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

It's scripted when necessary, not by default

Having been heartened by all of this talk of emergent, player-driven gameplay, I was doubly perturbed by the actions a rather robotic-looking winged beastie during a particular street-level battle. It wasn’t the general flapping of leathery wings and overall aura of hellspawn misadventure that bothered me. It was the fact that towards the end of the encounter said creature started behaving less like a venomous airborne agent of Hell’s dark bowels and more like a plastic pterodactyl being puppeteered on a string. 

After the designated amount of damage had been soaked up, it conspicuously flew over to a a long-range vantage point, hovered there until Artyom moved himself into the designated prey zone, and then swooped in for a very designated, very scripted grab, lift and drop manoeuvre. Before buggering away off into the sky, trying desperately hard to act all natural, like a cheap soap actor awkwardly trying to fudge their way through a hidden camera show.

Naturally I felt compelled to ask about this. Was it a sign of the kind of oft-seen heavy scripting supposedly at odds with all that Metro seems to stand for? Was there to be a helicopter fireball rain shower chapter later on, consisting mainly of 20 minutes spent watching Artyom shield his face as a barrage of inexplicable choppers tumble from the sky? No, as it turns out. You see what I’d witnessed, while par for the course of many AAA shooters, was apparently an early version of what will be a much more organic-feeling incident in the final game.

While Metro follows a linear narrative, the emphasis is very much on player-driven exploration, discovery and combat. This isn’t a funnelled tunnel-shooter experience, regardless of the presence of a great deal of literal tunnels and quite a bit of shooting. Metro is a game in which you make your own decisions, come up with your own solutions, and live with the consequences. Softening that hardcore freedom with casual-friendly hand-holding? There will be none of it. Just an initial introduction to the way Metro works, and then away you go. Metro’s devs are proud, almost defiant about the game’s lack of safety nets and baby-sitting procedures, and frankly that makes me want to hug each and every one of them individually until it gets a bit awkward.

And as for the tools you’ll have at your disposal for creating those solutions…

Different weapons actually make for different gameplay

You know the dullest thing about a lot of modern shooters? The actual things you shoot with. You’d think that by now devs would have realised that including 20 different machine guns with no meaningful functional differences between them is a bit of a waste of the weapon modellers’ time. Throw as many firing-rate and recoil stats around as you like. Compare CoD and Battlefield’s ‘realistic’ military line-ups to Quake’s plasma rifle, railgun and rocket launcher and you’ll soon see what I mean by ‘meaningful’. Seriously, if there’s going to be so little shift in the gameplay with each new weapon pick-up, the artists might as well save some time, stick a default banana model in the right-hand corner at all times and be done with it.

In Metro though, there are only going to be about four standard, real-world guns. The rest of its arsenal will comprise of a weird and eclectic array of home-made, bodged-together creations, covering a wide and heady mix of death-implementation abilities. And the best bit? The intention is to make them so alien that you’ll have to work out what to do with them for yourself. As we were told, in terms of the kind of experience Metro is trying to evoke, “it’s quite important that you pick up this contraption and aren’t quite sure how to use it”.

And as for the using of those weapons…

You play it your way, not the developers'

Push forward. Kill dudes. Push forward again. More dudes appear. Kill dudes and push forward. Await more dudes. That’s your standard Call of Duty gameplay loop right there, give or take a few spiralling helicopters and (more so) on-rails (than usual) bits. Not the case in Metro. You see while CoD is the simplest, most literal distillation of the phrase “first-person shooter”, Metro isn’t even always an FPS half the time. “First-person Adventure” is the phrase being bandied about by 4A, and they’re right to do so.

While combat inevitably comprises the shooting of guns from a first-person perspective, an hour of Metro is just as likely to play out through stealth, trading, exploration or flat-out, back-to-the-wall survival horror. And as with the first Metro, I’m talking proper “OhmigodhowthehellamIgoingtosurvivethis?” horror, not simply the shooting of monsters instead of men.

As for that shooting, it looks like Metro is very much in the emergent, player-driven combat camp. With much-improved enemy AI promised this time around to properly compliment the bounteous room for adaptation provided by the game’s wide, open, explorable combat arenas (not to mention the host of options served up by the game’s eclectic weaponry and stealth possibilities), when Metro offers up a fight, it should be very much your fight, not one that the developers have choreographed. 

In fact that element is a decent allegory for the whole game’s philosophy really. With one, long, unbroken journey, a lack of developer dictation, and a raft of decisions to make at every step of the way with both short-and long-term consequences abound, Metro looks like it’s going to be your adventure through and through. And ye gods, is that a refreshing prospect.

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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