Having previously only played through Metro’s first couple of hours, we were expecting a brutal and atmospheric horror game, much like old-school Resident Evil in first-person. But while that side of things is still very much there, we now know that Metro 2033 contains a lot more.
After half an hour or so of slogging through overground monster swarms (a process which eventually became tiresome once we’d been bashed into a corner a few too many times) the game suddenly cranked up several gears and changed into something else entirely. Upon our return to the underground Metro system, we suddenly found ourselves alone in a huge enemy complex containing no less than a small army. Naturally, we immediately ran off and hid in a corner.
But the level layout was very different here. Wider and much less linear than before, the environment let us carefully sneak and flank our way around, hiding in broken-down trains and switching off lamps to create little patches of darkened cover. Depending on our approach and choice of weapons we could turn this section into anything from non-violent stealth to a balls-out FPS bloodbath (guns, ammo and grenades were now plentiful).
It’s the way in which Metro rapidly shifts emphasis and pace while allowing the player to dictate the specific approach that really impresses so far. In a later section we found ourselves caught on the edge of a frontline battle between rival Communist and Nazi gangs (the political tension between Metro’s surviving human factions is vividly realised).
Hanging back in a railway tunnel while the reds prepared for battle up ahead, we decided upon a pre-emptive strike. One pipe bomb into the centre of the group and three were down, including the commander. But the rest swarmed down the tunnel with our blood on their minds, and got a fair bit of it before we mopped them up.
After reloading our save to try a different approach, we instead waited around for a while to see what the Communists did. After a lengthy but ultimately rather comical propaganda speech from their leader, the squad broke camp and headed over to the battle ground ahead, leaving only two guards on patrol. Sniping them out from the safety of the tunnel, we then stealthed our way along the railway tracks, tripping lights to stay hidden, and slipping unnoticed past the remaining soldiers fighting in an adjacent area. It was possible to spam the skirmish with grenades if we wanted to, taking out Communist and Nazi alike for a big ammo haul, but obviously the risk involved in simultaneously provoking both sides was massive.
And we can only assume that this kind of freedom is going to expand as the game goes on. Tellingly, we’ve already spotted both battle armour and stealth suits on sale in Metro’s underground townships.
It bodes well. It all bodes very well indeed. There are certainly higher profile and more instantly accessible shooters on the way this year, but those wanting something a little way off the beaten track would do very well indeed to keep an eye on Metro 2033. We’re certainly going to.