By Luke Lawrie
As I stare off into the distance down a dark underground tunnel, a powerful scream echoes through my headphones as it bounces its way down the subway walls. The other rangers in my group frantically swing their flashlights toward the noise, but the blackness of the tunnel overwhelms the light; nothing can be seen. Suddenly, a shadowy creature miraculously appears in the middle of the team, as if it was there all along. This will not end well. This is only the beginning of my first 3 hours with Metro: Last Light.
Set after the events of Metro 2033, players will once again take control of Artyom, a young man who has grown up living beneath a post-nuclear war Moscow. As a member of the allied military group called The Rangers, Artyom is sent above ground to investigate a sighting of the Dark Ones. These mutant creatures are the result of what has survived on the surface, and are a greatly feared foe of the Metro society.
Much like the original game, the HUD is very minimal and attempts to give information to players by displaying some of it within the world. The first time you venture outside you pick up your gas mask and filters, allowing you to explore the city and safely breathe the toxic air. You look down and set the timer on your watch to count down how long is left until the current filter attached to your mask runs out and needs to be swapped. As you walk around, precipitation builds up on the outside of the mask; you hit a button on the controller to wipe away the moisture, allowing you to see clearly again. Off in the distance you see the reason you’ve been sent: a Dark One stands atop a rock formation. You begin to chase it down but things abruptly come to a halt as you’re taken captive by an opposing faction.
After being dragged back underground to a prison cell, you break free of your restraints and swiftly dispose of your interrogators. You begin to make your way out of the base and back to safety. At this point the game introduces a stealth mechanic which assists players in progressing through some of the tougher situations. Light plays an important part within the environment, and your watch is equipped with an indicator which notifies if you are currently hidden within the shadows. Items like light bulbs located on walls can be unscrewed so that a once well light area is now dim, allowing the player to easily creep around without being seen. I played the majority of my experience with the game using stealth – sneaking up behind enemies, performing a silent takedown, and then looting everything they had.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Metro series is how the economy within this post-apocalyptic world works. Ammunition is a currency that can be used to purchase other things in the game. The higher quality ammos do more damage to enemies, but are of a higher wealth value. This puts the player in a position where they must decide whether it’s worth shooting away their money or if instead they should be saving it for better weapons, items or upgrades.
As with the previous games, it appears that again a kind of morality system is in place which required a few subtle decisions to be made throughout my play time. However the relevance of this to the game overall was not demonstrated; it could ultimately just be something that factors into the ending of the game. But with the way morality was handled the last time around I’m definitely hoping that things have changed.
4A Games, the developers of Metro, have once again continued creating an interesting world for people to explore with some fantastic looking environments. I walked away from the few hours I had with the game not only wanting to find out what was going to happen next in the story, but also excited to see if it had any other tricks up its sleeve. From what I played, Metro: Last Light is incredibly engaging straight from the opening sequence, and the added emphasis on stealth provides an extra element of player tactics to what could have been just another “go in guns blazing” shooter.
Metro: Last Light is available this week -- from 16 May -- on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.