Metro: Last Light review


By Geoffrey Tim on Tuesday, May 28, 2013
"The Metro is a living, breathing thing, with a heartbeat, a soul, and a mind"

What happens when humanity crumbles? If Metro’s dystopian look at post-apocalyptia is any indication many people, doing whatever they can to survive, will become assholes. Yet, even within the claustrophobic confines of Moscow’s underground, there remains hope, and a certain civility. [Spoiler for Metro 2033 follows]

MetroLastLight2

Picking up right after Metro 2033’s events (and not Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2034) this original tale continues the grim adventures of humanity’s last light, Artyom. When we last saw Artyom (depending on your choices in Metro 2033) we saw him standing atop the tower, having just unleashed a furious torrent of missiles to expunge terra firma of the Dark Ones; a race of supernatural humanoids capable of existing on Moscow’s noxious radioactive surface, expected by the subterranean dwellers to supplant humanity as the dominant species. 

Metro Last Light

The decision to obliterate the surface is one Artyom instantly regrets, but there’s a chance for redemption from the genocide; there’s a single survivor, and much of Metro: Last Light is centred around Artyom’s quest to find the last living Dark One and, naturally, kill it  – but the telepathic McGuffin could prove key to humanity’s survival. Turns out the real threat to life in the bleak subterranean tunnels that make up the Metro comes from within; the various armed factions and local militias bundled up within the networked tunnels seem more intent on killing people than any of the creatures. Caught in a power struggle for control of the subway, the human factions of the Metro; the fascists who control the interchanges, the communists of the Red line and the neutral Spartan Order battle for control of D6 – a hidden base in the Metro that’s purported to contain an incredible power.

MetroLastLight3

In fact, throughout the game your enemies are mostly human, which makes it a good thing that combat is significantly improved over the original game. With tighter controls and improved aiming , it actually feels like a modern day shooter now, instead of just being a compelling narrative wrapped up in the skin of shooter. Stealth too has become a functional mechanic. A light meter on your watch indicates your visibility to enemies, with dynamic music providing audible cues as to whether or not you’re being actively searched for.

MetroLastLight5

To that end, the human AI has been given an overhaul and is vastly improved – but still shy of being smart. Guards will investigate noises as they patrol, and they’re quick to call in for reinforcements, providing good incentive to remain unseen. The monsters that lurk in the subway tunnels and that populate the surface are less nuanced, mostly happy to just swarm at you with melee attacks. There are just a handful of different guns available, cobbled together from odds and ends found lying within the Metro, but the lack of armament hardly matters, with each heavily customisable and bearing its own distinctive, memorable charms. Ammunition (on harder difficulties at least) is scarce, giving Metro: Last Light the air of a survival horror – but it’s desperate and sad, more than it is scary.

MetroLastLight6

And as much as Artyom is the protagonist here, the central character here is the atmospheric Metro itself – putting the game in the company of Half-Life’s City 17, and Bioshock’s Rapture and Columbia. A broken humanity eking out a pitiful survival in Moscow’s metro system, with its gloomy interiors and dark, decrepit corridors providing much of the exposition through environmental storytelling; you’ll find skeletons of families, huddled together. they may be dead, but they died together. You’ll spend much of your time just soaking up the Slavic atmosphere; listening to desperate conversations from other survivors – in between pausing the game to take shots of Vodka so you’ll feel more entrenched within its world. 

Unless, you’re female, that is. Metro life doesn’t seem particularly well suited to the fairer sex. It’s a salacious world of misogyny and sexual violence. Nearly every female character is either a prostitute or a stripper with improbable breast physics – or worse, a potential rape victim. The sole exception to that rule is your partnered soldier Anna – but even her mammaries end up exposed.

MetroLastLight8

Backwards portrayal of women aside, it’s in the synergy of all the little things that draw you into the experience, adding layer upon layer of atmosphere. Ubiquitous gasses and irradiation necessitate the use of a wonderfully claustrophobic gas mask above ground – with a requirement to watch how long your filter will last before you’re left gasping your last breaths; Wiping blood, water and gunk from your visor to keep your vision unimpeded; ensuring your mask remains unbroken; Necessary lights and lamps that require regular charging, and even, the familiar bullet economy with handmade, low-impact rounds serving as ammunition and  pre-fall military grade rounds serving as currency. It all comes together to flesh out the fiction and  build a universe that’s as complete as it is compelling.

MetroLastLight9

It is, however, a decidedly linear, more accessible and driven affair – with that sort of cinematic hand-holding that makes the gameplay slave to the story. There are a few “blink-and-you’ll-miss-them” optional objectives, but that sense of exploration and wonder, particularly above ground, is largely gone, with much of the gut-wrenching drama unfolding before you, instead of by your hand. It’s not nearly as brave or ground-breaking as its predecessor, but it really doesn’t have to be; 4A games has nothing left to prove. It’s superbly paced and well scripted, and though still missing that necessary level of polish, an experience you’ll be remiss to pass on.

