By Video_Game_King 8 Comments
до свидания, fellow Comraduders. Wait, that's the Russian term for goodbye. I guess I don't know the Russian term for hello. Anyway, that's my awkward way of telling you guys that I'm going to be talking about Metro 2033, but there's a reason for the awkwardness:
I'm a shitty writer Metro 2033 is an awkward game I'm a shitty writer who believes Metro 2033 is an awkward game. Does it want to be stealthy or action-y? Is it a first-person or third-person narrative? Is the protagonist some schluck or the savior of all mankind? Do you even know who you are, Metro 2033?
But to be fair to the game before I rip it a new asshole, it at least looks pretty. The lighting, for example.....I can't really say much about it. It just looks good. Go ahead and look for yourself. What I can talk about, however, are the textures, probably because everything has one. Everything. From your visor to the ground, you're going to see realistic bumps and imperfections, making it very easy to feel like you're actually in the game's world. But the best part of it has to be the smoke effects, not just because it looks really fucking good, but because it gives the guns a physical presence in the world. You're not just killing your enemies with yellow lines that make "pew-pew" noises; you're operating an actual machine that uses fire and metal to make things dead. Hell, I could probably sum up the game's technical side by saying it does everything in its power to draw you into the world of Metro. 2033. But speaking of power, the game's so resource intensive that you're going to need a lot of it to get this game running. I'd like to think that I have a pretty good laptop, but I still had to knock the settings all the way down (and fuck about with config files to move away from full screen). On the one hand, it's impressive that the game can still manage to look as good as it does at such low levels. On the other hand, this results in so much texture pop-in that you'd think you were playing as a geriatric old man. But in that hand is also some DirectX, so take it with a grain of salt in your already crowded hands.
Let us, then, uncrowd your hands with talk of the world. (The game world; not some drive-by philosophy.) What did you think the graphics were being used for? The answer is "hell on Earth", and not the type of hell on Earth where things are just bad and stuff. I'm talking about the hell on Earth with demons and fire and shit! Does it make sense? Not particularly, but who gives a crap? It lends the game an intriguing supernatural/fantasy vibe that oddly brings the horrors of war to life. It's kind of like Adventure Time, except instead of being made out of candy, the people are instead made of depressing sadness. Between the cold metal of the crowded underground slums and the cold metal of the open above-ground also-slums, I seriously can't name a single moment with even an inkling of hope or joy. (This is going to be relevant later.) Again, this works well for....
Wait a minute, an important question just popped into my mind: is this world used to tell a compelling story? I'll give you a hint as toward the answer: it begins with an N and it's no. Hell, for a lot of the story, I couldn't even tell you why the protagonist was doing the things he was doing. I remember a lot of the things he did, like getting lost in sewers and breaking the spacetime continuum, but not any of the reasons why he was doing these things. Now there are several reasons for this, but I'm going to start with just one: the game doesn't know what kind of story it wants to tell. Not that you can tell for much of the game; at first, it looks like a first person narrative where people stand around and dictate the story right at your face area, implying that you're seeing things from the protagonist's point of view. The protagonist whose vision sometimes goes into slow-mo without any warning. Because "somber with a vague hint of fantasy" always goes well w-WHY ARE WE IN THIRD PERSON NOW!? And then you're back in first person, as though nothing has happened. It's disruptive, takes you out of the moment, and leaves you wondering just what the hell was going on, making it difficult to pay attention to....well, whatever the hell's going on. So with one fell swoop, the world building is compromised.
And things aren't getting better from here. I was going to say "Take, for example, the main character", but there isn't a main character. Sure, you control some lower-class guy named Artyom (that's all the characterization he's getting, by the way), but who is he? He's nobody. He has no character. He doesn't even have a physical presence. He's a ghost; a nothing that mysteriously drives the plot of the game forward. To be fair, the game does try to give him some emotion to alleviate this situation, but the problem is that it doesn't do it particularly well. If anything, it only reveals how emotionally dead Metro 2033 as a whole is. Check out the intro to Chapter 5. Artyom's supposed to express the joy one would have upon reuniting with a long-lost parent; his delivery sounds like he didn't get enough sleep last night. This is the emotional high bar, ladies and gents: an emotionless piece of nothing of no importance whatsoever. And yet he's supposed to be the savior of all Russiankind? Why? How? Stick with something, game!
It's at this point that I should probably mention we're talking about a first person shooter, even if it's not a particularly good one. You're not going to be seeing too many glorious, action-packed gunfights. Instead, they're more plodding and awkward; enemies materialize out of nowhere, and you both pop in and out of cover, hoping that you've hit them. No cover? Well, then, the shoot-outs either become loopy circle-strafe dances or just really quick. Not exactly what I'd call fun or enjoyable. I'd say that this plays into the anti-war messages this game has, especially since the weapon imperfections mean every single battle will be woefully inefficient, but somehow, I'm just not feeling it. Maybe that's because I'm not even sure if there's an anti-war message to be had. With that out of the way, what we're left with two things: a cover system that removes the strategy that makes the game worthwhile (more on that in a bit), and Nazis who can take five shotgun blasts at point-blank rage, and yet drop like flies if you knife them in the face when they're not looking.
