The Average Gamer

E3 2011 – Huw Beynon “we haven’t forgotten the exploration and the survival horror aspects”

At this year’s E3 Expo I talked to Huw Beynon, senior communications lead for Metro: Last Light about the sequel to their Metro 2033 game. We discussed the criticisms levelled at Metro 2033, in-game achievements and what improvements they’ve made for Metro: Last Light.

THQ have also released parts 1 and 2 of the video showing the Metro: Last Light E3 2011 demo in all its glory. The remaining parts will be released over the coming weeks over on the MetroVideogameUK YouTube channel.

What aspects of Metro: Last Light are the development team especially pleased with?

Huw Beynon: Well, there are two main focuses underpinning everything we do at the moment. The first is that we are really thrilled with the response we got to Metro 2033 [Our reviewer Jon Jones liked it – NS]. THQ put their hand up and said that they probably didn’t give the game the support that it needed. We’ve really seen over the past year that we’ve got a huge, incredibly passionate fan base behind it that really understood the thing we were trying to do a little bit differently. The hallmark of the Metro experience is the splendour of the survival horror, exploration and discovering the world. As well as the combat, the stealth and so on. It’s really important to us that we keep that. It’s like the DNA of the game.

Metro: Last Light - Rush Hour

Even after the Apocalypse, rush hour traffic is still a bitch

At the same time we also received things like fairly valid criticisms of some of the mechanics within our game and our weapons weren’t quite as satisfying to use as we wanted to make them. Some of our stealth and AI was a just a little bit inconsistent and not very satisfying for the player. Those are some of the key areas that we really want to change this time round and the [E3 2011] demo that you saw today was really built to show the improvements and changes that we’ve made in that area. You saw a lot more dynamic destruction in the environment. Hopefully you saw what started off as a stealthy tactic before it descended into a guns-blazing orgy.

You didn’t want to make the game too heavy with action.

HB: We are perfectly happy to leave that to other games. When we do action we want to do it really well and I think that’s where our storytelling was great in the last one, we did have those scripted cinematic moments that were really quite memorable.

The core shooting which you kind of expect to behave in a certain way in a first-person shooter I just don’t think we nailed quite right first time round. By fixing that I don’t think it’s making it a fundamentally different game, it’s just making that particular part of the game feel a lot, lot better and I hopefully it will make the overall game more satisfying to play.

So you wanted to change aspects of the game but you didn’t want to alienate the people who liked the first game.

HB: Absolutely, you saw a very action heavy sequence and its got to survive in this E3 crush with all kinds of audiences coming in here. Hopefully our core fan base can trust us that we haven’t forgotten the exploration and survival horror aspects of it. Those quintessential Metro experiences when you’re out on the surface and you have 3 rounds left in your pistol, your gasmask is fogging up. You’ve got one filter spare, you can hear mutants howling in the darkness and you have to go into some kind of tunnel and you don’t know what’s in there. That’s absolutely part of the experience but it’s not so easy to communicate that angle when you have noises and explosions and guns going off at every corner around here [E3 2011]. We really wanted to show what we done differently this time around. All of those aspects of the game that people like about the first one are definitely in there and we want to keep that balance between exploration, survival horror and combat.

Are you rewarding those players who explore the in-game world?

HB: Yeah, I mean there were a huge number of little Easter eggs in the first game if you went looking. It is very much a linear story-driven game but the outside areas in particular and some of the larger environments had all manner of secret passages to discover. There would be Easter eggs at the end of passages and certain routes that would get you access to weapons that you wouldn’t be able to afford until much later in the game quite early on. We used a number of ways to incentivise players for exploring. I mean when you’re outside it was almost essential that you had to scavenge around to find the last bits of ammo or the gasmask that you needed to carry on.

We tied a lot of achievements into rewarding players for taking a more inquisitive approach. Whether it was finding all of the Rangers stashes in the dead city levels or if you take Front Line where there were two achievements for that level. One for killing everyone in the level and you had to basically fight your way across this front line. There was also an achievement for getting through the level without killing anyone at all. To get that you had to keep your eyes and ears open and you’d overhear a couple of people and they tell you about a secret route and then when you discover it and you realise you can ghost your way past everyone.

Metro: LastLight - Christmassy

Has anyone got some Mulled wine? I'm feeling Christmassy.

You’ve gone for more challenging achievements then?

HB: Yeah, you don’t want the level complete ones. Ours tend to be rewards for doing things that we didn’t necessarily signpost and that people discover by doing stuff. We get to see what achievements people go for and earn in the game. It’s very interesting for us to see the volume of these quite difficult achievements and often achievements that we know that you must have flown through the level twice to be able to get it. I think people found a lot of replay value in the first one because we kind of put all those open ends in there.

How long is Metro: Last Light going to be?

HB: We are aiming for a single-player campaign that is at least as long as the first one. It’s difficult really to talk about an hour this and an hour that. I would say that Metro 2033 was substantially longer as a single-player campaign than probably most first person shooters out there, whether you think that is long or short and how many hours you get out of it. It will be at least as long as Metro 2033.

Thanks for your time.

Metro: Last Light is due for release sometime in 2012 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Wii U