Metro: Last Light First Look
Metro: Last Light First Look
Metro 2033 superficially slipped quite easily into 'generic shooter' mode by creating a mood of terror and then normally only facilitating you with loud weapons - because of this you felt forced to run and gun, making the game feel like a sprint from one fight to the next.
This didn't mesh with the way the game paced the story or station sections of the game, ultimately harming the game's critical success. But 2033's faults were all presentation. The game looked gorgeous - there's no question of that - but it played like a linear shooter with some extremely punishing mechanics. On face value, Metro 2033 had a bleak world, typical shooter mechanics and a great (if shallow) story.
The reality wouldn't be revealed until much later - that there was an epic amount of depth in Metro 2033 that players wouldn't, or couldn't, find until they'd played through it multiple times. The game measured your actions against an unseen yardstick and held you accountable - usually punishing you for taking the easy way out.
Metro Last Light doesn't look like it will make the same mistakes.
In the hands-off section we witness, Artyom (the hero of the first game), is sneaking through a hostile camp to rescue a friend, and his ability to sneak and take down enemies in the dark is up there with the Corvos and Garretts of the world.
In fact, if you look at the way he approaches stealth, fans of the above games will notice more than a few similarities. He takes out lights (either by shooting them, turning off the power or taking out the bulbs) and sticks to the shadows where he can. The AI notices when lights go out and will become more suspicious depending on the method - they might dismiss a power outage as a blown fuse, but if they hear the bullet strike the wall behind the light you shot they'll be alarmed.
He has a number of silent weapons in his arsenal, and the beauty of staying hidden is that it's easier to conserve ammo if everyone drops to a single shot to the head. The stealth play helps the pacing as well - the entire game slows down as Artyom creeps through the dark and kills unseen, and if the action heats up it feels like a natural extension of that sort of game.
Of course, the choice system still exists in Metro - and once again it's about delivering consequences for your actions, not having you choose good or bad thing via the left and right mouse button.
We see a guy getting interrogated as we creep through the world and our guide through the Last Light metro leaves him be - it seems that if you wanted to save the torture victim you'd need to go loud almost immediately. When Artyom fails to act there's a brief flash of white on the screen - nothing intrusive, but enough to notice - as if the world has changed somehow. It's a great way to let the player know something has changed without throwing it in their face.
4A's engine, by the way, is still a marvel. Metro 2033 is still a benchmark game for hardware enthusiasts, and Last Light is pushing the engine even harder. In a stunning demonstration of its capabilities we watch as the entire engine is slowed down four times. You can see bullet casings eject from the gun as the slide slams back, you can see bullets deform the terrain (similar to the famous lobby scene from the Matrix) and the attention to detail is downright amazing.
Outdoors the game feels far more like Half-Life than its predecessor. The colours are brighter (but not much brighter) and with the Dark Ones dead, new weird and wonderful beasts inhabit the world. The player's responsibility to manage their air filters and keep their gas mask undamaged returns, continuing the series' efforts to force players to immerse themselves.
I love this new emphasis on stealth that games are having, but it's the way Metro Last Light is approaching consequences that has me the most excited. Everything you do in a game is a choice - do you crouch or stand or lean or go to cover or shoot or run? When those choices affect the game world it makes the 'Paragon'/'Renegade' concept in other games seem far too shallow - though thanks to good writing in many cases it's not.
What Last Light is doing is unobtrusively letting you know when one of those choices is made. There will definitely be those who don't like this - and I can see how it might remove some of the world's impact by being too gamey - but I think the majority of players will feel empowered by knowing exactly when their actions have consequences.
Metro Last Light is coming out in March this year on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC - but having seen it in action on PC there really seems like only one choice.
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