Quick Look: Metro: Last Light

Patrick and Brad inhabit the depths of Moscow once again, this time with freakin' SPIDERS.

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Metro: Last Light Review

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4A Games makes impressive strides in improving Metro's core gameplay without losing the pieces that made the original so special.

Games are a funny medium. Unlike movies, books, and music, games are made in different parts of the world, but we hardly take note of their place of origin. If it’s fun to play, does it matter? In some respects, this makes games a wonderfully progressive medium, one in which the quality of the creation is judged for what it is. It’s also resulted in a homogenization of design. That we cannot tell if a game is from one place or another suggests the desire for worldwide acceptance is often stomping out quirks that could help define the medium.

Metro alternates between the cramped underground and the ruined surface.

That’s what made 4A GamesMetro 2033 stand out. Metro 2033 was set in Russia, made in the region, and played like it came from there. You wanted to swig from a vodka bottle to be a little closer to it--I called it “full immersion.” Just being different wouldn't be enough, though. Metro 2033 was drunk on atmosphere, and brought players to an alien place where the real and the supernatural swapped places at will. It also had terrible combat. I’m happy to report Metro: Last Light makes impressive strides there, changes that will make jumping into its world easier for those who were put off by some gameplay elements that didn't work well last time.

Metro 2033 concluded with Artyom launching a barrage of missiles at a nest of Dark Ones. Ever since the bombs dropped, the survivors of the area around Moscow have been barely scraping by living underground. There’s not much food, water, or other supplies, and in addition to the mutated animals that have adapted on the surface, a new race of sentient beings capable of destroying folks’ minds with a wave of their hand is causing humanity to wonder if it’s about to be replaced. Artyom appeared to have successfully destroyed all the Dark Ones, but Last Light opens by encountering a survivor of the blast, starting a quest to learn their true nature.

Atmosphere went a long way towards helping you forget the frustration of shooting things in Metro 2033. The gunplay was shoddy enough to break the illusion. I’m partial to the theory that awkward controls can actually contribute to immersion when done properly (see: Silent Hill), but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm, and it was tough to be that guy. It takes precious few moments with Metro: Last Light to appreciate the mechanical upgrade. On a controller, the controls are much more streamlined, and allow you to swap tactics on a whim. This translates to the mouse and keyboard, as well, and reflects a general shift in combat design to encourage more than popping off rounds and hoping for the best. The way it feels is harder to describe. It just...feels like a modern shooter, and is no longer a distraction. The Metro games aren't about the power fantasy in so many other shooters, and it doesn't reinvent shooting a gun. Now, rather than fussing with the controls, you can easily fire away, and focus on surviving the hellscape.

Your survival is acutely conveyed in the first-person, a perspective that comes with a great power that few games wield very well. Each time I've declared I’m done with first-person-shooters, what I’m really saying is I’m tired with what the games are--or aren't--doing with the opportunity in front of them. There will always be something satisfying about holding left trigger to aim and holding right trigger to shoot, but that feeling dulls a little more with each game. It’s easy to think that’s all there is to it, and then a game comes along and reminds us games aren't trying hard enough. Mirror’s Edge was one such game; Metro 2033 was another.

In-between the tense action, you'll explore wrecked towns and come to understand humanity's survival in the Metro.

It’s the little details that matter in Metro, and how they add up. It’s about having to put your gun away in order to manually recharge your flashlight’s battery. It’s about being asked to both reload bullets and manually pump the pneumatic tubing on a rifle that you can, oh yes, accidentally over-pump. It’s about hearing a terrifying beep from your watch, signifying there’s a minute left on your current mask filter, the only thing keeping you alive while scouring the surface for a replacement. It’s about the game employing mission markers only by asking you to check a compass, or pulling up a notebook that has the next objective written down. It’s about being in an intense firefight, blasting a twisted creature away with your shotgun, their blood splattering onto your mask, and the only way to see what’s going on is literally hitting a button assigned to wiping your mask off. It’s these differentiations that combine with Metro: Last Light’s oppressive and claustrophobic sense of place to transport you to a world of hope and suffering.

And Last Light spends a surprising amount of time conveying that suffering. In Metro 2033, this largely happened through idle dialogue and inference. Last Light doesn't abandon asking players to draw their own conclusions, but it’s also far more blunt, and introduces a narrative trick that allows the game to indulge in some truly horrific moments that recall the day the bombs fell. One sequence, involving a plane, remains etched in my mind. By the end, you still don’t know why the nuclear winter was triggered, but Last Light succeeds at conveying the awe-inspiring terror of the day that changed everything. It doesn't skimp on the follies of man in the post-apocalypse, either, including a harrowing moment early on when the player quietly moves through a concentration camp run by future Nazis. In these moments and others, the player is given opportunities to help, but it’s not impressed upon them, and rarely is it tied to the unlocking of an achievement or significant player benefit. If you chose to help the citizens of Metro, it’s because you chose to reach out your hand--or don’t.