Metro: Last Light was reviewed by on the 28th of May , 2013 at 12:30 PM on Xbox 360

GAMEPLAY
8.5
It actually feels and plays like a modern game now, with refined gameplay to match the narrative, instead of impede it.
DESIGN
8.5
The intricately designed Metro itself - its impeccable atmosphere - is the most compelling aspect of the game.
VALUE
7.0
There's no multiplayer, but the 8 hour campaign is something you'll probably want to play again - especially if you'd like to tackle it in Ranger mode.
TOTAL
8.3
Even though you're regularly thrust out of control, it's an experience that highlights the panicked and desperate survival of post-apocalyptia

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Author:Geoffrey Tim

I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • http://twitter.com/Technikyle TechniKyle

    So, no matter the ending of the first one, it will proceed as if you had the bad one. I was wondering about that after finishing the first one.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      The “bad ending” is actually the canonical one from the book.

      • http://twitter.com/Technikyle TechniKyle

        Yeah, I read about the book. Not sure if I want to read it though…

        • Admiral Chief Commander

          reading about reading? reading-ception?

          • matthurstrsa

            Now I’m reading about reading about reading. WILL IT NEVER END!?

          • Trevor Davies

            Now imagine you’re in between two mirrors at the same time as reading about reading about reading :/

  • Lord Chaos

    so no need in playing the first one? i’ve been waiting for your review so i can buy it, and supplementing my want with replaying fallout.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      No real need. It’s a good game, but it’s a little broken. just read up on the story, and you’ll be golden.

      • Lord Chaos

        cool. yea, i read up on it all. great love for post apocalypse, so will probably stop by the shops on my way home.

        • http://twitter.com/Technikyle TechniKyle

          Very broken and certain parts of the game are extremely tedious.

          • Lord Chaos

            I’m fine with that, used to Bethesda games so not all to bothered. As long as it’s still enjoyable.

          • Admiral Chief Commander

            stealth was a bitch though, managed to get through those achievements, but damn, was frustrating

          • http://twitter.com/Technikyle TechniKyle

            I got stuck with an autosave glitch that prevented me from being stealthy in the level with war… sucked big time, so I ditched being stealthy after that.

          • Admiral Chief Commander

            i loved me the stealth parts, although broken, was very tense and fun

          • Sir Twakkus Maximus

            Could handle the stealth, the freaken escort mission in D6 was one of the most frustrating parts I have played in any game! Those stupid moving pimples.

          • Admiral Chief Commander

            o ja, forgot about those balls

        • http://twitter.com/Technikyle TechniKyle

          Also, the pacing was a little off for me. Brilliant story though.

  • Umar No Shana

    Waiting for Revelations review now :)

  • Rince an repeat

    Great review Geoff. I am actually interested in buying this. Saw a teaser trailer a while ago and thought, wow.

  • Umar No Shana

    Still saving for this one, EXCLUDING ranger mode!…never buying it. but Metro 2033 was beyond superb, flaws and all, I love it

  • Admiral Chief Commander

    why did you give it a 7 because of no mp?

  • Tasty peas mixed with porridge

    This game would have been on my list if the rumors of the CHEAP AS FUCK SEXIST DUKE NUKEM TITS AND ASS that is shoved in and has nothing to do with the context just because A 12 YEAR OLD MIGHT BE PLAYING THIS WINK MATURE WINK TITLE were not true.

    FAIL Treat us like adults dammit.

    • Tasty peas mixed with porridge

      Textured vaginas GREAT thanks for that. Thanks for ruining a perfectly heavy atmosphere with cheap SEXISM designed for spotty teens.

  • Admiral Chief Commander

    for those who have not played the first, go out and get playing!!!

    • Deon Steyn

      My PC burned out when the first one started up :(

      • Admiral Chief Commander

        i played through with my previous gfx, was kinda laggy, but ok, then when i got the new beast, loaded it up again to see the pretty pretty and my eyes went like this O_O

    • Lord Chaos

      damnz it. fine, both metro’s, finish this playthrough of fallout 3, and then remember me and the last of us. guess i’ll go and spawn more clones.

      • Admiral Chief Commander

        so you want the clones to play?

        i’d have mine do work while i play

        • Lord Chaos

          we’re a hive mind, so it doesn’t really matter.

          • Admiral Chief Commander

            i want all the fun, does not want to share

          • Matthew Holliday

            Not sharing, experiencing all at once through a thousand sets of eyes

  • Deon Steyn

    Will buy…. soon.

    • Trevor Davies

      I’ll wait, there’s a season pass on offer. yay.

      • Deon Steyn

        Bah. The hell with Season ASS

  • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    Great review man. Looking forward to eventually being able to get this. Now if only cars would stop breaking down so I can spend some cash on gaming….

  • Tbone187

    Looks and sounds decent…

  • me

    So what, every media bashes Metro: Last Light’s AI, but I haven’t read the same about the far brainless BioShock Infinite AI. If there is any there. Enemies just run like headless chickens all around the battlefield, waiting to be shot dead.

