Review: Metro: Last Light (PS3)
Title: Metro: Last Light
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (4977 MB)
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games
Price: $59.99 (Blu-ray) / $49.77 (PlayStation Network PS+ Discount)
ESRB Rating: M
Metro: Last Light is also available on Xbox 360 and PC.
The PlayStation 3 version was used for this review.
** This will be a completely spoiler-free review. All screen shots have been carefully selected so as not to give anything away. **
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 319 of the podcast.
The sequel to 2010′s Metro 2033 (which was only available on the Xbox 360 and PC), Metro: Last Light continues the story of Artyom, a Ranger living in the post-apocalyptic Subway tunnels around Moscow. Both games are based on the best-selling Russian novel Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky, and while this game was originally titled Metro 2034, it bears little to no resemblance to the sequel novel of the same name.
Nuclear war ravaged Russia in 2013 and the survivors went underground for survival. Breaking into several distinct groups each controlling different areas of the network of tunnels, people live a tough life dealing with mutants and fighting between the various factions. Artyom is part of The Order, self appointed guardians of The Metro and essentially neutral. Most other groups are neutral as well with the big exceptions being resurgent Nazi and Communist factions.
If you never played Metro 2033, the game does a good job laying the groundwork for you through flashbacks and cutscenes. You learn that Artyom is seen as a savior of The Metro, having launched several nuclear missiles to destroy “The Dark Ones”, a group of mutants with telepathic abilities living on the surface. As the game starts, Artyom is told about a possible survivor of that attack and he’s sent on a mission to destroy the last remaining Dark One.
Since the ammunition manufactured in the Metro tunnels is pretty low quality, the currency in this world is pre-war military grade ammo, which can be used to buy weapons and upgrades or as (much better) ammo if necessary. Either way, you’ll find early on that ammo is scarce and you’ll need to be careful when entering into a firefight. To that end, the game rewards stealth and you can get through most situations with some careful slinking through the shadows. Slipping in behind an enemy and knocking them out or flat out killing them with your knife can be a satisfying experience. The mechanics work really well and it’s a nice challenge to see if you can make it through an entire area undetected but it’ll require a lot of patience to pull off.
The pacing is really good throughout the game as story usually takes precedence over action. Some levels are almost entirely exposition as you make your way from A to B. I found this to be a really nice change from your standard shooter where you enter an area, trigger the enemies, fight until you’ve cleared it and move to the next… rinse, repeat. It’s not going to be for everybody and some may be itching to get back to the action but this is first and foremost about the story and everything in the game is built to serve that purpose.
With that being said, does it work as a story? Absolutely it does, albeit with a few minor stumbling blocks along the way. With the original game being based off a bestselling book in Russia, finding a table in a little library in one of the stations with that and the sequel laid out as if for an autograph signing session was a cute and clever nod to the origins of the game. Seeing it pop up more and more, including the poster touting the release of the sequel book, Metro 2034 (along with the website) starts to pull you out of the game world and back to cold, hard marketing unfortunately. There are also a few boss battles that feel forced and unnecessary in the greater context of the story and game.
Overall though, there’s a nice variety in gameplay and a lot to learn about the world through interactions and eavesdropping on NPC’s making multiple playthroughs well worth the effort. As part of the Limited Edition (currently the only way you can buy the game), Ranger (Hard) mode and 100 Military Grade bullets along with a new rifle become available. Ranger mode is especially nasty and will give players an even more serious challenge.
This is a really great looking game that’s just thick with atmosphere. The attention to detail in the environments is off the charts. Every place you’ll see looks and feels like it’s truly been “lived in” for a good twenty years as it should.
Each of your guns has an attachment indicating whether you’re in the light or not, critical for stealth. You’ll need to take out lights to sneak around undetected and you can do this by either unscrewing the light bulb or breaking it. In a game where stealth is so important, the lighting is excellent, giving you a really clear understanding of whether you’re hidden or not even without the indicator on your guns.
Surface travel requires a gas mask and filters which will need to be changed out periodically. This is another area where the developers paid some serious attention to detail. Radiation hotspots will kill you without your mask on and even when traveling underground, you may come across some dangerous areas. Your mask can become covered in dirt, blood and other filth and a quick tap of the L2 button will wipe it off. If (or really when) your mask starts to get cracked during combat and such, you’ll need to switch it out quickly with another from a dead body if you can find one.
The movement of your character as he walks, gets tossed around and has to stand up again is some of the best I’ve felt in a game. It can be disorienting at times but it actually feels “right”.
Even with all the good stuff, there are some problems. The game does suffer from some screen tearing at times which can be distracting and the shadows cast by characters tend to look downright ugly. Also, in the cramped areas of The Metro, while most characters would yell at me to get out of the way, I had a few walk right through me, giving me an intimate look at their inner polygons and hollow bodies.
Music in the game is mostly atmospheric and works pretty well, giving you audio cues when you’ve been spotted as well as when you’ve dispatched all enemies in an area. There are also a lot of radios around playing Russian rock music which adds to the atmosphere of the game.
The voice acting is surprisingly excellent. I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect much in this area but a lot of work was put into each of the characters and their dialogue is delivered with all the emotion and passion you’d expect in a high budget film.
This game is single player only.
This game is definitely not for everybody. It can be brutally tough depending on how you play it as stealth is definitely rewarded over action. Story is king here and it’s given a lot of room to breathe with quite a few slow, expository sections in the game. The message can get a bit preachy at times, especially near the end, but you’re given a number of choices along the way that really let you make the story and character your own.
Things can get bogged down a bit with a few unnecessary boss battles and such, but overall, there’s a really good story here wrapped in some pretty tight gameplay in a fully realized post-apocalyptic world.
* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro screen capture feature.