Possibly the most surprising addition are the amount of stealth sequences. It’s common to be presented with a huge room full of soldiers, and while it’s possible to fight through them, that’s a bad idea. I've been rather vocal about games with trial-and-error stealth gameplay, so there was a brief moment of panic. This was followed by a sigh of relief, as it became apparent how fast and loose 4A Games was with the concept of “stealth.” Seriously--these enemies need new glasses. It means you can waltz in front of them, so long as your hand’s indicator says you’re invisible. While it made these sequences tolerable, it robs all tension from them, and the sheer volume of the stealth sequences had me wishing the game was more punishing about playing them.

As with Metro 2033, Last Light is a technical juggernaut designed to bring the most powerful of PCs to their knees if you’re trying to max the visuals out. My modest but capable Radeon 7850, 16GB of RAM, and an i7 CPU heavily chugged at the game’s most intense moments (almost all of them were outside and included environmental effects) on the “high” settings. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions are acceptable ways to play the game but hardly ideal. While the frame rate holds up admirably, texture detail take an enormous hit.

You'll want to gaze at the beautifully destroyed landscape, but each moment spent gazing is one moment closer to death.

I was also bugged by an oversight that probably won’t present itself to many people reading this. I view Metro 2033 and Last Light like foreign films. I could play them with English dubbing, but as they were developed in Russia, it makes sense to play them with Russian voices and English subtitles. While I don’t expect to understand everything, Last Light doesn't subtitle a number of story moments, and not for any obvious technical reasons. It may be understandable that every piece of ambient dialogue cannot be translated because the game won’t know where the player is looking, but there are important ambient set pieces where the player’s attention would be directed nowhere else and the game fails to subtitle them at all. If not only to maintain my level of disbelief and immersion, it’s also a failure to successfully address accessibility for the disabled among us.

To be this far without having gone on and on about how well Last Light renders the end of the world speaks to the impact of everything else. Did I mention it has the creepiest spiders since Deadly Creatures? By its very nature of being a sequel, Last Light doesn’t feel as fresh as Metro 2033 did, but there’s still nothing else like it. Few games generate immersion through gameplay and transport you to their world the way Metro does.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
148 Comments
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Posted by rye256

Hurray!

Edited by AlexW00d

but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm

Did you even play Metro 2033 Patrick? You're an 18 year old kid who accidentally gets himself involved in this stuff. You are most definitely not a 'gunslinger' in any sense of the word.

Also it isn't developed in Russia...

Posted by therealminime

Glad to see the world and atmosphere are still Metro's greatest aspects. I'm also pretty okay with them making it more accessible.

Patrick, would you recommend playing it in Russian? I played 2033 in Russian and found it to be much more enjoyable than in English, but some question subtitling doesn't sound great.

Posted by Atwa

ARTYOM

Posted by patrickklepek

@alexw00d said:

but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm

Did you even play Metro 2033 Patrick? You're an 18 year old kid who accidentally gets himself involved in this stuff. You are most definitely not a 'gunslinger' in any sense of the word.

That's true, but as soon as the game opens, they openly remark about how you're an excellent shot, some of the best they've seen.

Staff
Edited by EarlessShrimp

Whelp, looks like you've created an atmosphere of excitement for me. Can't wait to boot this sucker up tomorrow morning.

Posted by LikeaSsur

So much for judging a game by it's own merits and not comparing it to others; there's a lot of talk about the prequel in this review. More than is necessary, I think.

Posted by muffinmcmuffin

@likeassur: How is this negative? Sequels are often compared to their predecessors. The contrast provides a useful point of reference for criticism.

Posted by Hassun

Still miffed they are being such dicks with pre-order bonuses and force you to either do that or pay more to get the difficulty I want to play on.

I understand that they did a similar thing on consoles with 2033 but that doesn't make it acceptable at all.

Posted by Benny

@patrickklepek: Glad you enjoyed it, I love the atmosphere of the last one too so I think I'll give this a shot. Will there be a live quick look or anything?

Posted by EgoCheck616

@alexw00d said:

but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm

Did you even play Metro 2033 Patrick? You're an 18 year old kid who accidentally gets himself involved in this stuff. You are most definitely not a 'gunslinger' in any sense of the word.

Also it isn't developed in Russia...

Posted by Deranged

Awesome review! I adored Metro 2033 and can't wait to pick this up!

Edited by Veektarius

@muffinmcmuffin: On the one hand, I agree with you that most sequels are best understood by their changes from the original. In this case, however, I think too few people actually played 2033 to have a good sense for that. I might be wrong. I didn't, though, and I haven't got a very good impression of how the game plays from this review.

