The Average Gamer

Metro Last Light Hands-on Preview

Metro Last Light - BannerMetro Last Light is coming this May, a direct sequel to 2010’s post-nuclear apocalypse shooter Metro 2033. I was a huge fan of Metro 2033 when it released a few years ago. Sure it had some technical issues and there were gameplay problems that needed ironing out, but the game did a fantastic job of creating a believable gritty world based on the novel of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Every location in Metro was populated with what felt like very real people.

With that in mind, I was very excited to get my hands on Metro Last Light for an extended period of time and really get a feel for how the sequel fared at capturing what I loved about 2033 while fixing the technical bugs and dumb-as-mud AI. In short, I was incredibly impressed by the almost three hours with the game and can’t wait to play more, but 2033’s problems have not been completely eradicated at this stage.

Metro Last Light - SkyscraperMuch like Metro 2033, Last Light takes places mainly in a series of underground towns and tunnels running underneath Post-pocalyptic Moscow, known as the Metro. Following a series of nuclear strikes on Russia in late 2013, the population has had to remain underground to limit their exposure to lingering radiation. Any humans or animals left outside became mutated into what are known as The Dark Ones.

In 2033 you play as Artyom, a twenty year old who learns of a missile powerful enough to destroy all the Dark Ones on the surface and sets out to activate it. In Metro Last Light, also written by Glukhovsky, you continue to play through Artyom’s story and will have to live with the guilt associated with the choices made in 2033 and deal with the consequences the choices he made.

I played uninterrupted through several missions, getting a decent idea for the game’s pacing, world and narrative tone. Starting about 25% of the way through the campaign, by this point you as the player would have learned that one of the Dark Ones from the last game has survived and you know where it’s being held. As you can imagine, this makes you a person of interest to the world around you.

The game’s main gameplay draw is still infiltrating areas filled with enemy guards and it has been paced in such a way that running into battle with guns blazing is definitely not to your advantage. In most situations you’re outnumbered and out-gunned, meaning that a head-on assault of the enemy is seriously advised against.

Instead, the game encourages turning out any lights you find, sneaking around enemy groups and either fatally or non-fatally subduing any solo guards you find along your way. This isn’t to say you won’t find yourself in fire-fights against human enemies, but you had better hope you’ve taken out a good chunk of their force before that happens or you’ll find yourself quickly becoming a bullet riddled mess on the floor.

The game makes great use of audio cues to alert you to your visibility within the environment. You’ll hear a rather urgent and increasingly loud and sour note fill your ears if you’re straying into an area where you’re at risk of being seen and I knew instinctively to act as quickly as possible once that noise came into play.

The only negative was the human enemy AI, which at times seemed unbalanced. Put simply, human enemies jump between being thick as mud or having god-like omniscience when it comes to finding you. At some points I was crouching in a shadow and walking directly in front of guard who seemingly couldn’t see me because they had zero peripheral vision. At other times I’d be spotted and every guard within a few miles would jump on me, knowing where I was and mowing me down with the precision of an elite special forces commando unit. This didn’t ruin the experience, but it occasionally felt like the game could have used a little more balancing.

Metro Last Light - DynamiteFortunately, where the human AI is occasionally inconsistent, the mutant AI was spot on, constantly filling me with dread of an aggressive and damaging enemy. The mutants in Last Light fill me with the kind of fear and tension that I had hoped the Xenomorphs in Aliens: Colonial marines would.

From the demons, which players of 2033 will remember as the dragonic gargoyle-type creatures that you avoid combat with at all odds, to the new Watchmen enemies which act like a hyper-aggressive mix of wolf and insect and will charge you with ferocious speed, the sections where you’re fending off hoards of mutants made me feel like I’d been transported to some lonely and desolate distant world, rather than the ruined sewage systems underneath Earth that I was actually exploring.

It’s also wonderful seeing the ways that some creatures have mutated that we know today, as demonstrated by the creatures that look like a cross between a grasshopper and a shark, which are soon revealed to be mutated shrimp. The mutants are a blast to fend off and act as a great counter to the stealth emphasis of the human encounters on the battlefield.

Metro Last Light does an amazing job of setting up the world you’re inhabiting. An example that perfectly demonstrates this is a small town square in an underground town you pass through full of street performers. I spent about 15 minutes exploring the town square and was constantly floored by how alive the place felt.

In one corner there was an old man performing traditional shadow puppets for children with a light and a sheet. I watched as he did a shadow puppet of a bird, which the children promptly identified instead as a terrifying demon. He tried a dog and the children assumed it was watchmen. He tried to explain to them how dogs and birds were peaceful creatures but they just couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea of friendly animals. It wonderfully frames the world through the eyes of these children who’ve grown up without the world we know today and just served to quickly envelop me in their situation.

Did you connect to the world of the first game? Are you excited to jump back into the world of Metro? Are there any parts of 2033 you’d like to see change in Last Light? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Metro Last Light will be released on 17th May for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.