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Metro: Last Light preview - 6 reasons it's the antidote to Call of Duty fatigue

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Metro 2033, while flawed, was one hell of a satisfyingly hardcore kick up the arse. A bleak-but-beautiful post-apocalyptic FPS-cum-survival-horror-cum-stealth-game-cum-survival-sim-RPG, it was as unapologetically demanding as it was viscerally and emotionally satisfying. It didn't always execute its ideas well enough to be the monster hit it could have been, but it was one hell of a refreshing break from the auto-piloted, scripting-obsessed killing-by-numbers that has typified much of this generation. But the best bit?

The best bit is that it's spawned a sequel, coming to PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, that's looking better in every way. I know because I've seen it. Here's why it's shaping up to be the palate-cleanser that the CoD-weary have been thirsting for. 

Playing on auto-pilot will send you into a nose-dive

In most mainstream FPS, the biggest piece of tactical management you’ll have to deal with is deciding whether the mob of surging mooks in front of you warrants a shot from the grenade-launcher or not. Think in such a single-mindedly gung-ho way in Metro and you will die quickly. And most of the time it won’t even be direct combat that will get you killed. Like the first game, Metro: Last Light is as much survival sim adventure as it is shooter. Moreso, in fact. Thus, you’ll have to manage yourself and your equipment like an F1 pit crew manages a car, via constant reappraisal of your situation and your actions on a moment-to-moment basis.

Particularly dark tunnel coming up? Better make sure your torch battery is charged. By the way, doing so requires the pumping of a manual hand-crank, which takes the place of your gun when in use. Plan your juggling wisely. Making a trip across the poisonous atmosphere of the surface? Better stick your gas mask on. But keep an eye on that timer on your wrist. It’ll tell you how long the current filter is going to last before you have to install a new one (provided you’ve found a spare). And keep an eye on those cracks in the visor. If that thing breaks you’re screwed.

And you might want to be careful about getting too shotgun-happy up-close. Blood spatters on the visor will block your view this time around. You can manually wipe them off, but it takes time. Time you might need to reload. Or fire. Or change a gas mask filter. Oh yeah, and make sure to pre-emptively burn away those big spider webs when you spot them. If one of those suckers gets on your visor, that’s another thing you’ll have to deal with. While reloading. And changing a gas-mask filter. And wiping blood off your mask.

This is a real journey, not a checklist of locations

Call of Duty plotting, let’s face it, is now much more reminiscent of the blue-screen scene from Wayne’s World than anything resembling an actual causal narrative. A stream of unrelated locations fly past as unrelated things explode in unrelated ways, giving the story the same jumpy, schizophrenic feel of a particularly militaristic episode of Family Guy. (“Peter! This is just like that time we took down the Ghanaian militia after blowing up that Antarctic missile silo!”). CoD might be one of the best-travelled series in history in term of geographical area covered, but there’s never any sense of an actual journey.

Metro aims to be the antithesis of that. It understands that the journey itself, with its sense of progress, discovery, personal accomplishment and growth, is why travel matters. You don’t get half as much out of going somewhere unless you actually experience getting there. Thus, while it won’t cover seven continents in six hours, Metro will make every step of its journey matter by putting you on one, long, continuous voyage from its start of the game to the end. In terms of making Metro a significant experience, that will have a much more powerful effect than you might expect.

It goes for poignancy, not hollow spectacle

Speaking of powerful, at this point I need to highlight how differently Metro looks to treat the big cinematic moments (such as they are). Consider the psychic flashback protagonist Artyom suffers while exploring the wreck of a crashed aircraft. We suddenly find ourselves high in the sky in the cockpit of the pre-smashed plane. The cabin is packed with the previously fleshy, living breathing versions of the present day charnel piles we’ve just walked through in the current timeline. All is going well (for Metro’s shit-heap world, anyway) for a few moments, but then suddenly there’s a flash.

The plane’s instruments and controls go resolutely to cock and the craft’s nose starts to dive. After a few moments ploughing through the blinding, dirty cotton wool of the cloud layer we burst through and finally witness the cause of our plight. The entire cityscape of pre-apocalypse Moscow is spread out below us, but amongst its opulent towers now stand thinner, glowing spires, made of the flame and vapour trails of a salvo of missiles launching into the sky as the city makes its last stand against an incoming nuclear strike.

There’s no explanation for any of this. No known enemy to rail against. No dramatic build-up. Just the sight of the inevitable playing out ahead of us on a grand scale. The plane continues to dive. A mournful, ambient soundscape begins to build as we continue to fall. There’s no Michael Bay gosh-wow factor here. No rousing catalyst for a big third-act fight back. Just an overpowering blend of the awe and fatalistic sadness. And then the scene ends, and we’re returned to the quiet, mundane greyness of the present.

But despite this, don’t expect Metro to be a game of glorified cut-scene gameplay and auto-playing set-pieces. Because…

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30 comments

  • secher_nbiw - June 28, 2012 9:32 p.m.

    A torch is what Britishers call flashlights.
  • Shinard - July 1, 2012 9:35 a.m.

    Err... no. Speaking as a lifelong Brit, we call torches torches while flashlight is an Americanism.
  • Rhymenocerous - June 28, 2012 3:44 a.m.