Posted by Droop

4A is in Ukraine, so it's not made in Russia.

And am I the only one who thinks this:

"Games are a funny medium. Unlike movies, books, and music, games are made in different parts of the world, but we hardly take note of their place of origin."

Makes it sound like Patrick is saying movies, books and music is not made in different parts of the world? Odd start, but good review. Looking forward to playing this.

Edited by Juda

@alexw00d said:

but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm

Did you even play Metro 2033 Patrick? You're an 18 year old kid who accidentally gets himself involved in this stuff. You are most definitely not a 'gunslinger' in any sense of the word.

That's true, but as soon as the game opens, they openly remark about how you're an excellent shot, some of the best they've seen.

As soon as this game opens, yes. They say that. Not in 2033 in which I believe the commenter was referring. You've progressed in skill since the last game.

Posted by rye256

I have two open slots on my GF queue, but they did not send me Metro for either system. This rarely happens, but I was really looking forward to this game. Bummer.

Posted by smcn

I don't buy the idea that it's "designed" to have low framerate unless you're using a thousand dollar video card. Your market isn't the people who are going to buy the game used in two years, stop making excuses for poor optimization.

Posted by LucidDreams117

Excellent! I was worried this game would end up being terrible or even just mediocre. Glad to see you enjoyed it Patrick. And though I'll be playing it on 360 with lower textures, I'm looking forward to playing it! :)

Edited by Helios1337

What are the chances of liking this if I quit playing Metro 2033 two hours in due to boredom? I really wanted to like it, but too many things felt really un-polished.

Posted by CommonReason

Well I'm sold. The more atmospheric FPS games, the better.

Posted by deox

Great review Patrick, I've really been looking forward to playing this. Metro 2033 remains one of my favorite games of this generation. It's great to hear the developers didn't lose sight of what made that game so special.

A quick side note, 4A Games is based out of Kiev, Ukraine. Not Russia, as you stated in the review.

Posted by patrickklepek

@droop said:

4A is in Ukraine, so it's not made in Russia.

And am I the only one who thinks this:

"Games are a funny medium. Unlike movies, books, and music, games are made in different parts of the world, but we hardly take note of their place of origin."

Makes it sound like Patrick is saying movies, books and music is not made in different parts of the world? Odd start, but good review. Looking forward to playing this.

Noted re: Ukraine. Thanks!

Staff
Edited by jsnyder82

@juda: no, I'm pretty sure that was in the first game.

Posted by ScriptKitty

Excellent review! I was worried that this review would make me feel like it was a waste to preorder, but it sounds like It will be more than worth it. :D

Online
Edited by Cows_R_Crunk

@patrickklepek Are you going to try STALKER? That game is maximum immersion and atmosphere right there.

Edited by ILikePopCans

Well, fuck spiders. May have to pass because fuck spiders. Too bad, I really liked 2033.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@alexw00d said:

but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm

Did you even play Metro 2033 Patrick?

Well, he has a positive opinion of it, so no.

Edited by AlexW00d

@alexw00d said:

but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm

Did you even play Metro 2033 Patrick?

Well, he has a positive opinion of it, so no.

Not enough anime for you?

Edited by djou

Playing Metro 2033 on Ranger Hardcore was one of the most satisfying experiences I had this year. I'm hoping for more of the same with this game. However, the technical glitches were quite frustrating and this game doesn't seem to fix them. More than once I would load saves to see my inventory changed (less/more filters, etc.) resulting in some angry rage quits. I'm really disappointed to see the developers didn't fix the subtitling if you play with a non-English language track. I played in Russian on 2033 but the lack of subtitles in key spots made it difficult to get around. I understand its supposed to be diegetic sound, but throw me a bone, there were areas that required back tracking or fetch missions that I literally had no idea where to go. I wouldn't mind playing the English language track if the dialogue and voice acting weren't so cringe inducingly bad.

Edited by Video_Game_King

@alexw00d said:

@video_game_king said:

@alexw00d said:

but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm

Did you even play Metro 2033 Patrick?

Well, he has a positive opinion of it, so no.

Not enough anime for you?

More that it has no idea what it wants to be and/or how to accomplish that.

Posted by Kirios

Patrick you really need to write more reviews - this was a fantastic one from start to finish, and I *NEVER* fully read reviews!

I never played Metro 2033 but the second after finishing your review I bought it and will play it tonight in order to psyche myself up for this game. Keep up the great work!

Edited by Darji

Wait a review before the quicklook and at release day? What kind of magic is that?

Online
Posted by ThreeRoneC

I will be playing this very soon.

Posted by evanbower

So much for judging a game by it's own merits and not comparing it to others; there's a lot of talk about the prequel in this review. More than is necessary, I think.

Predecessor.

