Metro Last Light – Preview
Everyone likes a bit of post-apocalyptic, far-right, gas mask toting action, right? Metro Last Light brings with it the hard-hitting, gritty undertones of a city ripped apart by civil war, with each faction vying for control. Originally touted as Metro 2034, the sequel to 2033, Deep Silver now have their severed appendages tightly grasping the intellectual property… and we know they love a bit of survival horror.
I was thrown in at the deep end, about a quarter of the way through the story – the overwhelming claustrophobic nausea sets in almost instantly, the rising damp from the humidity steaming up your gas mask. Pavel explains the plan to cross enemy lines to escape the jail we’ve been held in, and as I took my first glimpse of the outside world it became immediately apparent just how inhospitable it has become. Gas lingers in the air that chokes Artyom, your character, if you forget your mask, buildings are in ruins and planes – long abandoned – are half-sunk into the muddy terrain.
Your watch counts down how long you have left before you need to change the filter on your mask – if you’ve none in your inventory, it’s pretty much a ticking time bomb to your death. You won’t survive without it – fortunately an alarm goes off to prompt you, so keeping an eye on that is crucial. While wearing the mask it will often get steamy, dirty with blood splatters – hitting the left bumper will wipe the mask, ensuring you can still see your surroundings. Your torch will run out of power, and a quick boost from a handheld generator will mean the difference between walking in darkness and seeing mutated creatures come at you before it’s too late. It’s little details like this that really add to the tone; having to monitor and maintain your equipment brings the desperation of the world you’re now a part of into the foreground.
Whilst travelling, if you get lost in the tunnels or swampy terrain, the back button will issue you with your journal, illuminated by your lighter, which will not only explain your objective, but has a compass attached to show you the way. Without it, you can occasionally find yourself going in circles around buildings, missing the air duct you’re meant to climb into to continue your mission. Your lighter is also useful for burning away cobwebs, which can become a sticky force field, as well as shedding a little light on your surrounds should you forget you own a torch.
With these pieces of equipment in your inventory, you’re pretty much set for a life in Metro. Weapons are your standard affair, with armoured rounds feeling and sounding meatier as you load and kill. You can carry a maximum of three weapons, and bullets are not just exhausted through the barrel of your gun – they are a commodity, used as a form of currency. The more you have, the richer you are, in more ways than one.
Back to Artyom, running across a muddy, abandoned landscape, taking refuge with Pavel in a plane – an obvious tomb for those who were trapped inside as it crashed. Moving around inside, ‘echoes’ of past memories haunt both characters – disorientating and causing hallucinations. Again, it adds to the feeling of unease… and this is before we’ve even shot anything.
Mutated creatures leap from the darkness, through the rain and mud – your only option is to gun them down. As Pavel leads the way down into a subway, you must fend off a wave of these creatures climbing down the escalators as your companion gets the door open. This is just my first taste of the peculiar organisms that now inhabit the world, and it wasn’t particularly pleasant.
Occasionally on your travels you will come across shantytowns, built underground to avoid the deadly gas. These are fairly linear in design and only really serve as story filler. As you walk through, listen to residents discuss the latest issues, their lives below ground, the lack of… pretty much anything. Hiding away in near-poverty, the only real solace seems to come from the bars and the dancers. Having paid a lady with a lovely body (in video game terms of course), but slightly dead eyes and dirty pants, she danced for me in a train carriage – now serving as a building of sorts within the town. By paid I mean with bullets, and that was all the interaction I had with the area, other than the one stall that sold me more bullets, which I can only imagine I paid for in bullets…
Although these areas add little more than a light diversion from the horror that awaits in the tunnels, they were a welcome addition to shed some light on the story. Events unfold, and another escape ensues; this time from what can only be described as a Nazi-esque faction. After being witness to their rallies and paraphernalia, it’s quite clear where their intentions lie. While moving around rooms filled with guards, you can either try your luck and take them all on, or hide in the shadows and make your way around them. I chose the latter, and it was far easier than I imagined it to be. After all the stealth games we’ve encountered over the last few years, it was a little dejecting to see I could stand a matter of feet away from a guard, staring almost directly at me, in next to no shadow and not get spotted. This happened several times, and it became more a case of I didn’t know where to go next than trying to hide. Turning the power off in a room of course helps your cause, but even this felt a little unneeded at times. The stealth meter on the watch means you can time your movements correctly, although again I found myself barely needing it. Maybe this element becomes more apparent if playing on the harder difficulties, but surely it shouldn’t be disregarded almost entirely on the easier settings?
A kind gentleman leant me his beloved car, which ran on the rails through the tunnels. The lights attached to the vehicle aided the journey immensely, as all manner of creepy crawlies live in the dark of the subways. You can see them scuttling around, hiding in holes from the light. This also helps illuminate small rooms and passageways to explore as you head towards your goal. These are often a good place to scavenge for much needed inventory, while occasionally there will be something lurking within that you have to kill.
While on the tracks, various obstacles block your path – for example a large metal door needed raising before I could continue. The power was out, and the only source was within what can only be described as a corridor-come-nest, filled with large spider-scorpions. Light from your torch will guard you to an extent, but the suffocating surroundings only add to the alarming rate you need to kill them at.
You find the occasional group of people that need aid (although you can’t actually interact with them) or a guy being held captive that you can rescue, but saving him is just part of the mission to get you moving again. There doesn’t seem to be any optional side-quests as such – you’re on a linear path and everything you do is directly affecting that.
Although Metro Last Light is visually beautiful, with an oppressive atmosphere that on occasion leaves you gasping for breath, I can’t help feel that there isn’t enough depth to it. I was going through the motions; picking up ammo, shooting some guards, and getting a bit freaked out at monster-rats attacked my face. The linearity, for me, did it no favours – I wanted to explore a little more, feel as though I didn’t want to go down that corridor for fear of getting into something that I didn’t want to get into because it was going to make me crap my pants… but doing it anyway. It’s definitely a solid game, but whether it would hold the attention of the player for the duration of the story I guess only time will tell.