I never played Metro 2033, so at first glance; I figured I was in for a Fallout 3 clone. An expansive 25-hour journey with a compelling story littered with tangential side quests set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. While the setting is the same, that’s where their similarities end.
Metro: Last Light is a very linear first person shooter, incorporating stealth and resource management. Neither of these seemed necessary when playing on normal difficulty, so for the intended experience, I’d suggest a harder mode. It paces itself well; shifting between slow moments of atmospheric storytelling, faster paced combat and the occasional boss fight. But the FPS side of this game is not it’s strongest attribute. Your character never levels up in any way, or gains any new abilities (unless you count night vision). Aside from increasing the Kalash’s ammo, the weapon modifications made little difference on any of the wide selection of guns. If you’re looking for a shoot’em up gibfest, this isn’t the game; but certain mechanics enhance the realism and improve the experience. The best example of this being the gas mask, which the player must put on when going above ground, replace when damaged, recharge with scavenged filters and wipe off when covered with blood, debris or water.
The part of this game that really shines is the storytelling, or more specifically, the tone. It’s classified as horror, but it lacks the jump scares and excessive gore one might expect from this genre. Instead it has a more mature and suspenseful disposition reinforced by the dimly lit yet detailed level design. Unlike a run and gun shooter, Metro: Last Light encourages the player to patiently explore it’s environment, taking in the scenery and appreciating it. Notes revealing more of the story are randomly scattered throughout the levels, forcing the player to search in areas that would otherwise be passed without notice.
Graphically the game is great, considering the budget this studio had. Sure, the character animation is a bit stiff and the child voice acting is awful but the character models are good enough to not distract from the story and, like the movie Gravity, this game is a rare example of a product that becomes a different experience when using 3D. I’ve found 3D becomes tiresome in most games and I turn it off after a while, even 3D Vision Ready ones such as Metro: Last Light. But I played all 10 hours of this game with Nvidia 3D Vision enabled and it intensified the immersion in a way that couldn’t be accomplished otherwise (most notably when the gas mask was cracked or dirtied). As unpopular as 3D gaming is, I’m glad I have it for games like this. It’s also worth noting that the game runs on Mac as well as Linux.
I don’t like moral choice (karma) systems in games, but I don’t hate them; and there are ways of ameliorating them. One such method, employed by Metro: Last Light, is to hide it completely from the player, allowing them to make organic decisions during gameplay. The game has a good or bad ending, depending on certain choices and actions but the player is not told when something affects this moral meter or what their reward is for following a righteous path. Unfortunately, any semi-experienced gamer will recognize the telltale signs of a moral choice system (such as the option to kill or spare a defeated enemy), but at least this game tries.
These aren’t my favorite type of games, but playing through Metro: Last Light was one of the better single player experiences I’ve had: a solid 8 out of 10, and if you have the patience to let the ambiance build I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.