Metro: Last Light preview: a breath of (fresh) air
by Andrew Yoon, shacknews.com, Mar 21, 2013 8:00AM PDT
There isn't really a dearth of highly scripted linear first-person shooters. Yet, 4A Games manages to create something truly engrossing with its follow-up to Metro 2033. Metro: Last Light doesn't captivate by innovating--instead, it shines through sheer polish, offering best-in-class visuals, satisfying battles, and an intricately detailed world to explore.
Last Light takes place one year after the events of 2033, with Artyom once again looking for the Dark Ones. And although there is quite a bit of backstory to wade through, newcomers and fans alike will be able to instantly appreciate the unique setting of Metro--a post-apocalyptic world where nuclear war has forced Russian denizens to seek shelter in underground subway systems.
4A brings the Metro universe to life with absolutely stunning visuals--on a high-end PC, at least. (We didn't see the console versions demoed.) What really sells the experience isn't necessarily the tech, however. You can simply absorb the world by looking around. Pay attention, and you'll notice how everything in the world has been jury-rigged from garbage and scraps to accommodate humanity's new lifestyle. From gates to boats, humanity has come up with rather interesting solutions for living underground.
The world feels alive, and during your expeditions to the game's many towns, you'll feel tempted to simply watch how NPCs interact with one another. In one part of the game, you'll walk through a cabaret show. I saw one complete act, and decided to move on as the second act was beginning--but I wondered: how long could I have stayed there?
While it's easy to get tricked by life in the "streets" of the Metro underground, there's quite a lot of turmoil to deal with. Above-ground, nuclear fallout is responsible for horrifying mutants--and poisonous air that kills without an air filter. The irradiated fallout provides Metro some of its most exhilarating moments. As you traverse the destroyed Russian cityscape, you'll be constantly pressed for air filters. Lasting only a few minutes, the game forces you to be mindful--and incredibly resourceful, scavenging bodies and searching hidden corners for every last filter you can find.
Although there are some knuckle-biting moments fighting mutants, I found myself enjoying the challenge of fighting against human enemies far more. While the monsters overwhelm with brute force, the human opponents of Metro are much more cunning. The AI feels incredibly responsive to your actions. If you're ever detected, you'll see the AI moving foes into cover, looking for opportunities to flank you. As their numbers whittle down, you'll see them adjust their tactics. One time, I was especially impressed to see that two enemies were scanning the area with their flashlight, as they walked around backs against each other. Seeing the AI constantly engaging with new tactics makes combat utterly satisfying.
With a beautiful distopyian sci-fi setting, and an interesting mix of human and mutant enemies to fight, Metro: Last Light perfects the formula that Valve introduced in Half-Life. And given the studio's silence on Episode 3, Last Light may be the closest thing we'll get to a proper Half-Life follow-up. That's not meant as a mark against 4A's talent--rather, it's proof that Metro: Last Light is shaping up to be something rather remarkable.