    Oh yeah, this is is the stuff for me. Didn't play the first one as I only have a PS3, but I will almost certainly be picking this one up.
  • Alex_Syros - June 28, 2012 1:57 a.m.

    This stuff pulls all the rights strings with me. Here's hoping the execution does justice to these awesome concepts.
  • robotdickens - June 27, 2012 10:32 p.m.

    Awesome! I always wanted to have/make a real fps open world.
  • BigDannyH - June 27, 2012 1:41 p.m.

    I can't work out if this is genuinely going to be a classic or if I just love Houghton's writing? His articles are always serious enough without being dull and funny without trying too hard. Really is my favourite writer in the industry. Keep up the good work Davey-boy!
  • e1337prodigy - June 27, 2012 1:33 p.m.

    One game I am really looking forward to. So different to the modern FPS shooters. Looking forward to Far Cry 3 too, not because of the graphics but because I think it will have a good story.
  • xx_CaPTiiN_SpAiiN_zz - June 27, 2012 1:31 p.m.

    for jesus sake stop with all the cod hate. its pathetic really why not have a go at worse games?
  • Bloodstorm - June 27, 2012 2:25 p.m.

    CoD is the standard for...well, standard. It's shallow, and never changes or innovates anything. It might not be the worst set of games (though I'm of the opinion that they are one of the worst), but they set the standard for generic and dull.
  • xx_CaPTiiN_SpAiiN_zz - June 27, 2012 4:07 p.m.

    lol and not battlefield nba or fifa? youre just another kid jumping on the cod hate bandwagon.
  • MattBrinders - June 27, 2012 4:51 p.m.

    When you play a match in FIFA or NBA you decide how it plays out and the AI reacts to what you do, not you reacting to them. Just like COD; you are forced to react to the simple and boring AI instead of them reacting to a choice you have made (mainly because there isn't a time in COD when you can make a choice). Metro: LL sounds incredible and it seems like the developers are going the distance and breaking away from the mainstream to deliver a niche, ambitious and emotional game. In my book one game like this is worth more than the entirety of any COD or Battlefield franchise.
  • Bloodstorm - June 28, 2012 9:58 a.m.

    Nope, I'm a 24 year old adult who thinks CoD is a load of crap. If you must know, sports games are crap as well, and I've not bought a Battlefield game since Battlefield 2, which I bought for a mod anyways and have never actually played the vanilla version. So bandwagon, no. I legitimately hate the franchise, the sorry excuse of developers that make CoD, and the piece of crap publisher that puts them out. They are what is wrong with the industry that I love and am working to become a part of.
  • xx_CaPTiiN_SpAiiN_zz - June 28, 2012 5:52 p.m.

    working to be a part of.... hahahahahaha good luck with that its not even a real job. grow up and smell the coffee... idiot unemployed and arguing with me lol. My annual salaray is over 100k after tax. XD
  • Sinsational - June 30, 2012 1:25 a.m.

    Not even a real job? Are you mentally retarded? The gaming industry is a multi-million dollar industry. While the US's economy was in recession, the gaming industry was growing with a massive percentage increase. People's houses were being foreclosed on, and the country was hitting a scary 11% unemployment rate, and the game industry was STILL going strong. You claim to "earn" an annual salary*** of 100k after taxes, yet possess neither the knowledge nor the grammatical skill to back it up. So, pull your head out of your ass and grow your epeen somewhere else. And for the record, you don't need to be unemployed to pursue other career paths. Albert Einstein was a patent clerk. Douche.
  • xx_CaPTiiN_SpAiiN_zz - June 30, 2012 1:24 p.m.

    getting a job in gaming is like getting a job in art or music its unrealistic. As for grammatical skill it doesnt even matter... this is the internet hahaha. a place for people like you who try to look smart on here because you cant act smart in real life. also retailers game and gamestation couldnt even support themselves well enough XD youre just another kid with big dreams and little intelligence
  • Redeater - June 27, 2012 2:44 p.m.

    Pretty ironic coming from one of the biggest trolls on here.
  • Counternub - June 27, 2012 1:15 p.m.

    I'm just hoping the English version of the book comes out soon, I've read Metro 2033 3 times now. Can't wait to play this, I loved the atmosphere of 2033. I really enjoy games like Metro, Fallout and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
  • Bloodstorm - June 27, 2012 2:22 p.m.

    From what I understand, Last Light doesn't follow the sequel book to Metro 2033, but takes it in its own unique direction.
  • gazzc - June 27, 2012 10:48 a.m.

    Sounds interesting, this article also just reminded me exactly why I am not even the slightest bit excited about the next CoD.
  • Bloodstorm - June 27, 2012 9:15 a.m.

    The first game was great. Love the soviet, post-apocalyptic vibe that it shared with games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Sure, the gun-play had an aged feeling, and the stealth was brutally unforgiving combined with bugs that made the AI still be on you when you reloaded a save meaning you usually had to restart the chapter, but the game was full of atmosphere. If they make the stealth sections work correctly, and do exactly what they did the first time around, this will be great.

Showing 1-20 of 30 comments

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