First person shooters are a very common genre in video games. Ever since Doom took the world by storm (and is still one of the most ported games ever made), the first person shooter has been not only a staple of gaming, but one of the most popular ones.
Over the years, as technology improved, the FPS genre only got better, and it’s hard to argue that its peak wasn’t around 2010 when games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 were dominating the charts. At a time when military and squad based shooters were all the rage it was hard to find a first person shooter that dared to try something different, that risked low sales in order to try something bold. However, the Metro series did just that.
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Metro 2033, the first game in the series, was released in 2010, and ended up being a commercial and critical success, despite generally going under the radar of a lot of people. Based upon the post-apocalyptic novel by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, the game stripped down a lot of the big, bombastic action elements that were dominating the FPS genre, and instead created a dark, survival horror shooter. Thanks to the success of the first game a sequel was given the go-ahead, and whilst it would end up expanding on the scope of the first game in a number of ways, Metro: Last Light would continue to be a more story driven, darker themed action game that would stand out amongst its competitors.
Whilst the first game took a lot of inspiration from the novel it shares a name with, the sequel would take a departure from the books, and would not be following the events of Metro 2034 as fans anticipated. Instead, the studio decided to take the story in its own direction, following on from the ‘bad’ ending of the game, as they considered it to be the more interesting of the two to launch into a sequel with. Despite moving away from the books, original creator Dmitry Glukhovsky was involved in the story process, and wrote much of the dialogue for the game.
Metro: Last Light takes place one year after the events of the first game, and players once again get to take control of Artyom, who has now become a fully fledged Ranger. The Rangers have moved into the massive underground military bunker, D6, which players discovered at the end of the last game, and are trying to keep peace amongst the citizens of the Metro, whilst also keeping the location of D6 a secret. When news reaches the Rangers that one of the Dark Ones, the mysterious creatures killed at the end of the first game, are still alive, Artyom is sent out to find it and kill it, along with Ranger sniper.
Travelling up to the irradiated surface, players navigate their way through the ruins of the old world until they find the Dark One, who turns out to be a child. Thus begins a series of events that will see Artyom having to battle against Nazis, Communists, and hordes of mutants as he tries to prevent a war, and protect the Dark One that he believes could be the key to bringing lasting peace for the remnants of humanity.
Whilst the story of the Metro series is one of its key selling points, the main area in which the game stands out, especially amongst its competitors at the time, is in the realism that it tries to bring to the game play. The first game was praised for its stealth elements, and this was taken to heart in the sequel. A bigger emphasis was given over to stealth, and the option for players to go through the entire game without killing a single human enemy, opting instead for sneaking and non-lethal take-downs. In order to assist players with their stealth approach the levels were made a little less linear, with multiple routes through environments for players to choose from. Players can also use darkness to assist them, turning off lights and blowing out oil lamps as they go to create darker areas in which to hide.
While it’s possible to play through the entirety of Metro: Last Light without killing a single human enemy (you will still have to kill mutant creatures) the game doesn’t force this on you, and if you wanted to take a more action approach to things you’re able to do so. That being said, the game is incredibly aware of its setting, and making an immersive story and environment are key; as such, players will still need to weigh their options carefully in regards to what weapons to use and how to source ammunition. Supplies aren’t that limited in Metro: Last Light that you’d feel at risk of running out of ammunition, but there’s always the possibility you might have to make a mad dash through a hail of gunfire to grab more bullets if you’re not careful.
The developers wanted the players to feel as immersed in the setting as they could, and one of the ways the game does this is by removing any kind of heads up display. There are no cross-hairs on the screen to show where your weapon is pointing, and you either have to fire from the hip and hope for the best, or aim down the gun’s sights. There’s no ammunition counter on screen, and you either have to keep track of bullets in your head, or watch your magazine where you will see your bullets going down with each shot. Things like timers for your gas mask filers are done on your watch, and players have to make the character bring their arm up to check it. And there are no way-points or objective markers, and you will have to use your compass to know your direction; something else that you need to actively bring up. These choices not only make it feel like you’re in a much more real environment, but also make the game feel a bit more challenging than your average shooter, where everything is displayed on screen for you.
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Whilst the game is a first person shooter that deals with the fracturing and infighting between humanity after the end of society, there’s more to it than that. The first game was heavily praised for the horror elements that it included, and some of the more memorable segments of that game are the most frightening ones. The sequel would continue to bring these elements of the supernatural and the horrific into the second game. Whilst the game would use the mutants for this, with huge bestial creatures springing out of the dark at Artyom, there are also elements of the game that are a bit more unusual, and harder to explain away. Whether it’s ghostly visions or things that don’t quite make sense in the real world, the Metro series is happy to stray close to out and out horror in order to make the experience more varied and interesting.
The Metro series is one that has gained more and more attention over the years; both of the first two games have received remastered versions that have been released on later generation consoles, as well as on the Nintendo Switch, and the third game in the series, Metro: Exodus, is one of the best games of its generation. It may have had a more humble beginning, being a weird horror shooter based on a book, made by a small team that a lot of people didn’t hear about at the time, but over the years it’s continued to grow and gain more and more fans. Amongst a seas of tactical shooters, military simulators, and run and gun gore-fests, the Metro series continues to stand tall as a unique series; one that does its own thing, makes its own world, and embraces what makes it different. If you’ve never picked up the series before you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Metro: Last Light was released in the UK on 17th May 2013.