Ah, therein lies the problem: knifing them without them knowing. And therein lies the solution: a really good stealth system. It may be slow and.....no, that's really the best way to describe it. Just slow. But that's the best part: you have no choice but to wait in the shadows, observing enemy patterns and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Sometimes, this can lead to some cool world-building stuff (conversations, really), but for the most part, the appeal lies in the methodical, tactical feel it has. My only real complaint regarding the stealth system in itself is how punishing it can be. One fuck-up, and every enemy from here to the antipodes will center on your exact location, making further stealth impossible. Even if you fix that mistake half a second later and nobody was around to see it, you still have to pay. Yea, the reward for avoiding all this is nice in the end, but you could still scale it back a bit.
And maybe make it clearer when I'm supposed to stealth and when I'm supposed to action my way through? This isn't the type of game where you can just exchange the two on a whim; stealthing through an action sequence will end the same way as if you'd started your morning with some Honey Nut Bullet-O's, and actioning your way through a stealth sequence will leave you with a single bullet left for the rest of the game. Fix this problem, though and....well, you're left with a lot more problems that need fixing. The confused narrative, the texture pop-in, the inconsistent damage, the unskippable intro sequence on every single start-up, that Sasha sequence I didn't mention (the game clearly makes the controls worse just to make another character useful), the auto-save screwing you over. Fix all that, however, and I'm confident that you'll end up with a decent game at the end of it all. Then again, that is a lot to fix, especially for a game that's already been released.
- Wow, what an amazing world!
- That surrounds a poorly told story, though.
- The action may not be good, but the stealth sure is.
I know that this is a weird video to post (even by my standards), but it's the motionless picture that really brings it all together. It's like the most psychotic radio play the 1950s could muster.
And on the opposite end of the spectrum is Zombie Nation, also known as America. Before you say anything, this is canon. Then again, anything is, given how much weird shit this game packs into itself. Don't mistake this for being confused, like Metro 2033 was; instead, Zombie Nation is a confusing game. I don't even know how to describe it, let alone render an opinion on it.
I'm not kidding about that. I legitimately have no clue what to think about this game. Why of course that includes the story! It all begins with an alien crashing into Earth to avoid copyright infringement that would only exist on Earth. He then decides to use the power of magnets to make everybody a zombie, and it's up to a floating samurai ghost head to stop him because.....uh.........What? Can you figure any of this out? Because I can't. Is it supposed to be camp? Am I supposed to be laughing at how dumb it is? I'm not exactly getting that feeling anywhere in the game. Everything's just slapped together at random like a Mad Libeurysm. (Or like that joke, now that I think about it.) Then again, that might be what the game's going for, since the first boss is the Statue of Liberty, and things somehow get weirder from there. It's like the game is perfectly in control of the fact that it's not at all in control. Confused? So am I!
Maybe I should move onto something certain: the amazing production values. At least I know where I stand on that. For instance, the music. OK, so I can't remember a single melody, but that's not what impresses me. No; I'm interested in the technical aspects of Zombie Nation. It's hard to name a single NES game with a more robust set of instruments at any given time. So hard, in fact, that I didn't really bother looking for any. If you need all that summarized, then you've probably skipped to the bottom right now, but I'll look past your confusing nature and state that the game sounds as good as it looks. This is how the game looks. Behold everything, wrought with a texture! Behold all the colors that would put a rainbow to shame! Behold that well-drawn face!
And behold how it all comes together to confuse the hell out of you. Remember: this is Zombie Nation. If you can tell what's going on, then you should probably call 911, as you're a few seconds away from overdosing. But while you're sitting pretty on a stomach pump, the rest of us are dealing with an absolute assault on the senses. Everything's always blowing up or moving or doing something, so it's incredibly difficult to tell what's going on at any given time. I can't even tell you how to recover health in this game. Do you blow things up? Do you rescue the humans that fall from the sky? Does it just happen? How am I supposed to play this game, damn it? I feel like I'm being repetitive with this point, but it's really important to say that I had no idea what was happening at any given time. It prevents me from learning how to play the game, so I'm just set up for failure in each level because everything's vying for my attention.
The good news is that this eventually evens out and we can figure out what type of game this is: a shooter. Well, sort of. I don't think there are any power-ups, and if there are, they're rudimentary, at best. The enemy grouping's also decent, but not entirely what you come to the game for. Instead, it's all about the level design. Specifically, navigating all those tight spaces without losing 80% of your health. This isn't an easy task. Granted, part of that is because of the aforementioned assault on the senses, but a lot more of it is simply because you aren't offered a lot of openings. This is a good thing; it means I have to rely on actual skill that might reward me with some feeling approximating satisfaction. But then we have to remember that this game is only about five levels long, and two or three of those levels are what I described in the last paragraph. So is surviving these levels worth it for the fun that lies on the other end? Especially when we're talking about a short game like this? I believe the only answer I can offer with any certainty is "Zombie Nation".
- This game is floating an uncomfortable line between idiocy and camp value.
- Coupled, of course, with more moving parts than the machine you're using to run it.
- The last couple of levels are alright, though.