Metro: Last Light Preview

Metro-2 is the Russian equivalent to America’s Area 51. Rumors about the construction of an armed military base well below the streets of Moscow began during Stalin’s reign, popping back into the public eye every so often for quizzical, fleeting attention. The station purportedly parallels the lines of the Moscow Metro Line and houses the remnants of a secret Soviet missile project.

The second installment in the Metro series by 4A games and author Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro Last Light, remains as foggy a mystery as its predecessor. THQ, the game’s publisher, has been forthcoming as usual with details on the sequel — reprising Artyom’s role, returning to the tunnels, continuing civil war. It’s not a matter of definability; it’s a question, like the infamous Metro-2, of firepower.

There’s no mistaking the dire nature of Artyom’s second quest on and below the irradiated wastes of future Moscow. A threat looms over the protagonist’s journey — a “secret long buried by our fathers” — possibly related to (WARNING: The rest of this paragraph may contain spoilers from Metro 2033.) the missiles he launches to destroy the mutant hordes plaguing Communists and Nazis alike. Artyom has not stopped the threat, but stemmed the tide, enough to allow the bickering between Metro factions to billow back into war. It comes as no surprise, then, that the player will be inserted precisely into the middle of the conflict, attempting to navigate both societies to achieve survival.

metro last light

Metro 2033 took a punishing at the hands of reviewers for its flawed mechanics, but was praised for its atmosphere and story-driven nature. Though Dmitry Glukhovsky’s sequel novel, Metro 2034, is not the basis for Last Light‘s narrative, the author has been working closely with 4A games to bring back the gut-shot moments that made Metro 2033 memorable. So to get the mammoth, explosive fun the series deserves, Last Light has to improve the building blocks — AI, combat, and stealth.

These ideas tie directly to agency — giving the player a wide, useful toolset. Run-and-gun types would find fewer problems with Metro 2033, although the sighting and movement mechanics were sluggish (Intentionally so, and I’d argue for the better), but the tactical players, willing to spend hours creeping around dark corners performing stealth kills and creating diversion, were sorely disappointed. 4A promises the play types will be balanced in Last Light, creating a deeper and more believable experience.

While en route to mine knowledge from a key Nazi prisoner, Artyom inevitably infiltrates a Nazi stronghold. Removing the signature gas mask, he descends into a cobwebbed sewage shaft and begins his stealthy approach, unscrewing light bulbs by hand to avoid detection. With a silenced submachine gun, he dispatches a group of Nazis huddled around a card table, taking the overhead light with them. Sneaking inches away from a patrolling Gestapo, the tension becomes jaw-clenching. The improvements to the overly aware AI systems and stealth options are apparent.

metro last light

Fast-forward to Artyom and comrade, Khan, slowly edging their way through an assembly of Nazi soldiers listening to an impassioned propaganda rally festooned only by tattered red banners. Again, Artyom manages to remain undetected despite his boldness. While 4A generally uses these (admittedly scripted) apprehensive moments for pacing and plot development, the lull doesn’t last for long. They are spotted, spot-lighted, but not gunned down, as the soldiers attending the rally are unarmed. A chase sequence ensues, replete with crashing scaffolds, body shields, and a swift morality choice when a Nazi soldier surrenders. Following this are mine carts, explosions, gun fights, a large gorilla-like mutant boss, and the other AAA-shooter fare it seems 4A has relented to including in the formerly minimalist series.

If Last Light sounds eerily similar to Metro 2033, that’s because it is. Tunnels are tunnels, and as the saying goes, “Post-apocalyptic, ammo-deficient, sci-fi war never changes.” But the tweaks given to the stealth and AI systems, along with quicker movement and some high-action sequences may be enough to do what Homefront could not for THQ: Put the publisher in the ring with Activision (Call of Duty) and EA (Battlefield) in the fight for AAA shooter supremacy… and oodles of consumer cash. The inclusion of a yet-to-be-detailed online multiplayer mode in Last Light gives reason for cautious optimism as well, so look forward to a better and heavier hitting entry in this dark, survival-horror series on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, and PC in 2012.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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