Firstly, as seen above, the limited edition of the game comes with the “Ranger Mode” DLC- a difficulty that is apparently how the game “Was meant to be played”. Unless you get the limited edition you’ll have to buy the mode as DLC, which has understandably caused some controversy. However, a community manager from Deep Silver has said that this was original publisher THQs idea, and that by the time they took over the project there was no time to change it.
“Metro 2033” was a first person shooter that approached things a bit differently. It emphasised survival horror elements, a consistently dread-filled atmosphere and a good story that always kept the player involved. The sequel, “Last Light”, strengthens the story while amplifying the shooting sections at the expense of the survival horror atmosphere. Some of the changes work in the game’s favour, some of them don’t, as I’ll elaborate on shortly.
Set one year after “2033” (and not at all based on the original novel’s sequel “Metro 2034”), it picks that game’s regular/bad ending in which protagonist Artyom wiped out telepathic super-race “The Dark Ones”, realising too late that they wanted a peaceful relationship with mankind. The game is set twenty one years after world war three- nuclear war has ruined the landscape and made the air poisonous to humans. Russians now live in the various underground metro stations (built to act as bomb shelters) and have to contend with attacks from a variety of mutants and the true monster of the post-apocalypse genre: man. Evil, evil man. Anyway, the game starts with a friend and colleague of Artyom telling him that he’s spotted a Dark One-the last of its kind and only a child. Artyom and stern sniper Anna are sent to kill it/capture it, only for Artyom to be captured by a faction of neo-nazis. From there it’s a road trip of sorts back across miles of stations and patches of surface as Artyom attempts to beat a human enemy back home and tell his superiors what happened.
As opposed to the horror and mutant-heavy, almost coming of age journey experienced in the first game, “Last Light” takes advantage of its sequel status to tell a more human story- the mutants, setting and sheer horror of the surface world have been established; fans of the first game know what’s out there. This way it can afford to rely more on human enemies and political motivations- delving deeper into the post-apocalyptic world. This change in focus suits the game well, for the most part. The journey back home that takes up most of the game is nicely paced, well-written and immersive. The stations you visit in particular have great attention to detail and are fun to explore. The problem occurs nearer the end of the game, when everything suddenly becomes really rushed. Arytom moves from plot point to plot point solving everything easily, and the ending is jarringly sudden. The other problem here is how Anna is characterised. Basically after Artyom is captured she isn’t in it for ages, then she eventually pops back up briefly, becomes his love interest and sleeps with him off-screen, then disappears again. She’s the only female soldier in the game, and as far as I remember she’s the only female character not relegated to background duty. It seems like a waste to have her in there so briefly and essentially to sleep with Artyom. Finally, like the first game there’s a hidden moral choice system that determines which of the two endings you can get. It makes more sense here as it’s an original story, but the determinants can be really odd and arbitrary- give money to the homeless? Fair enough, that makes sense. Stumble across a skeleton or a desk with a lamp on it? That’s a moral point- good job finding that desk, hero. I like the idea of the moral “choices” not all being obvious, but some of them don’t appear to make any sense.
Gameplay wise, it’s a lot more forgiving this time around. The inventory screens clearly show how much ammo and money you have, and show large pictorial representations of the various equipment hotkeys. It’s also generally easier- human enemies go down without much trouble and the A.I sometimes makes them stand around blindly, oblivious to the fact that you’re right next to them. Weapons are upgradeable at stations, but enemies will often drop weapons with a number of attachments that you can just take. The new focus on gunfights with human enemies fits the story and is more accommodating to a wider audience, and parts of the game were reminiscent of shooters like “Resistance 3” and “Half-Life 2”: games with a great mix of shooting and story. Personally, I prefer the more horror-based gameplay of “2033”, but the shooting is tighter and more responsive here, and the shooting does feel rewarding and fun. What has improved here is stealth- the throwing knives are more effective, visibility is clearly shown and it’s easier to sneak up on enemies. Also, the levels that take place on the surface are excellent- after spending several missions gunning down neo-nazis the horror hits even harder. Two missions in particular late in the game have a wonderful atmosphere that beats a lot of what happened in the first game. So the shooting works and makes the horror even better, I just wish there was more of the latter.
Overall, “Metro: Last Light” is a very good experience. The added focus on shooting and human enemies is implemented well and without diminishing the horror elements and atmosphere. The story is interesting and well paced up until the disappointingly rushed last parts, but that doesn’t ruin the game. It’s great to see a modern first person shooter that venerates story, character and atmosphere, and I think that games like this, “Resistance 3” and the incredible “Bioshock Infinite” mean good things for the genre. I personally prefer “Metro 2033” for the emphasis on horror and atmosphere over shooting, but “Last Light” is definitely worth checking out.
Oh, one last thing: I played the game in Russian with English subtitles (same as “2033”- it makes sense given the setting), and was frustrated to see that dialogue between non-essential and background characters often isn’t subtitled, even if listening to it gets you a moral point. For a game with such attention to detail it’s disappointing that I’m penalised for not speaking Russian.
By James Lambert