We know what you’re thinking as you look at these screenshots. Fallout 3: Snow Edition. We did at first too. But having now played through the first couple of hours of THQ's upcoming shooter Metro 2033, boy were we wrong.
Totally linear and heavily story-driven, Metro is actually a hardcore first-person survival horror with a set of values entrenched in the late ‘90s. Still sore that Resi has gone all testosterone and bullets? Metro has you covered. Its tale of post-nuclear survival in a colonised Moscow underground railway system is so wrapped up in traumatic challenge and cool ideas that if all goes well, it could take up the dropped survival horror baton very nicely indeed. Here’s why...
The emphasis is on survival
As a young man by the name of Artyom, it's your task to traverse the devastated city and warn the Metro council of a new and terrifying threat to humanity's already crappy existence. Moscow is crawling with monsters but as foul as they are, Metro’s mutated creatures of death-encouragement are just one reason for the city's funeral directors to be cheery. As a post-nuclear wasteland, the Russian capital itself is hazardous to your health, and surviving it will take a good deal more than a quick Fallout 3-style Radaway shot every so often.
So hazardous is the atmosphere above ground that every time you break the surface you’ll have to wear a gas mask. Donning and removing your mask is a manual, button-activated action. Remember to do it and live. Forget and die. But a mask’s air filter can get clogged up with nuclear lung-death pretty damn quickly in a place like this. Thus, foraging for and installing replacements is as much a priority as killing and evading the murderous local wildlife, and there’s nothing automated about the process. Given Metro's penchant for immersive, "real life" game mechanics, you'll even have to raise Artyom's wristwatch (another manual action) from time to time in order to keep tabs on each filter's lifespan.
Above: The snow-bound desolation of bombed-out Moscow has a unique and otherworldy eeriness about it.
The scavenge-and-ration approach also extends to the game’s economy which, in Metro’s violent post-nuclear dishevelment, has been reduced to using a particular type of bullet as currency. The catch? Your hard-hunted money bullets can also be used in certain weapons. So the choice is a tough one; do you save your cash for the next expensive weapon shop and make do with your very limited ‘normal’ ammo, or fire it into the face of a monster and survive poorer?
Above: Metro's nuclear survivors are an equipped but ramshackle bunch, surviving on whatever they can salvage from the unforgiving city.
And even the horror game staple of the flashlight needs careful maintenance in order to remain effective. This time your attention will turn to a makeshift hand-crank generator which needs a regular jacking (a case of repeatedly jamming the fire button after selecting it from your inventory) if your precious light o’ life is going to stay at optimum power. Similarly, navigation is a case of pulling up your compass and following the arrow. It might have the same magic homing ability as Jack Sparrow's does in Pirates of the Caribbean, but raising it means lowering your gun, which is obviously very risky.
It takes a lot of effort, rationing and decision-making to survive in Metro’s Moscow, and absolutely nothing is done for you.