Funny story about how I got Metro: Last Light. I was just getting into the PC gaming in July when I was directed a link to snag the game for a penny… legally. The reasoning was that there was some error on Best Buy’s part and I managed to get the game before it was fixed. Why did it take me so long to get around to seeing as how I really liked the 2033rd? Well, I wanted to play the game in ranger mode, waited until it was on sale, played it, and realized that ranger mode was pretty terrible due to how it is impossible to know how much ammo you have. Backstory handled, so let’s talk the twenty-thirty-four!
Metro: Last light Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3, and eventually PS4
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Set a year after the prior installment, Metro: Last Light once again takes place from the singular massive eye of one Artyom, a young man who no matter how I describe him would raise an alarm based on what I remember from Metro 2033. Retconned was how he was among the first to live life in the sole sanctuary for mankind after the surface was irradiated about two decades ago that is the Moscow Metro, and retconned was 2033’s good ending. A move that left me very sour to the game right from the get-go, but almost instantly I was reminded of what I found to be Metro 2033’s biggest strength, its world building.
Last Light is littered with little bits of ancillary dialog from NPCs, with nearly all of it being thoughtfully constructed non-intrusive lore that gives the not too unique setting of the Metro more character and sense of it being a real environment than nearly every other game I could mention. Granted, this is very evidently broken up by two factors, one understandable, and the other less so. While the game does have some rather excellent five minute long strings of dialog, my personal favorite being one where an old man needs to explain to children what animals were through shadow puppets, they often overlapped one another. I certainly understand how this could happen due to the very dense environments where much of the side dialog in the game occurs, but as for why there are no subtitles so one who does not speak Russian could respect the game’s native language? I haven’t the slightest clue.
As for the main storyline pushed by Last Light, I’d be lying if I said it was all that memorable aside from a number of events. Most of the time I was unsure of which faction of human survivors were which, who was who, and where exactly I was going if not for diary pages scattered about and Artyom’s narration before every chapter. Even when the ending came, I was not entirely sure how what was being presented was suppose to be much of a logical conclusion to what the game had been setting up. Although, that could also be how the final bullet filled battle of the games was the most flaccid conclusion one could have based on how I played the game. I played non-lethally as I do whenever the game offers the option, which naturally made the events something along the lines of absurd as time went on, but it was still better than the changes, or rather change to Ranger mode.
While originally existing as a more realized version of the game the developers wanted out of Metro 2033, in Last Light Ranger mode is a very needlessly limiting version of the game where you are unable to have any clue how many bullets you have… in a first person shooter. I would not hold it against the game if the mode offered any idea of how many bullets one can pick up, but it does not, which leaves the player with gaps lasting well over an hour where they lack any form of number for how much ammo they have. So I quickly dismissed the mode, playing on normal instead, and noticing very quickly that even with Ranger mode, the manner in which the game is designed is far action oriented.
Not that the game is necessarily bad at being actiony, the guns shoot well, you are given lots of sub weapons to play with, even though I only ever used one once, and I grew something of a connection to the weapons I assembled into my arsenal, even though the game seems to be designed for regular weapon exchange seeing as how you can add every gun into your arsenal. A move I found to be somewhat maddening due to how you can sell your guns as well, and… what I’m getting at is how there was a section where I traveled back and forward selling guns from enemies I knocked out, and had the option to take ten two-minute long round trips, all in a section that struck me as questionable in terms of its layout for stealth.
In simple terms, the enemies can be exceptionally dim if you stay in the darkness, but the darkness is also very hard to visually determine a certain times, as there are many areas with equal darkness, but you might end up still being invisible unless someone shines a light on you. Also, the guards fail to realize that somebody is taking them out and turning off lights, even if they are in a blockade that is waiting specifically for Artyom. Instead, I am tempted to say the game shines when you are on the surface and need to manage your own exploration for goods with your limited air supply. However, that would imply that you do have a strict limit on air, like you did in 2033, where ten minutes of air was a lot. In Last Light I had fifty minutes near the 70% mark in addition to full ammo that featured 120 shotgun shells.
Said shotgun shells did not ever drop below 90 in most cases where genetic mutations need to be fought in rather frantic and intense battles, but they did when the game threw in boss battles. In the form of giant mutations that are upset by Artyom’s mere existence, the monsters felt like nothing more than bullet sponges that almost all had the same strategy of shoot and run, with the most unique boss having you move out of the way so it runs into a pillar, destroying it. It is part of an odd pretense that Last Light should be in some way and action game, when it is very good at creating slow and daunting environments that lean closer to survival horror with a pump action shotgun. It’s just a shame then that the game doesn’t gravitate towards that more often than a little over half of the time.
In fact, the atmosphere is something I will praise to the nth degree, as it very frequently does capture a sense of dread as you wallow through the semi-relatable ruins, hearing noises and hoping that no brutal monsters show up and remind you that this game has medkits. And visually, meaning on the high settings with PhysX off because I have an AMD graphics card and the two do not play nice, the game does look rather gorgeous as it does have the detail to support the more realistic visual style the game adopts. It is, however, odd to see clothing to intersect with a man’s bear, witness mutated man-dog corpse fail about, and observe very poor PS2-era rain as the journey progresses.
As it stands, I feel that while Metro: Last Light is a very enjoyable game that is worth several hundred times what I paid for it, it does not feel as much as a step forward for the series as much as it feels like a step to the side. Not really focusing on what I found to be so enjoyable on 2033, or fixing what few issues I had, while attempting to potentially broaden the audience. It worked extremely well as the game was a massive hit, and will hopefully prevent the horrible working conditions that apparently plagued this project, but the high quality refinement of tension and whatever about the series that sparks a sense of bliss is absent. The light’s not the brightest, but I doubt it will be the last.
The game is good at its core, that much is very true, but the hiccups start to get more than a bit too present to be pushed aside, or the title might just be lacking in a textbook full of different manners.