In just three days, we’ll be seeing the release of Metro: Last Light. By noon, we’ll already be exploring underground stations and beautiful wastelands filled with creepy monsters and terrifying fascists. The anticipated sequel to Metro 2033 will once again feature main and silent protagonist Artyom, still caught in the center of post-apocalyptic Moscow and fighting to save humanity from its end.
Being an enthusiast of apocalyptic fiction and having completed the first game twice, I’m definitely excited to see what new changes Metro: Last Light will bring, especially with developer Deep Silver replacing THQ and all. Now, let’s take a look at the reasons why I will be standing outside in the garden with my arms widespread, waiting for this game to fall from the sky and straight into my arms on May 14.
Before this, I’ve come across alien invasions, the return of dinosaurs, the Sun’s explosion and virus outbreaks. For years, these ideas have been recycled over and over, each time a new writer adding some different elements which may or may not catch your attention. Then one fine day, I discovered Metro 2033 and it changed my life, sparking a greater interest in my budding love for apocalyptic fiction.
Though I’m sure this idea has surfaced before, this was my first time encountering a story about a country of post-apocalyptic survivors living several feet underground in destroyed metro stations. The concept provoked the human imagination with all kinds of questions and philosophies, like how these people managed to build a new homes and lives under thousands of square feet of land.
Seeing the idea in (virtual) concrete in the game was even more fascinating. What the people called ‘home’ looked like an abstract design of a single hotel room level with narrow, random paths branching off to doors and more doors. Life behind those doors seemed desolate and disheartening. Most of the men were forced to become soldiers in order to protect the women and children from the humans who inhabited other sections of the metro, as well as scavenge for supplies to survive.
Its story also offers a different look of current events happening in the world around us. More explicitly, the constant war between living things of the same species, be it animals or humans. In this perspective, humans are still waging war against each other, despite the tragedy that has already befallen their lives. Every one of these factions are striving to keep their own people alive as the resources become scarce. Hence, the thirst and desperation for survival grows increasingly violent in the metros.
I see the light
In the competitive world of video games, developers (I’m not saying all of them) aim to offer a brand new gaming experience to dedicated gamers by creating distinctive features which make their games stand out from others. Most recently, BioShock Infinite’s Inception-like story and unique Vigors in combat. Then there was Battlefield Bad Company’s memorable cast of misfits and satire humor, as well as the brilliant characters and physics in Portal.
Since its predecessor, the Metro series has been known for its interesting use of light as an optional combat tactic. The remarkable feature allows players to interact with gas lamps, campfires and light bulbs to switch them on or off. Switching them off will give players a better opportunity at stealth approaches, but what’s even better is the danger of choosing to do so. Your plan of playing Batman by running behind enemies and knocking them out will be rendered useless in this case because there will be plenty of consequences.
Obstacles will prevent players from taking the easy way out by effortlessly avoiding enemies. Every step taken is a risky one and players are forced to engage with their environment in order to succeed in their stealth mission. In the darkness, players will have to look out for trip wires (explodes upon contact or unleashes a spike log of death), broken glass on the floor (crunches loudly beneath feet and alerts enemies), suspended tin cans (makes hell of a rattling noise, alerts enemies also) and a few other booby traps.
Hopefully, Metro: Last Light will emphasize the importance of light in combat further by featuring new traps and more light sources to switch off. In one of the trailers, it was shown that players can access a power supply to turn off all the lights in an entire location. Let’s hope that made it into the final cut.
Karma is a bitch
That’s what the voiceover said in the Survival Guide series and you can be sure it will be. In the Metro series, morality is what drives the heart of the story. The system also provides a much more immersive experience as players are given choices to make.
In Metro 2033, players can gain or lose moral points and naturally one will outweigh the other. A large majority of players ended up with the bad/normal ending while the possibility of getting the good/alternate ending had to be done consciously. This, of course, requires plenty of thorough exploration since some interactions are hidden in certain locations players may or may not find. When players gain moral points, the screen will flash and whispers (presumably from the Dark Ones) can be heard.
In Metro: Last Light, the morality system will be returning. Only this time, players will have to choose wisely as the consequences of actions and choices will have a greater and more severe impact on the storyline. What goes around, comes around. According to episode 2 of the Survival Guide series, your actions come back and bite you in the rear if you’re not careful. I guess we get to find out why and how in the coming days.
Beautiful songs in a beautiful apocalypse
Another key element that makes Metro a triple A title is its beautiful and wonderfully detailed graphics. The layers of details, especially in a post-apocalyptic game, help to capture the atmosphere of a ruined city and also the eeriness of the underground tunnels such as shadows, cobwebs, train wreckage, lights and mutants.
Despite some technical errors related to animations and bugs in Metro 2033, the graphics remain almost unaffected by such issues, the details of rubble and destroyed earth clear as day. The brightness is noticeably darker, hence reducing the depth of field on minimum settings, but otherwise everything else still looks realistic.
4A Engine will still be used for Metro: Last Light with several new improvements made such as lighting effects, improved artificial intelligence and its first graphical benchmark.
In the field of music, Metro’s soundtrack is nothing short of outstanding, throwing in a bunch of fun vibes and brave guitar twangs. Though the game’s setting is grim and depressing, the music is surprisingly catchy and modern. ‘The Market’, a song that can be heard on radios found in the metros, was a big hit among Metro 2033 players, including myself. The simple and sad tunes of guitar songs heard at the stations describe the hopeless future beautifully and effortlessly.
With the lack of talent in mainstream music these days, I look forward to hearing Metro: Last Light’s soundtrack during my gameplay with the feverish excitement of a child receiving her first video game.
The beginning of an ending
At this point in time, it’s common for fans to wonder how many endings there will be for Metro: Last Light and if the game will be the last of its franchise. Unanswerable questions aside, I don’t doubt that the game will be reasonably good, if not excellent, though the ending may not be entirely satisfying due to its survival horror genre which will inevitably result in the likely death of favorable characters.
Ultimately the reception of Metro: Last Light determines the possibility of a sequel in the future or maybe the developers have already made a decision we don’t know about. The ending of the sequel will decide Artyom’s fate once and for all. Being the last hope of finding the key to survival, he is carrying the world on his shoulders. A very heavy world.
How big of a consequence is he looking at after destroying the Dark Ones? Will he make sense out of everything he will face? Will he be able to find humanity in its darkest hours and lead them to salvation?
The world will be watching you, Artyom. This is your last stand.
Metro: Last Light is slated for release on May 14 in North America and May 17 in Europe for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. The game is rumored to be released on the upcoming PS4 console in late 2014.