming places, like the wonderful Venice, in which people only hear rumours that Venice was a name of a beautiful city that floated on water, with Metro’s own Venice, beautiful in its own depressing way, is a place that is half soaked in dirty water that has built up from the snow melting and seeping through the ground down into this refugee town. Last Light does exceptionally well at creating a world you care about, and this is backed up with the stellar sound design and decent voice acting with that hint of Russian.
Newly introduced foes grace the surface – occasionally underground as well – that are true monstrosities. I beg to question how these actually formed from mutated planet life, but either way, walking through the spider infested lairs and using the torch to burn giant spiders to flip them over to hit their soft underbellies, makes for a good mix-up with the gunplay. It’s scenes like this that remind you that Last Light is a horror-themed game.
Anyone who has already visited the world of Metro has an idea of what to expect. It’s more of the same in regards to most of the mechanics. The gas mask still plays a huge role within the game, used to protect Artyom from dangerous chemicals on the surface or when situations underground necessitate the use of it. The mask can also break if you are take too much damage while wearing it, and it plays a distressing audio sound of Artyom gasping for any clean air and is covered in a visual blur that gets more overpowering the closer Artyom is to suffocating. Scattered around are used gas masks by the deceased, so a replacement can often be found when you are taking part in some of the game’s bigger fire fights.
Filters for the gas mask are also frequently discovered upon and stashed in Artyom’s inventory. A standard filter can supply up to five minutes of air at one time. Once it becomes inefficient, you can replace it, pushing the timer back up to five minutes. Filters are stored as time, as various filters scattered around the environment offer numerous values, but are all stored as one clock that communicates to the user how much time is available before clean air is no longer viable. I never found myself truly running out of air. In the original game, the air filters were sparsely scattered around, creating concerns about how efficiently you could use the gas mask, but in Last Light, you can discover them littered everywhere. In fact, the game as a whole is stress-free on the normal difficulty, a big difference compared to Metro 2033’s less than friendly combat that made every enemy a dangerous opponent.
There are numerous reasons to take into account the drop in difficulty. Obviously, in a commercial sense, is to make the bar of entry lower for newer players, taking the feedback from the original game and letting people enjoy their time with Last Light to soak themselves in its atmosphere and story without much getting in the way of being able to finish the game. Mechanically, this comes down to ammo being easily available, where limited ammo was something that added to the survival aspects of Metro 2033. The stealth route is still feasible, using silence weapons to pop out the lights, and then with the use of context sensitive button presses, use instant death kills or knockouts that are great for quick removal of the enemy. The new watch that Artyom wears does a worthy job at indicating if players are standing in highly visible areas, by alerting the player with a distinguishable blue light, which will help anyone who has trouble deciphering if he or she is hidden from the enemy.
The battered guns from Metro 2033 return here in the sequel, but now the guns are just visually deteriorated, as the feeling of using such unreliable weapons has gone, the kickback from shooting is reduced, making it feel like a standard shooter in that regard. Not that this is a knock against the game; it’s not, and it feels good to shoot because the enemy AI – for the most part at least – is component enough to fight back. Weapons can be upgraded using the game’s currency of high-quality bullets, adding silencers, scopes and all those mechanical gadgets. One thing that I never had to do was use the currency as ammunition. It might be different on the hardest setting, but the normal setting planted ammunition everywhere.
On the topic of difficulty, a fan favourite with Metro 2033 was the post release inclusion of Ranger difficulty, which made the game more challenging with a new set of rules. Ammo was reduced and stealth was more of a focus, as both Artyom and his foes did much more damage, dying in two to three hits. If playing with the hardcore version of Ranger mode, then the HUD was removed, adding even more immersion. Fans praised ranger mode highly, so you would think it would make a return for Last Light. Well, I am happy to announce that Ranger mode is back…. as a pre-order bonus DLC. I’ll just take a breather while I wait for you to stop spitting on the floor in disgust, because that is what this is, a dirty marketing ploy that spreads its poster with “Experience complete immersion” and “The way it was meant to be played.” That’s not something that should be a pre-order bonus. Deep Silver says it’s because retailers demand pre-order DLC as a requirement. If that is the case, then why not just do something less offensive than removing a feature of the game and then charging money for it for people who didn’t pre-order? I’ve seen gun skins, a limited edition weapon and other less unpleasant means than what’s on offer here.
4A Games have once again used the jaw-dropping engine of Metro 2033 to push some of the best first-person shooter visuals on the PC. This was a game that was targeted with PC hardware in mind. It supports DirectX 11 and comes with all the fancy bells and whistles of that API, along with detailed textures to create a world that, even though is withered by destruction, is pure bliss on the eyes. The teams’ art direction helps too. In such a bleak world there is only so much you can do with the colour palette in a wasted environment, yet 4A Games manages to make it interesting, with the rare occasion of a splash of colour making its way in to show how lovely the world once was.
On a technical level, I did have some problems with the game running on an AMD 6990. Now, this card should have no problem running Last Light, and it didn’t for the most part, hitting around 70+ frames on max settings (without supersampling), but in two or three areas of the game the frame rate would drop dramatically, hitting around 20. I knew it wasn’t the card, so it was either the drivers or the game, but I don’t think it was the drivers, since on one occasion I stopped playing at one of these dreaded frame killers. However, when I returned the next time, the frame rate was back to normal. As typing this, a patch has just been released on Steam and tests show that it has solved problems with the frame rate.
People no doubt want to know if this a successful sequel. I personally found Last Light to be the more enjoyable of the two games. Aspects of Metro 2033 didn’t click with me as they did with some fans. But since Last Light brings across its aesthetics from the original and improves upon them visually and thematically, exploring the bigger picture and giving players a better time in the world of Metro, that the changes to the gunplay do not spoil the overall package. Last Light has the mechanics of a great shooter that is built alongside a brilliant atmospheric and refreshing world that anyone who is fed up with shooters being the same would do well to give it a shot.