The Average Gamer

Metro 2033 Review (PC)

I finished Metro 2033 after a recent Steam sale and now that the sequel, Metro 2033: Last Light, has appeared on the radar, I think it’s high time to talk about the game that everyone needs to play before the sequel comes out.

Speaking generally of post-apocalyptic games which originate from the Ukraine, I really liked the concept of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. Before its release, in the ancient days before RSS feeds had become common, I would check its page weekly for updates. In my fervent anticipation, I tracked down a copy of the film (conveniently also called STALKER). But when the game finally arrived, it was buggy and unfortunately didn’t hold my interest for long.

In a tunnel. It's dark and that.

Along comes Metro 2033, an excellent game from some of the former developers of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. I had initially passed the title up, thinking it was a bottom rung also-ran, but luckily I’d heard a bit of buzz about the game just before the sale. Perhaps I was in the mood to be scared but I had trouble putting the game down, something that hasn’t happened to me in quite a while. You can see S.T.A.L.K.E.R.’s genes written into this game’s DNA but apart from the setting it’s an altogether different gameplay experience. Metro 2033 which is more directed and linear than Shadow of Chernobyl’s open world of ecosystems and anomalies.

For all intents and purposes, this is a top tier single-player FPS. The presentation is outstanding and the tunnels and hideaways of Metro 2033 just drip with atmosphere. From the first scene, I felt completely immersed in the world. A bleak place it may be, which necessitates using pre-apocalypse ammo as currency, but it was a world that gripped me from the start. As an FPS, it doesn’t deviate greatly from the formula, but that’s not a knock. On the contrary: the style, execution and presentation are top notch.

I think part of what made me feel immersed is the attention to detail. It’s not anything that hasn’t been done before, but it’s so well-executed in Metro 2033 that it bears mentioning. From the slight sheen of your gas mask when donned (outside or contaminated areas necessitate this) to the little snippets of conversation you pick up as you wander through one of the underground camps, this game has bags of style. When you’re riding a hand cart through a previously abandoned section of the metro tunnels, while your gruff-voiced campanion tells you of hauntings and other grim goings on, the atmosphere positively bleeds into the room.

This is also the first game that genuinely scared me, hearkening back to my experiences with the original Doom and Half-Life. The game is very cinematic in this way, setting up the scares superbly with a sense of creeping dread that many others in the genre have failed to emulate. I really think that a sense of player agency is critically important to Metro 2033 and games like it. I never felt powerless but feeling the pressure of being outgunned and outnumbered gives it a certain edge. Plus, the enemies you’re facing against are often meaningful opponents.

Note the Beard of Evil. He probably has a British accent.

The comparison to Monolith’s F.E.A.R. begs to be made, but I never felt that any of the “clones” I was fighting in that game were at all scary or even posed much of a threat. Often in Metro 2033, you’re skulking around in the darkness trying not to alert the whole “nest” of enemies at once, for fear of them surrounding and overwhelming you.

And you have allies as well. I think this is an important point in games. Quite often in older FPS games, you would find yourself alone, mainly due to constraints on development time and the intricacies of AI pathfinding and interaction. Metro 2033 does a great thing in that it pairs you up with one or more AI NPCs from time to time, which makes your solitary expeditions feel that much more isolated… and vulnerable. Speaking generally of gameplay, however, I found enough variety, along with the excellent pacing, to keep my attention rapt. It’s been a long while since a game has totally sucked me in the way Metro 2033 did.

You can buy the Windows version of Metro 2033 from Amazon for £4.89

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