Review: Metro: Last Light
At the end of Metro 2033, Artyom had apparently successfully defeated the hordes of Dark Ones who had been created by the nuclear fallout in Russia. At the start of Metro: Last Light it seems he didn’t quite accomplish this task, there’s one left and Artyom is sent out into the radiation filled ruins to track it down.
It’s been 20 years since the bombs dropped and the air is still too radiated to breath, survivors have set up refuge in the old Metro tunnels – there’s no food, no water and no light. On the surface it’s not much better, the sky is grey, plants are unable to grow and some wildlife have horribly mutated into small dog-like creatures called Watchmen. Buildings are destroyed, planes have fallen out the sky and the smell of death is in the air – any humans looking to brave the surface have to don a gas mask or risk a certain death.
This is where you come in, you control Artyom as he heads out to find this remaining Dark One, and as you’d expect things don’t exactly go to plan. The Dark One fights back, Artyom gets knocked out and captured by another human faction. Fortunately he gets helped out by an unlikely source and must find his way back to his faction and home.
Last Light is all about atmosphere, the small bumps in the night, the dead stares of the living, the skeletons hanging out of an aircraft and so on. This is something it does very well, there are some moments which are genuinely creepy, such as hearing the scuttling of large spiders who only retreat when blinded by light. Of course, you have a torch to help you out but that battery doesn’t last forever, it’ll need to be recharged occasionally which means putting your guns away and manually charging it using a hand pump; leaving you in the dark, surrounded by creepy crawlies. It’s moments like this that make Last Light what it is, take that away and you have another first person shooter on your hands.
The game itself is fairly linear, there’s the path you need to take with a small amount of room around for searching for ammo, supplies etc. If you’re playing on the harder difficulties then this is a necessity as ammo is in short supply; the currency in the game is military grade ammo, which you can use in your guns but it’s better to use these for buying cheaper ammo from vendors, of which there are a few throughout the game. The gunplay is decent as well, it’s a step up from 2033, the guns have a decent punch and recoil to them – they feel fairly satisfying to shoot. The guns themselves are as you’d expect in a post-apocalyptic world, built from odd parts, stuck together to create something useable, oh, and the Kalashnikov of course, that thing is almost invincible. For example, one gun is a modified air rifle, it uses ball bearings for ammo and the gun itself needs to be pumped up in order to work, so not only do you need to reload the clips, you also have to hand-pump the thing, and no, you can’t shoot whilst doing this.
Underground you’ll come across all sorts of scenarios, one moment you’ll be crawling through a cave, burning away cobwebs with your lighter, the next you’ll be in a room full of human enemies with no obvious way out. Last Light adopts some slight stealth mechanics in situations like this, you can smash or un-screw light bulbs to embrace the darkness. On your wrist you have a contraption that lights up if you’re visible, so as long as that’s not active then you should be safe. For stealthy kills you can either get up close and personal with ol’ stabby or throw knifes from a distance, although in my play time, as soon as someone was killed the alarm was raised and I had to shoot my way out.
As well as a visibleometer on your wrist (I made that name up, it’s not in the game) you also have a series of numbers, these relate to your gas mask. When you hit the surface you need to equip said mask, otherwise you’ll be dead before you can pump your gun. As soon as it’s equipped the timer on your wrist starts counting down, this is basically how long you have before your filter runs out and so do you. There’s spare filters dotted around so if one runs out then with the press of a button you can swap it for a fresh one. This is an interesting mechanic as you have to make a decision, do you scour the landscape for more supplies and use up more of your filter or do you try to get back underground as soon as possible. Treading through nuclear torn landscapes is dirty work, there’s no denying that, and occasionally your visor will get a bit grubby – fortunately there’s a button which has the sole purpose of wiping your visor clean.
Metro: Last Light is a hand-pumping, spider-burning creepfest. The atmosphere is fantastic, for the full effect change the speaking language to Russian. The differing landscapes between the underground and surface are great and help mix up the tension. The story is decent as well, the dialogue is well written and there’s a few twists and turns along the way. Graphically, the PC version is fantastic, the console versions are still decent but with a slight dip in texture quality.
The one big disappointment is the decision over the pre-order bonus, if you’ve pre-ordered the game then you’ll get access to the Ranger Mode, which is basically a higher difficulty setting. It removes the HUD, makes everything in the game easier to kill – including you, there’s less ammo dotted around and so on. The marketing material even states that the Ranger Mode is the ‘way the game should be played’, if that’s the case then it should have been in the game from the start. Pre-order bonuses should be pointless things like a different gun, a new skin and so on, not game features. If you haven’t pre-ordered then you can still get Ranger Mode, for about $5.