Posted by AlexW00d

@alexw00d said:

@video_game_king said:

@alexw00d said:

but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm

Did you even play Metro 2033 Patrick?

Well, he has a positive opinion of it, so no.

Not enough anime for you?

More that it has no idea what it wants to be and/or how to accomplish that.

So you didn't play it either then, good to know.

Edited by GaspoweR

@patrickklepek: Just a comment, sir, 16GB of RAM really has no real benefit in terms of PC gaming (you actually just need 4 or 8 GB though the previous owner of your PC was doing other applications that required more RAM though so it makes sense why you have 16GB) so you could actually have left that detail out in your article. Also Metro I think runs better on Nvidia GTX cards but I need more research in order to confirm that. :) Great review!

edit: Try to turn down the Antialiasing, Patrick, and see if that works better.

Online
Posted by Hilfemaster

Is the English voice acting as bad as the first one?

Posted by patrickklepek

Is the English voice acting as bad as the first one?

It's better.

Staff
Edited by BaconGames

@alexw00d said:

but in Metro 2033, you’re supposed to be a gunslinger with a deadly arm

Did you even play Metro 2033 Patrick? You're an 18 year old kid who accidentally gets himself involved in this stuff. You are most definitely not a 'gunslinger' in any sense of the word.

More to the point I never felt the gunplay was the clunky part of it. Maybe I had gotten used to the specific brand of crazy that STALKER gives out but I felt the shooting was fine. It was always the up close monster melee stuff that was just frustrating and clunky to me.

Basically as a big fan of Metro 2033, all this review needed to tell me was, hey it's more Metro like you remember and it did so I'm ready.

Online
Edited by Humanity

I'm glad that despite all the constant praise, Patrick is honest in detailing how the original game was a mess to actually play. Broken stealth, poor gunplay and some really awkward checkpoints from time to time (getting checkpointed with a broken mask, no filters and in a cutscene that takes place outside). I'm glad they moved forward in not only telling an interesting story but also crafting a fun game to play.

Also I don't see why the fact that it's made in Eastern Europe is this huge factor. It was a game set in Russia, but in reality it was mostly in underground tunnels - if not for the accents it could have literally been any underground tunnels in the world. It wasn't like Max Payne 3 where you could really tell you're in Sao Paulo.

Edited by cdViking

Man, people are the worst.

1. He didn't say it was made in Russia; he said it was made in the region.

2. Comparing a game to its predecessor is pretty important to fans of the original (ie a core part of the audience that might be looking at buying the game).

3. It's pretty clear when talking about games being made in different parts of the world that he's talking about how games project their regional influence like other mediums (or at least how gamers don't notice those influences to the same extent.

Good review, definitely makes me more interested in checking the game out.

Edited by GardenStateApologist

@hilfemaster said:

Is the English voice acting as bad as the first one?

If the snippets from Gametrailer's video review are indicative of the whole, then yes. Which is a shame, cause by and large, the writing itself seems agreeable enough.

Posted by JayDee

okay

Edited by EuanDewar

@cdviking said:

Man, people are the worst.

1. He didn't say it was made in Russia; he said it was made in the region.

2. Comparing a game to its predecessor is pretty important to fans of the original (ie a core part of the audience that might be looking at buying the game).

3. It's pretty clear when talking about games being made in different parts of the world that he's talking about how games project their regional influence like other mediums (or at least how gamers don't notice those influences to the same extent.

Good review, definitely makes me more interested in checking the game out.

well, he did say it was made in Russia and then corrected it

Posted by Reisz

Fascinating, I really enjoyed the shooting feel in Metro 2033. Oh and the throwing knives!? great stuff.

Posted by MrFrank88

Great review @patrickklepek! I fucking loved Metro 2033 and can't wait until I pick this up. I pretty much have the same specs as your PC so it's kind of displeasing hearing that your system chugged at some spots but that definitely isn't going to discourage me from playing it.

Edited by Fistfulofmetal

@patrickklepek Quicklook incoming? I didn't really enjoy the first game all that much (due to mechanics and design decisions) but I'm willing to give this a shot

Posted by Sackmanjones

Press button to wipe mask should be in all first person shooters

Edited by GaspoweR

@cdviking said:

Man, people are the worst.

1. He didn't say it was made in Russia; he said it was made in the region.

Actually he did say this part later in the article though (and has since admitted to the mistake in the comments). Also this is a part you missed to correct @patrickklepek:

I could play them with English dubbing, but as they were developed in Russia, it makes sense to play them with Russian voices and English subtitles.

It's located in the second to the last paragraph. :)

I agree with your assessment too, sir. It's kinda weird watching some of the Hong Kong action films starring Jackie Chan that have English dubbing in Netflix. He was probably the only guy in the cast who did his own dubbing. Too bad not every important dialogue in Last Light was properly subtitled.

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