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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Edited by GardenStateApologist

@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.

To your third point, I'd imagine everyone's clear on what's being expressed, and it's an interesting, dare I say fascinating point. It's just poorly phrased, and is a bit harder to parse than it should be. As a whole though, this was my favorite review from the site in a good long while, and felt like an extension of the bombcast sessions that dive into the minutiae of what makes a game interesting. Great work!

Edited by Nals

@patrickklepek Doubt you'll be playing either game again, but if you do, start on Ranger Hardcore ( or Hard is RHC is to much for you ), especially in Metro 2033.

On easy/normal, in 2033, the enemies take far to many bullets, and Arytom isn't very good at handling them. This led to me hating the combat at launch. However when I finally went back, I decided to start up RHC, and it made everything so much better. While you'll die in 2-3 shots, so will all the enemies, leading to a much better game. Fights with humans lead to improvised cover, hurried stealth, and lots of knife kills, which takes awhile to get a hang of, but feels right when you finally do.

This also means you have more bullets on hand, which you'll need for the mutant encounters, since they swarm you and can ALSO kill you in 2-3 hits, you need to spray and pray widely, hoping for a few hits to thin the hordes before the kill you.

That single change brought the combat of 2033 from passable, to around the same in strength as the atmosphere.

Posted by Scrawnto

@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.

I think you can see what he meant, but yeah, something like "Like movies, books, and music, games are made in different parts of the world, but unlike those other media, we hardly take note of a game's place of origin," would have made his meaning more clear.

Also, I bet the people of Ukraine are getting pretty tired of being lumped in with Russia. Actually, I bet the people of Russia feel that way too. Ukraine's been independent for more than two decades.

Posted by Angre_Leperkan439

@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.

I presume this is due to the fact that in Last Light, you have become a fully trained Ranger. In the first game, you were a 20 (the real age) year old kid who was just learning the ropes, but having had the time to train and practice, now are a real gunslinger.

Personally I really liked 2033, and I enjoyed the combat enough to consider going back for a second playthrough. This game is looking really good too and I'm glad it's getting good reviews. Overall a nice review.

Edited by Sweetz

I kind of ruined Metro 2033 for myself by not being willing to compromise on the graphics settings. As a result I played a game that often dipped into the 20s and it made for a crappy experience. Now that I have a newer system I should probably give it another shot.

Edited by spankingaddict

Thanks Patrick .

Edited by Bourbon_Warrior

Ukraine? Russia? Lets just call it the Soviet Union for old times sake.

Posted by Wilshere

Who judges movies, books and music based on the region of origin?

Posted by Krakn3Dfx
Posted by Zevvion

Good review. The original wasn't really my thing. I enjoyed it as an experience, but it wasn't a game that I replayed or enjoyed on a higher difficulty setting.

I'm not that big on shooters in general though. They need to do something pretty amazing for me to enjoy playing them as a game. As an experience it was cool though.

Edited by Deusoma

Saying that awkward controls can ever be a good thing isn't a theory, it's an excuse, but otherwise this is a solid review. I ended up with 2033 from the Humble THQ Bundle, and now I find myself more interested in playing it. Maybe Last Light is somewhere in my future.

Edited by Ravelle

@wilshere said:

Who judges movies, books and music based on the region of origin?

Patriots. ;P

Edited by THRICE_604

Was hesitant to jump into the first game and never did because the narrative around the game was its great but... Last Light sounds like a great improvement. Perhaps during the drought leading up to new consoles I'll have to pick this up. At the very least stroke my post apocalypse boner while I dream of what a new Fallout would be like.

Edited by GardenStateApologist

@wilshere said:

Who judges movies, books and music based on the region of origin?

Not judged. The deliberate assembly of something as singularly directed as a book, film, or album often leads to the unique sensibilities of that product's region informing the end result. The more homogenized mechanical aspects of gaming's most prevalent theme, interactivity, often leaves the specificity of voice muddled, particularly when a developer eschews story in favor of refined playability.

Edited by householdutensils
@juda said:

@patrickklepek 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? 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.

Hunter says it right after the very first fight :)

Edited by McTangle

It's just a shame Good Mode is locked behind a $5 DLC wall. That's a real ball-shot to all of the Metro fans out there. I'm pretty disgusted that anyone would accept that without kicking up a fuss. You shouldn't be punished for reading a review before you buy a game, but that's what's expected of you in this day and age.

Maybe I'll play it, maybe I won't. What a bitter disappointment.

