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Metro: Last Light review

Excellent
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AT A GLANCE
  • Atmospheric setting
  • Strategizing your approach against enemy AI
  • Fantastic pacing
  • Getting turned around
  • Occasional technical hiccups
  • Stereotypical shooter boss battles

Deep in the tunnels of Moscow's Metro, a mother tells her child that life wasn't always confined to an endless stretch of cement and darkness. People used to live on the surface. But you've just come back from that place; beneath ever-present clouds sits the empty husk of a decimated civilization, every inch of which is enveloped in radiation. If that doesn't kill you, the mutants probably will. The world above is terrifying, but the sad truth is it's not much worse than life below. Warring political factions have splintered what remains of the human race. Mankind may have survived a nuclear holocaust, but it's trying its damnedest to snuff itself out.

Metro: Last Light paints a hopelessly bleak picture with its fantastic, almost tangible portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world. Every radiation-made monster wants you for dinner; every human being has a secret, selfish agenda; and your only reprieve from the deadly wasteland above or tunnels below are makeshift Metro towns in which people sob aloud as they eat pasty-looking mushroom soup for the hundredth night in a row.

As Artyom, a member of the Rangers (the militarized protectors of the Metro), you'll be sent on a series of high-profile missions, which will have you exploring rarely-traveled tunnels full of monsters, bandits, and other unsavory characters, in addition to the hostile world above. All of these places are rife with environmental storytelling cues, and you'll really get a great sense of the struggles and dangers that come with living in a post-nuclear world. Exploring some areas can be a bit confusing, though. While Last Light's far from an open world game, there's no hand-holding compass to tell you where to go, so you'll have to spend a bit of time figuring out how to progress should you miss a lever or cleverly hidden passageway.

Still, the atmosphere here is of a caliber that many games fail to achieve, and its grim tones bleed into Last Light's every mechanic to create an incredibly immersive experience. Navigating a tunnel deep within the Metro network is excruciatingly isolating; the hairs will stand up on the back of your neck once your flashlight dies and you have to spend precious seconds manually recharging it with a crank as mutant spiders scurry about. You'll feel a powerful sense of urgency whenever the filter on Artyom's gas mask needs to be swapped out and you're all out of spares, or when the mask's visor cracks and there's no replacement to be found. And you'll feel the choking grip of panic when you're surrounded by more hellish creatures than you have bullets to put down.

"...the atmosphere here is of a caliber that many games fail to achieve..."

Even Artyom's arsenal reflects the world in which he lives. Most firearms, for example, aren't your standard shooter affair, but rather makeshift armaments built from scrap. Their inventive designs--like a shotgun that feeds shells to the chamber via a rotating cylinder, or a pneumatic gun that must be pumped Super Soaker-style to hurl metal spikes--not only make for interesting combat scenarios, but also drive home that humans have to make do with limited resources.

It's hard to resist trying all the new guns as you find them, and eventually you'll build a loadout of favorites that cater to your preferred playstyle: stealth, guns-blazing, or a mixture of both. It's entirely possible to bypass most human enemies by staying hidden and taking advantage of vent shafts or maintenance corridors, and shooting out lights will help you remain undetected. It's also extremely satisfying to mess with foes, as the AI reacts to your actions in a logical, lifelike way.

"...the AI reacts to your actions in a logical, lifelike way."

Taking one out from the shadows with a silenced weapon, for instance, will send the rest into panic mode as they begin searching for you. Likewise, initiating a firefight with a grenade will often cause enemies to raise an alarm or, in the case of an encounter that took place in some sort of engine room, seal all the doors and flood the area with a deadly gas, forcing you to equip a vision-obscuring gas mask. Though firefights are occasionally hampered by frame rate dips, every encounter, save for a few mediocre boss battles that are a relic of old shooter design, offers a wealth of strategic opportunity, which helps Last Light stand apart from the average shooter.

So, too, does its fantastic sense of pacing. There are plenty of moments where you'll spend time in a Metro station taking in the sights before heading out to your next objective. Eavesdropping on the locals is a great way to hear some fascinating stories, and in one station you can even sit down and watch a 30-minute theater performance, an event that can be passed up entirely. It's easy to lose an hour or two admiring the surprising level of detail packed into each location, and rushing through a non-combat zone to get back to the killing is a huge disservice to Last Light's subtle stories.

