Genre: First Person Shooter Developer: Publisher: THQ Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 12th Dec 2009 Platforms:
Average of 9 Ratings
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Thanks to the plot-driven nature of Metro 2033 - with its extremely deep connection to the novel - Metro is almost a rail-shooter. It's a necessity and something we see in other first person shooters consistently, but it feels like the team might have wasted a real opportunity in Metro. With a background in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. there was the potential to allow the player to go anywhere in the sprawling network of tunnels - instead you'll largely follow the one path.
The disappointment is easily mitigated by the story and atmosphere. Metro 2033 is a first person shooter in the same vein as your Shock games - Bio and System - and not your Modern Warfares or Battlefields. It shares many similarities to other story-driven first person shooters - no multiplayer, a gripping plot and so much atmosphere you need breathing assistance.
It's when it's echoing the other games in its genre subset that it's strongest - things occur in the depleted Russian metro that simply shouldn't, and Metro 2033 becomes flat out scary at times. As if an abandoned foreign subway full of monsters wasn't scary enough, Dmitry Glukhovsky's novel includes set pieces with traps, Nazis, 'demons' and ghostly figures only staved off by liberal use of your flash light.
Like any decent supernatural thriller this leaves Metro as a game you should play on your own, in the dark and with the surround cranked to 11. It's helped by fantastic voice acting and a haunting soundtrack, though harmed a little by the slightly underwhelming range of dynamic phrases - Oblivion syndrome. The other slight downfall is the triggered vocals overlapping - if you want to soak up the entire world you'll find yourself standing or jumping in one spot so as to not accidentally trigger someone else talking over the current piece of plot exposition.
The claustrophobic environment is boosted again by the outstanding visuals - on the Xbox 360 it looks outstanding, but the game has been built from the ground up to work on the PC - DirectX 11 and all. Stalking the depths of the train tunnels is claustrophobic, but made more so by the beautiful use of colour and lighting - and stepping into the destroyed outside world (gas masks on) simply makes it more apparent.
The story follows Artyom, a young inhabitant of the tunnels, as he strives out of his home station for the first time. He's tasked by his hero to deliver an item to a distant station and it becomes apparent quickly that he's not your average metro-dweller. The basic run-down seems generic but it's the way in which it's told that boosts Metro into something you actively want to know more about. The dynamics of the various groups within the world are fascinating - watching men forced to the bidding of others is eerie when you're lying beneath a minecart.
The issue I have with the story is that a lot seems left unsaid. The relationships and politics of an underground Russia are mostly untouched - except to say that the left-wing communists and the right-wing nazis don't really get along. Knowing that the game is based on a book with amazing amounts of depth (even if it hasn't yet earned an English translation) makes it feel like a taste of what's available in the book - instead of a conversion to an interactive medium.
The supernatural elements are a wonderful addition to the story of the post-apocalyptic world - the ghosts of past wars are far more formidable than you think, as I mentioned before. You'll find yourself driven to find out more about the world you're inhabiting if only to find out the source of the monsters - the galloping "Dark Ones" and the winged "Demons" made me wonder just how exactly the world had ended.
The game itself is fairly standard first person shooter faire, if a little... off. The best feature is the gas mask - there's little more terrifying than the idea of suffocating to death, and it's fascinating how quickly your priorities will change when you run out of air filters... even mid fire fight. The weapons themselves seem to lack the visceral punch you get in most games these days - despite being home made weapons I'd still have liked a little more oomph with my shots. It won't be long before you get your head around the combat and you'll be snapping off shots on monsters and human monsters alike.
It's good that you can quickly pick up the gun fighting, because Metro 2033 seems to have a strength in numbers philosophy when it comes to challenging the player. You'll rarely be overwhelmed, but you'll find yourself in a number of situations where it's a better idea to run away than stand and fight.
The game attempts to encourage you to be stealthy as you carry further into the game - allowing you to take out light sources and line up shots early - but this is usually only useful for the first shot as the AI has an eerie awareness of your whereabouts after the first person goes down. The AI is consistently intelligent throughout - wise use of cover can cause you to waste bullets, and wasting
bullets is a dangerous thing in Metro 2033.
Bullets are the game's currency - used to purchase weapons and items - meaning you'll want to hold on to as many as you can. These are 'pre-war' bullets that are currency that is - tunnel-dwellers make their own inferior bullets, but the pre-war ones have a shine to them which makes them valuable. More than a couple of times I had to make the painful decision between expending my funds or running and praying - I almost always blew away my money.
If you're looking for a great ride through the underground system of Moscow you have very specific tastes and you'll only be satisfied by Metro 2033. If you're after a story-driven action horror title, grab Metro 2033. The AI quirks don't detract from the outstanding graphics and the overlapping voice-acting only slightly degrades the overall atmosphere. And hey, the slightly shallow story and linear gameplay shouldn't be terribly surprising in a game which is literally on-rails most of the time - underground rails that is! (it's a subway system).