Metro: Last Light? More like Metro: Pay Twice

Edited by OneKillWonder_

Great review, Patrick. This is one of my most anticipated games of the year and it looks fucking awesome. Can't wait to get it tomorrow!

On a side note, I really wanted to play through 2033 again before this came out, so I tried on Ranger hardcore and didn't get too far. The game is still way too broken for that to be an even remotely enjoyable experience in certain spots. Glad to see 4A fixed a lot of technical issues that plagued the first game, except for the AI apparently.

Online
Edited by Bogitt

@juda said:

@patrickklepek 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? 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.

Hunter says it right after the very first fight :)

You are right, skip to 6.20 'he's a dead eye shot this one'

Posted by Nardak

Darn...still three days until it is released on this side of the pond. I loved the original Metro game.

This seems like a worthy followup to that game judging by Patricks review.

Edited by Cold_Wolven

Well I'm glad that the the act of shooting has been marginally improved since too many times in 2033 had you involved in shootouts. I wonder if the economy in this game still has you spending military grade bullets and if so are they widely available in the environment.

Edited by Colourful_Hippie

Do I need to play the first game to get what's going in this one?

Edited by cooljammer00

Wait wait....MODEST 7850? And it still chugs?!

Posted by foxhound421

So here's the obligatory "Do I need to play the first game to enjoy this?" post.

I quit playing Metro 2033 due to the poor mechanics. I loved the world, but I just wasn't having fun actually playing the game. It's good to hear that they've fixed those issues.

Edited by Scratch

Great review. Really excited to play this over the weekend.

Edited by machinerebel

I don't agree that Metro 2033 had bad combat - it had solid gunplay that felt different from COD, and the variety of encounters helped keep things interesting. It wasn't perfect, obviously, but it was hardly a flaw of the game. 2033 had some stealth sequences too, but I didn't find them too trying on the medium difficulty. I hope Last Light cut out some of the chaff from the previous game - too much switch hunting really killed the pacing, making a 7 hour game out of what could've been a really tight 4 hour game. Looking forward to the quick look!

Edited by gungrave45

The first two thirds of this review tell me little to nothing about the actual game. Patrick needs to learn to be more concise in writing a review, and cutting the chaff.

Posted by BaconGames

@gardenstateapologist said:

@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.

Am I the only one in the world who really enjoyed the voice acting in the first game? Like, I thought the characters were enjoyable and charismatic while still effective? Regardless, I have nothing but excitement if the original English voice cast returns.

As for the regional thing, I think it's a bit unfortunate to spread around as much as possible that 4A is a Ukrainian team and they deserve the credit that comes with making a fine product.

Edited by paulwade1984

I find if i use Fxaa instead of msaa and turn off Ssao. Then I can run anything just fine on my gtx 460 at 1680x1050.

Ssao is the biggest con of modern graphics. I don't find it adds anything of merit and the frame rate hit is immense. Texture detail, lighting and post processing are still key. Art style remains the most defining factor in how good a game looks. Infinite still looks amazing on low. So does metro.

Edited by odinsmana

Great review Patrick! I am glad to hear they fixed the gameplay but still managed to keep the same feel.

Posted by Wilshere

@wilshere said:

Who judges movies, books and music based on the region of origin?

Not judged. The deliberate assembly of something as singularly directed as a book, film, or album often leads to the unique sensibilities of that product's region informing the end result. The more homogenized mechanical aspects of gaming's most prevalent theme, interactivity, often leaves the specificity of voice muddled, particularly when a developer eschews story in favor of refined playability.

You went into a completely different direction by dismissing the word "judge". I don't think a lot of people brush off games just because they are from eastern Europe. People certainly complain about buggy releases and ill optimised games, but that can be true about any game from anywhere.

Singular creative visions is a different thing and its not excluded from games, small or big.

Posted by BeachThunder

Can't wait to finish the first game so I can eventually get around to playing this!

Posted by TMThomsen

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

"We" as in "us, patriotic America"? What a weird statement.

Posted by gaggle64

Delighted to read this, cannot wait to have my mitts on it at the end of the week.

Posted by Ramone

It sucks that I feel like I need a good PC to enjoy a lot of new releases now. Definitely going to have to invest in one soon.

Posted by shades846

In other reviews patrick they said that the ATI cards have had big issues even when running top of the line ATI cards.

Posted by mlarrabee

@deusoma said:

Saying that awkward controls can ever be a good thing isn't a theory, it's an excuse, but otherwise this is a solid review. I ended up with 2033 from the Humble THQ Bundle, and now I find myself more interested in playing it. Maybe Last Light is somewhere in my future.