    Besides, I wouldn’t ever agree that Metro: Last Light has uglier graphics than BioShock Infinite, as your grades suggest. Metro is far more detailed game… the faces in BioShock Infinite lack any kind of detail, they are far from human… with their empty glassy eyes. But yet again, you are giving this game nearly perfect 10…

    By the way, wasn’t BioShock Infinite horribly linear as well? “Go to the left corridor for main story or to the right for bonus area, then return to the left corridor”? Why no one ever says that out loud? Weren’t there endless cut scenes in BioShock Infinite, which would make you forget you are playing a game?

    But I guess with a 100 million dollar marketing campaign all that is to be expected. Give the flashy American game 10/10, grade the Ukrainian one far worse…

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      I did not review Bioshock Infinite. Reviews are the opinions of the writers involved. i don’t know if you can tell from reading the review…but I loved Metro.

    • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

      You are trying to compare apples to oranges.

      Last Light went for a more realistic, dark look.

      Infinite went more for the “artsy” kind of look. Both succeeded in their various departments.

      Also, he didn’t say Metro has uglier graphics. Read what was said: “the central character here is the atmospheric Metro itself – putting the game in the company of Half-Life’s City 17, and Bioshock’s Rapture and Columbia.”

      He is saying that Metro did what very few games could. Created a living, breathing environment that seems to have a life of its own.

      So in fact he gave a HUGE compliment to the game by stating that it achieved what so few other games have.

      Try not to hate on the reviewer of this article because someone else gave it a bad review.

      @OddSockZA:disqus gave an excellent review above and what I took away from it was that the game was excellent and well worth it.

      • me

        I wouldn’t say the review is bad, quite the contrary. It’s a good one. I just hate how overrated BioShock Infinite is. It has flaws. Many flaws. In storytelling included. I guess Geoffrey Tim had to review it…

        In my opinion, a review should include the good and the bad. I’ve been writing professionally, well I am still doing it (obviously not in English). I am well aware how to do paid reviews, I’ve written such myself for advertising reasons. Most of the BioShock Infinite reviews sound exaclty like that…

        • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

          But why are you going on about Infinite? This review had nothing to do with Infinite and the only place it was mentioned was the fact that Metro managed to create a living environment where the scenery and the game world itself feels like a living character. Just like Half Life did for City 17, Bioshock 1 did for Rapture, Bioshock Infinite did for Columbia.

          I understand you are upset about people giving Bioshock Infinite too much credit but this review had nothing to do with it.

          Not trying to be nasty or argumentative. I just don’t think you should be going on about Bioshock Infinite in this specific thread as the article is about a review for Metro.

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      I do however, agree with some of your points – I think perhaps many of Bioshock Infinite’s inherent flaws were overlooked, purely because it is Bioshock – though I don;t think it’s an issue of nationalism or patriotism.

  • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

    Geoff, one question. The graphics engine, is it tweaked a bit better than the last one in regards to the serious drops in frames when changing detail levels only slightly?

    Metro 2033 really frustrated me because I could run it 100+FPS in 720p but get below 30FPS in 1080p with no change in graphics other than screen res :(

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      If you run AMD, it might not be a particularly pleasant experience. It’s very much optimised for nVidia.

      • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

        Well, then I’m lucky I’m an nVidia fan.

  • M

    You finished it in 8 hours? I’m 15 hours in and still not finished – about 6 chapters to go still. If you explore, listen to the background conversations (in the market places etc), you can make the game last longer. I’m a big Metro fan (book and games), and I think the first game was better with respect to the atmosphere, story etc. The second game is pretty (and I’m enjoying it), but I’m finding it really easy (on Ranger Mode) compared to the first game which was really tough and had me frantically looking for filters for gas-mask so I didn’t suffocate.

    Here’s a though for the future – make an “Open World” Metro game. Take away the linear progression, and let people explore the Metro station-to-station, doing side quests etc “fallout style”. The world is rich, with all the diverse factions, anomalies in the dark, eccentric characters etc. I would LOVE the freedom to go down some of those side tunnels and maybe sneak up into the Kremlin etc. What do you think?

    • http://www.twitter.com/WobblyOnion Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

      I think you’d end up with something very much like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and that’s not a bad thing at all.

      • Trevor Davies

        Hearing Stalker 2 was cancelled was one of the saddest moments of my gaming life.

        • Admiral Chief Commander

          same here man, luckily i have xcom to keep me busy

        • Sir Twakkus Maximus

          Hopefully some company with some balls will pick it up and finish it. I rate STALKER Pripyat as high as HL.

    • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

      Mmmm. Interesting idea but I don’t know if that would do as well. Making it open world MMO may rob it of it’s atmosphere.

      But, if done right with a lot of thought and care it could be amazing. They just need to be able to keep the clausterphobic feel while making it a large open world that would naturally have vast open spaces.

      I’d still like to see an attempt though.

      • M

        Agreed. Perhaps a prequel to the first game, with limited exposure to the surface due to radiation storms etc.

        • Sir Rants-a-Lot Llew

          Could work

    • Admiral Chief Commander

      i’d play that in a heartbeat

  • matthurstrsa

    Nice review. Still playing through the first one and enjoying the little bit I’ve played so far. Very tense.

  • Pingback: Deep Silver “delighted” with Metro: Last Light sales | Lazygamer .:: The Worlds Best Video Game News ::.

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