The gritty Eastern European shooter is back, and is looking as challenging as ever.
The environment really doesn’t like you in Metro: Last Light. It’s the same setting, true, and a lot of the same environmental challenges as its predecessor, Metro 2033, but they all seem amped up to truly diabolical levels in Last Light.
And it’s kind of refreshing, from a distance. When you asphyxiate for the third time because you failed to scrounge enough oxygen canisters, it’s a little less so, though.
That is, however, how our preview session of a relatively late build of the game ended. We’d snuck through and out of prisons, chased gribbly mutant things through a blasted landscape, and poked our noises into the noisome, crowded underground of the Russian Metro system, but in the end... yeah, I died, gasping for air, while fighting off the mutant hordes.
If you like a dose of bleak with your fatalistic gaming, you’re going to love this... just be warned, you will need to explore every nook and cranny to stay alive.
Rust never sleeps
The world of Last Light is a pretty nasty place. Above ground, the air is poisonous, rain is acidic, and the wildlife has adapted to it all in a number of deadly ways; below-ground isn’t much better, but at least you can take your re-breather off and relax – a little.
The plot’s typically dense, and follows on from the events of Metro 2033, though you should be able to pick things up pretty ably if you haven’t played it. That said, you’ll get a richer experience if you do. Basically, Artyom is now a Ranger, and he’s still working through the events after he nuked The Dark Ones in 2033. There’s a mystery, only he can solve it, and as usual there’s a number of factions supporting him, and trying to stop him, all while scratching out a living in the shell of post-apocalyptic Moscow.
The world is supremely well-realised, especially the sequences where you get to explore the various station-colonies where people hide from the awfulness the world’s turned into. The 4A Engine is capable of an incredible amount of detail, from the warp and weft of cloth in clothing and uniforms, to the poisoned light of the surface world. But it’s in the frenetic action that the engine really shows off.
First up, the weapons in the game are pretty amazingly detailed, right down to the fact that the bullets in a lot of weapons are actual physics-based objects. They rattle and move
in their open-cage magazines in real time, and while this is a subtle effect, it undeniably adds weight to the way the guns feel. And they all feel pretty great, from pistols to machine guns. Enemy AI is definitely better, and we can only imagine will improve again for the final product.
However, it’s the way the world tries to kill you that is most compelling. To walk on the surface you need to be pretty well kitted out – working visor for your gasmask, filter canisters, batteries, enough ammunition to take down all kinds of predators, and more. Each dash across the surface feels like an epic expedition, and new mechanics, like needing to wipe rain or gore off your gas mask visor, only remind players how helpless they are out there.
When the action and these dangerous environments overlap, things get truly hectic. And, at times, truly frustrating, like in the aforementioned sequence that saw me die – a lot.
Nonetheless, now that the game has a new release date following THQ’s dismemberment sale (it’s coming out on the 17th of May), we’re looking forward to having a second taste of
the game, and taking things much more cautiously.