Actually, I played RE4 for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and while most people say the control scheme is grossly outdated I found it superb.

It's an action game and it doesn't pretend otherwise, but its--as you said--awkward controls give it the tension it needs to honor its predecessors.

That's not to say poor control setups are any more than rarely ideal or even tolerable. But in a small segment of my gaming experience, a few games, RE4 and Metro 2033 among them, had esoteric controls that only added to my immersion.

Posted by TheCrimsonKing

This seems like a time where having a four-and-a-half star rating might be useful

I wish the review went more into the changes in the stealth mechanics when compared to 2033, because while the levels & scenarios in 2033 were well-designed for stealth, the AI behavior and the effectiveness of stealth weaponry was never consistent enough to make those sections work as well as they needed to. That usually just led to another gunfight in those scenarios, which was never an issue given how solid the AI was in combat. Maybe this is due to playing the original on PC and not on a controller, but the combat in 2033 was more than good enough to get the intensity across without feeling frustrating or broken.

Also, I was surprised to see no mention of resource scarcity, which is an important distinction to make because that scarcity was much of what made Metro 2033 a survival-horror game instead of just a shooter.

If the only thing that changed is that the AI is consistently dumber about seeing you (they were usually pretty dumb in 2033 with walking past you and looking at you without detecting as long as you were in shadow, but occasionally being eagle-eyed), then that is pretty disappointing.

It seems like the stealth was the most disappointing part of the game to Patrick (and it was the part most in need of improvement from 2033), so it would've been nice to see that part expanded on some more.

I've been playing through 2033 on Ranger Hardcore and it is still a wonderfully immersive experience that is one of the scariest games released this generation and I look forward to playing this on PC in a week or two once the inevitable PC launch bugs and driver issues get sorted out.

Edited by SilentPredator

It's been a long time since I played 2033. All I remember about it is that I didn't find the combat enjoyable and the stealth sequences were fucking broken. I'm glad to hear that the combat has gotten better and disappointed that the stealth sequences are still in. It sounds from the review like now the stealth is broken in the complete opposite direction, which begs the question as to why they included it. I'll give Last Light a rental, as I do like to see games try and do something different.

Edited by ZmillA

why would you leave out how long it took you? I don't like paying 60 dollars for one playthrough

Posted by Fram

Shame about the English subs issue. Hopefully this is something a modder/patch would be able to rectify on PC. I also never got around to finishing 2033, but really enjoyed the setting and commitment to the first-person perspective. Will pick this up if the monies allow.

Posted by MrSpaceMan

Stoked for this!

Posted by siaynoq

@alexw00d: They reference in the game though what a great shot Artyom is.

Posted by EXCellR8

2033 grew on me slightly, but overall felt very "cheap." much higher hopes for this one and it sounds like an overall better product.

...and if my 7970 struggles i won't be too happy.

Edited by AlexW00d

@colourful_hippie said:

Do I need to play the first game to get what's going in this one?

With the way the first game went, probably. It's definitely a continuation of the story, instead of a game with the same name. I think I have a spare copy if you need one? Bugger, I think I gave my extra copy to someone.

Edited by FoolishChaos

Great review, but I never understand why you didn't like the shooting. I love the action in metro 2033. I would replay sections over and over, which is not something I normally do in games.

Saying you feel like its a more modern shooter is actually a little worrisome to me, as the action in most modern shooters (ie call of duty) bores me to tears.

Any chance you could tell me what difficulty you played 2033 and last light on? I could see someone hating the combat if they played on normal or easy, due to the bizarre ways they handle difficulty modes in these games (you get more ammo, but enemies become more and more bullet sponges the "easier" the difficulty)

Edited by flameboy84

Hmmm never played the original due to it not being on PS3 but I am extremely interested in this, seems very unique. Thanks for the review Patrick a joy to read!

Posted by LikeaSsur

@muffinmcmuffin said:

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

Huh? Patrick barely draws comparisons between the two. He says "2033 this, 2033 that...oh, and Last Light does this." When I first started reading it, I had to scroll back up to see if I was reading a 2033 or Last Light piece.

@likeassur said:

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.

Prequel. Even Patrick says so in the Quick Look. 21 seconds in: "This is the sequel to 2033."

Edited by PimblyCharles

Games should have a spiders = off option

Online
Posted by chilipeppersman

@pimblycharles: yea seriously the spiders in this game are downright terrifying

Edited by geirr

Games should have a spiders = off option

A lot of PC games kinda-sorta do, through mod communities.

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