Metro: Last Light is the sequel to the terribly underrated, and truly excellent Metro:2033. Where Metro:2033 was Alien, Last Light is the Aliens, or more accurately, the Prometheus. It’s bigger, in scale and budget, and, erm, I think this analogy has derailed….regardless, this is my Verdict.
Last Light is bigger on almost every scale – the levels are vast, highly detailed and generally gorgeous; post apocalyptic wastelands have never looked so good. Unfortunately, bigger also seems to necessitate boss fights these days too, and this is where Last Light falls over. The whole success of Metro:2033 was the universe it crafted- you really felt that the Metro was (quite literally) a living, breathing and incredibly hostile place. You were always on edge, now don’t get me wrong, you had control, but it was a thin line you walked and you knew it. You’re in even more danger now and I actually died a ton of times. I regularly play shooters on the hardest settings so I know what a tough fight is like. In this instance however you’re not just being beaten by a world, you’re being beaten by artificial difficulty spikes, re-spawn mechanics and idiotic boss fights.
There are a number of areas in the game that are almost antithetical to the whole Metro experience. For example, there are a number of artificial arena battles. We know an arena when we see one; large circular areas with various places for cover, with no apparent exit. You know it’s coming, you’ve just loaded up on ammo and health, there are growling noises on the way and you’ve not encountered an enemy for a few minutes; things are about to get sticky… There are several of these encounters in the game and all barring one are exceptionally jarring; they just don’t work; especially given the overarching mechanics of the game.
Enemies, and the environment in the Metro (as set up by the books and the first game) are not just exceptionally deadly, but living, breathing and functioning entities. They are however not always immediately hostile and herein lies the charm. If something’s dangerous it is dangerous to everything: not just you. Sure, you’re a prepackaged meal, but generally you get the impression that they’d much rather be somewhere safe and warm, you’re just a distraction, an amuse bouche if you will.
You feel like the whole world is existing and will continue to exist after you’ve left. The arena areas, the forced wave mechanics (barring the mis-pitched finale) and the other obvious jarring artificial constructs remove this effect in Last Light. It’s frustrating, given just what the first game did so right, and there are many good touches in the game and some truly excellent ideas and mechanics too.
There are other issues to. The enemies seem to take a little bit too much before they die. This, coupled with the decision to remove the Ranger Mode that made the first game so special (and came with it as standard) is a particularly aggravating decision that greatly annoys. The enemies also seem to deal too much damage- though strangely, even on hard you’ll only die if cornered. It’s a weird form of disconnect; the sensation of damage and dread are down pat, yet you can still take several razor-clawed swipes in your stride. Further, you can unload several shotgun blasts at close range and not kill something. Look, I get that they’re mutants and extra tough and so forth, but if you would dent reinforced metal with blasts at that range, surely skin shouldn’t be a problem? Again this points to just how much better the game would be with the Ranger Mode (which is how the first game must be played). It’s a very odd and cynical decision to make you pay more for it.
Then we get to the women. I felt, well, i’m not sure how I felt about the games depiction of women. It certainly does better than most- many of the NPC’s are women and some of the incidental conversations you overhear are superb, one particular instance being a conversation between a mother and a boy over a lost bear- something any parent can identify with. More so if you live in a post apocalyptic wasteland, like MIlton Keynes. The main (and only) female character too is a strong, independant and valued character. There’s even a burlesque show of sorts that, in the context of the gameworld, is appropriate and actually, very funny in places. I think it’s when you get to the strip-bar/brothel that it just crosses the line from well intentioned and clever use of female sexuality (in the context of the Metro) to something that, for me, just felt uncomfortable. l have absolutely no doubt that everything was done with the very best of intentions, it just didn’t quite sit right with me. From the insane jiggle physics, to the lap-dancing that seems to be present for the gratification of the player, I didn’t feel comfortable. Granted, these sections are entirely optional, but I think they stick out in such a bleak environment as obvious contrivances. Put it this way, that level is not one I would show the wife.
Moving away from that point however, If you feel like i’ve been exceptionally critical of this game, then you’re right. If you look back the arena battles aside, many of the issues are peripheral and if anything, are examples of me being too hard on the game. Strangely, this shows just how good this game could have been. It’s a tough love scenario; I know how good this game can be, and as a result I am being more critical about the weak areas.
In the end I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this game, but only if you’ve played the original which is by far, the better game and still one of the best horror shooters of all time. If you can afford it, get the Ranger Pack for Last Light and play using that. It’s bad you’re forced to pay extra for something that is integral content, but it’ll make your experience much better for it, but Last Light is on the whole a very good game, set in a superb environment with a very very pervasive atmosphere. Now the Stalker series is no more, there literally is nothing quite like it, and for that it should be cherished.
Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Review based on a Steam purchased copy. Please check this post for more on our scoring policy.