Metro: Last Light Review
There’s a painful sense of irony to Metro: Last Light. Though there’s much to like about the sequel, it’s hard to ignore the monotonous tunnels that you’re forced to follow.
Linearity was always going to be an issue in a game focusing entirely on an underground rail network, yet while Metro: Last Light fixes many of the flaws of the original it hasn’t managed to fix its biggest problem.
You return to the boots of Artyom, Metro 2033’s protagonist. As silent as ever, Artyom is tasked with hunting down the sole remaining Dark One to finish off the apocalypse he had wrought against the eerie race.
There’s an impressive quality to Metro: Last Light, as much in the graphical grunt as the attention to detail. It must be hard turning endless corridors into visually attractive locations but, to its merit, 4A Games has done a superb job.
It has really managed to focus on the immersive nature of the first-person experience, ensuring almost every action is met with the right number of flailing body parts.
As Artyom peers through vents, rolls under closing barricades or any number of other actions he grasps and grabs and grips.
It’d feel immersive too if it didn’t mean you lost control of the character during these sequences. There’s a heavy influence from Half-Life throughout, but where the that lets the player witness events while in total control Metro: Last Light insists you look where it wants you to look.
Metro: Last Light’s Linearity
This scripting plays a heavy part of Metro: Last Light throughout, too. Monsters will only attack after triggering a particular event, enemy guards will only look for you when their obvious AI routines tell them to and there’s an unhealthy amount of defend-this-spot type of last stands, too.
Practically every mission has one.
While it creates a game that, on the surface at least, can seem pretty exciting, it ends up feeling a little falsified.
Each time there’s a button to press, you can expect to have to hold your own until the train/raft/lift has arrived. Or, in other words, all of the incoming beasties have been disposed of.
It’s a shame too because Metro: Last Light’s world is deep and rich, as any game based on such a unique story ought to be. It feels like a world worth exploring and each new corner feels genuinely intriguing.
It’s because of this that Metro: Last Light is really at its best in the fearful glory of the sunshine. The few segments that see Arytom take to the surface are some of the best the game has to offer.
This is thanks, in large part, to the openness of this terrain. Though you are limited by various boundaries, you don’t feel quite as trapped as you do down inside the bunkers.
Outside Metro: Last Light’s Underground
Exploring derelict buildings for new supplies as the counter on Artyom’s watch ticks down feels honestly rewarding, as though you’re uncovering a fragment of history that this fiction has to offer.
Every concealed gas mask filter feels like a hard-earned victory, and though your time on the surface is often brief and limited you often feel in your element, as though this is what Metro is supposed to be about.
And in a lot of ways it is. It’s a world rich with detail, but even when you’re down in any of the myriad underground towns you’ll visit you still don’t feel like you’re exploring.
These locations are more tour guides of the seediness of mankind. A slideshow of places and events 4A Games wants you to see, not necessarily locations you want to explore.
As with the original, Metro: Last Light is unforgiving with its barriers within these towns. Though you have a mission to complete, more often than not you’d much rather stick around just to absorb a little more of the world.
Instead you’re funnelled through the game’s most intriguing areas as little more than stopgaps for more traipsing through tunnels. A respite to stock up on goods and head out into the darkness once more.
More Money, More Problems
Not that there’s any real reason to stock up. As with the original, you’ll collect two forms of ammo throughout the game: standard ammo – which is placed into the barrel of a gun and thus let loose into the face of an enemy – and military grade, which counts as your currency.
The ‘point’ of military grade ammo is that it can actually be used as equipment for your weapons, but it rarely feels like a necessity.
Almost every major battle out in the depths is punctuated with caches of ammo or a suitable weapon. Some of this might be hidden, but rare are the situations where you’ll be required to spend a few of these posh bullets on an enemy’s death – even on the tougher Ranger’s Mode.
Even the upgrades are largely unnecessary, with only the silencer adding anything that can be construed as a necessary improvement.
Yet this will all come down to exactly how you want to play. As a straight-up shooter you most certainly won’t need any attachments, meaning any military grade ammo is surplus.
A lot of situations won’t call for out and out action, however. Coming up against a room filled with guards is possible, but not recommended – not unless you’re playing on an easier difficulty anyway.
Mechanically the weapons feel solid enough, but your human enemies can pack a punch and are best encountered in smaller numbers. So stealth it is then.
Metro: Last Light’s Flawed Stealth
It’s a shame, then, that the AI hasn’t really had much work on it since Metro 2033. While it is empowering to race around a particular battle arena as you pick off guards one by one from the shadows, their bizarre search patterns does make it feel a little unfair.
The problem is the binary nature of stealth; you’re either visible or you’re not. There’s no in-between. So much so you can literally stand next to a guard without ever getting spotted.
Once you’ve learnt the boundaries that the game falls under – whether the telegraphed combat sequences or the flawed stealth – Metro: Last Light unfortunately becomes a bit of a drag.
Though the world is deep enough to make up for this – and should be commended for stepping outside of the typical macho bravado that has diseased the first-person genre – you’re not given free reign to properly enjoy it. Not the way it should be.
Had 4A Games enabled its players to explore a little more – rather than get shepherded down tunnels – then the drive to head further into the game would be there. The story, in itself, is not enough.
Version tested: PS3