"It's easy to lose an hour or two admiring the surprising level of detail in each location..."

Indeed, subtlety is what makes Last Light such an exceptionally immersive game. It nails the core tenets of a shooter, then forces you to react to enemies in ways outside of simply taking cover. It plops you in a post-apocalyptic world, then fills it with tons of minor but substantial details, like the shadows of once-living people now permanently nuked into stone walls. It strips you of hope, only to dangle a tiny sliver of it ahead of you like a carrot on a stick. And once the credits roll, long after you've lost track of body counts and the volume of setpiece explosions, it's the subtle things--like the mother explaining to her child that people used to live in houses instead of cement tunnels--that will stick with you the most.

This game was reviewed on PC.

More Info

Release date: May 14 2013 - Xbox 360, PC, PS3 (US)
May 17 2013 - Xbox 360, PC, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, PS3
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Deep Silver
Developed by: 4A-Games
ESRB Rating:
Mature

29 comments

  • universaltofu - August 17, 2013 8:19 p.m.

    I liked this one a lot, the railcar sequence was brilliant in a way only half-life felt to me, and those giant bugs were the stuff of nightmares *shudder*
  • Nowgamer - May 15, 2013 10:19 a.m.

    Hi people, what are the conditions for a good ending?
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - May 16, 2013 2:38 p.m.

    Here's the step by step guide! http://www.gamesradar.com/metro-last-light-alternate-ending-guide-and-walkthrough/
  • Rhymenocerous - May 14, 2013 9:43 a.m.

    What difficulty were you playing for the review? It sounds to me like the Ranger mode (or whatever) is like the equivalent of Fallout NV's Hardcore Mode - and that was DEFINITELY the true way to play New Vegas.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - May 14, 2013 5:10 p.m.

    I played on normal for the review--Last Light DOES come with a hard mode, but you're correct in that Ranger Mode is more a "hardcore" mode.
  • Hobogonigal - May 13, 2013 9:47 p.m.

    Wow, I wasn't expecting it to score this highly! I played the first game and while they nailed the atmosphere, the gameplay was a bit off. Glad to hear that the stealth actually works properly in this game. I think I'll have to buy this then!
  • ThePrivateer - May 13, 2013 8:04 p.m.

    How long is this game?
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - May 13, 2013 8:41 p.m.

    12 hours or so :D
  • ThePrivateer - May 13, 2013 8:42 p.m.

    Good length! Appreciate the reply, thanks!
  • 7-D - May 13, 2013 12:44 p.m.

    Just finished building my PC this weekend... so i'm tempted to get this, but not happy about all of this hunter mode BS. Might hold out until they release this thing as a complete package. Having a mode touted as "the way this game is supposed to be played" as a paid for DLC (or free for pre-order) is disgusting. It's got to the point now where DLC is actually holding back and affecting the core experience.
  • FVHound - May 13, 2013 7:52 p.m.

    http://games.on.net/2013/05/metro-last-lights-publishers-explain-why-ranger-mode-is-a-pre-order-exclusive/ There was a reason for that though, they had no choice due to retail demand a Pre-order bonus for all games now, and Deep SIlver didn't want to restrict weapons or levels. So they picked Ranger mode as it was the most appropriate that people preordering would want this.
  • clay-johnson - May 23, 2013 11:48 a.m.

    As far as I can recall simply buying the limited edition nets you all of the pre order bonuses(pending on where you buy from. GS has Ranger mode, 100 rounds, AKS74U and RPK)
  • db1331 - May 13, 2013 11:41 a.m.

    "This game was reviewed on PC." Wait, what? When did this start happening?
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - May 13, 2013 1:02 p.m.

    Any time I get the opportunity to review on PC, I tend to take it :)
  • db1331 - May 13, 2013 1:05 p.m.

    If the laws of nature allowed it, and you deemed me a worthy receptacle, I would have your babies.
  • StrawHatxPirate - May 13, 2013 10:07 a.m.

    I bought this game for $25 off of Ebay. Since nvidia I believe is giving away free game vouchers for last light if you buy the 660 or higher. So if anyone's interested... anyways, I downloaded this game on Steam already and am just waiting for it to go live tomorrow! So psyched!
  • winner2 - May 13, 2013 9:41 a.m.

    Definitely going to get this, I was not expecting such a nice experience

Showing 1-20 of 29 comments

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