Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms: PC, XBOX 360, PS3
Release Date: 5/14/13
Rating: M for Mature
This review is based on the PC version of the game
Spoiler Alert: The ending to METRO 2033 is briefly discussed
When it comes to the world of post-apocalypse games, few developers are as talented in realizing hellish environments quite like Ukrainian developers 4A Games. Their work, which began at GSC with the STALKER series, has now matured into the Metro franchise. Gritty, mature, oppressive, and genuinely frightening, Metro: 2033 was a hallmark in survival-horror shooters. It was far from perfect with uneven AI and hit-or-miss combat, but few titles are as memorably atmospheric or intense as 2033. With the new sequel, Metro: Last Light, can 4A retain the franchise's scare factor while fixing the previous entry's problems?
Last Light picks up shortly after the events of 2033. Protagonist Artyom has wiped out the mutant Dark Ones with nuclear missiles from D6. Before the Dark Ones are wiped out, Artyom realizes they aren't the blood-thirsty monsters he thought they were. They tried to make contact with the scattered survivors of civilization hiding out in Moscow's metro system, but it only ended in death and desolation. Living with the guilt of killing innocents, Artyom is thrust into another growing conflict. The various factions of the Metro, the Nazis, Communists, and Spartan Rangers, are preparing for an end war to seize control of the dilapidated tunnels. It's up to Artyom to prevent the war and save mankind one last time.
The plot isn't the only new thing since the last Metro game. 4A has done an admirable job of fixing Metro: 2033's flaws. The new combat system is vastly improved and feels more reactive to player input. Stealth is also a viable option; enemy AI is no longer made instantly aware of Artyom's presence in darkness. Weapon customization has also been streamlined to cater to player preference, whether it's a larger ammo magazine or a silencer. These upgrades and options present new tactical opportunities to resourceful players. Given how difficult Last Light's firefights can be, every advantage is gladly welcomed.
One thing that has remained the same is the use of military-grade bullets as currency. Like 2033, the rare and powerful ammo is still a valuable commodity in the Metro. You can find small handfuls of these bullets scattered about the various levels, but they aren't just for spending. If you're fighting a particularly tough opponent, you can switch to mil-grade to kill off the target faster. Making the trade-off between cash and combat is a challenging balance, though I never felt like I needed to use these rounds. I always had just enough standard dirty bullets to survive the next encounter.
While I enjoyed my time with Last Light, not all of the changes 4A made are welcome additions. Since combat has been revamped and the game has taken on a more action-packed feel, Last Light felt less frightening and immersive. Don't get me wrong, the environments and settings are still as detailed and gorgeous as anything from 2033. It just lacks the signature tension I came to love. The new AI can also break the illusion of reality with how idiotic it can be. It's unrealistic to kill a guy right in full view of his buddy and not raise any alarms.
As you might imagine, Last Light is a beauty to behold. The visuals and sound design are top-tier, better than almost anything you'll see this year. Character animation and special effects have been improved and the impressive lighting add much to the atmosphere. The sound is also fantastic, featuring a decent musical score and great Russian voice-overs. Don't play Last Light in English; switch to Russian and get the original experience.
Thankfully, Last Light is also a lot less buggy than 2033. I rarely encountered any game-breaking bugs during the majority of my playthrough. This is the most stable release from 4A thus far, beating out their original work in STALKER. Unfortunately, I ran into a save corruption which ended up setting me back two weeks in finishing the game as I couldn't figure out what was wrong. It's supposedly a rare glitch, but who knows how frequent it really is.
Metro: Last Light is a great game by itself. But when stacked against the superior 2033, Last Light struggles to live up to the towering legacy. I was one of the few to absolutely love 2033, and I'm a little disappointed that the sequel doesn't hit all of the same high marks. It's still a great experience and one that I definitely recommend. But with the Ranger mode being offered as DLC, a weaker ending, and a few missteps in the AI, Last Light is not as great as the original.
+ Great atmosphere
+ Improved combat system
+ Weapons customization
+ Technically stunning
+ Relatively stable
- AI hiccups
- Ranger mode is DLC
- Weaker ending
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
Metro: Last Light is a great shooter and a decent sequel. While it's not as great as Metro: 2033, I still recommend for those looking for something new.