Welcome to the Metro…again
Welcome to the Metro, a world that takes place twenty years after nuclear war rampaged the surface. The war changed everything, and now humanity is forced to live in the underground subway tunnels of the Metro. Instead of using cash as currency, society has taken to using precious pre-war bullets as money, as anything made before the war is valuable.
Humanity has regressed back to the basics and has slowly built civilization back up again to the point where guns and ammo are commodities, which led to the establishment of territorial powers like the Spartan Order, whose Rangers are legendary, and the Hansa, fascist Reich and communist Red Line.
Controls, Interfaces & HUD
Metro: Last Light makes use of familiar game mechanics that can be found in its predecessor as well as in most first-person shooters; the basic control scheme, dual axis control/aiming scheme, and the general HUD containing dynamic crosshairs for each weapon. Deep Silver's sequel does have its share of new features as well, including the blend of shoot-em-up action with brand new stealth mechanics, adding a nice variety of tactical strategy to the mix.
The Ranger's arsenal hasn't changed much in terms of interfaces and whatnot; Artyom makes use of the same basic resources and tools in his journey, many of which are extremely essential to survival out in the ruined world.
The stoic Rangers of the Spartan Order are steadfast in their cause and are living, breathing weapons that have what it takes to survive the rigors of both the surface and the underground tunnels of the Metro.
The game does have a somewhat unique series of radial-style interfaces that make up the Weapons Inventory and general Inventory, allowing gamers to access important resources like the gas mask or the flashlight on-the-fly. The universal charger makes a return, as does Artyom's flashlight, clipboard and gas mask, showing that the Rangers still use the same tricks to get by in the harsh wasteland.
These interfaces are designed for ease of use and are quite simplistic, yet it sometimes can be easy to fumble the controls until you get used to them. The Weapons Inventory is accessed by holding (Y) and allows players to switch between the equipped weapons, secondary weapons, and between the normal or higher-quality Military Grade ammunition.
The Ranger's Arsenal
Gamers can equip up to three different guns–and the same gun can be equipped twice–each of which can be customized with a variety of scopes, barrels and stocks via a merchant.
The firearms range in utility and proficiency, offering their own different stats, and include the following with variations for each type; for example, shotguns are best for up-close targets, whereas sniper rifles do better when used in scenarios calling for long-range fire. Many of the weapons (including the sidearms) are surprisingly accurate and have a nice targeting reticule–especially when equipped with the IR and 2X Scope attachments.
Below you can find some of the weapons included in Metro: Last Light:
- Duplet – A powerful double-barrel shotgun whose close-quarters combat power is unmatched (Buckshot).
- Tikhar - Pressurized makeshift pneumatic airgun that must be pumped up to improve lethality (Steel Balls).
- Revolver - Standard side-arm for Rangers and soldiers in the Metro, comes in a variety of flavors including the .44 Magnum (Pistol Ammo).
- Bastard/Kalash - Standard issue repeating assault rifles, perfect for short to mid-range fire (AR Ammo).
- Valve – Precision accuracy makes for the perfect weapon against far away targets (Sniper Ammo).
Note that these are just some of the guns featured in the game, and that there are other variations seen throughout gameplay including other variants of the shotgun and pistol.
Anna, Colonel Miller's daughter, accompanies Artyom to find the last of the Dark Ones, a mission that sets a dynamic series of events in motion.
Each gun has different mods that can be added at a merchant's kiosk found at some of the major hubs in the Metro, and it is also possible to find modded and customized weapons from enemies and caches throughout the game. The three categories of mods include:
- Optics – Scopes and sights help with pinpoint accuracy and replace the iron sights on each weapon.
- Barrels - Silencers are incredibly important when sneaking, and barrels can also improve fall off and power of certain guns.
- Miscellaneous - This section includes weapon-specific mods, such as stocks for Assault Rifles and improved pneumatic pumps for Tikhars.
The mods themselves add various helpful bonuses to guns, although some of them like the Laser Sight actually take away the crosshair–something that is extremely useful during Ranger Mode.
There are also four different secondary weapons that can be equipped via the Weapons Inventory menu (Y), and used by pressing (RB). The secondary weapons can be extremely handy and may save your life in many situations, including such tools as the retrievable throwing knife that helps when trying to stay undetected and sneak as well as the Incendiary Grenade which offers a failsafe just in case your plans go awry.
A merchant peddles his wares to nearby denizens, offering a variety of supplies like throwing knives, ammo and even incendiary grenades.
The four secondary weapons are plotted with the D-Pad, and can be switched out any time at the Weapons Inventory. Additionally players will sometimes have to switch to the stronger Military-Grade Ammunition, especially when encountering certain tougher enemies throughout the game.
Although this ammo is used as currency to purchase weapons and items throughout the game and is precious, life is more precious and making use of these bullets can often be the difference between life and death.
The basic inventory menu includes all of the iconic tools used by Rangers throughout the Metro, including the essential gas mask, universal charger, pneumatic pump, flashlight, zippo lighter, night-vision goggles, and medkits and of course the filters that make the gas mask useful in the first place.
Each of these items can be applied on-the-fly via the interface, and the game slows down when the menus are activated, giving players those much-needed seconds to heal with a medkit or put on the gas mask to avoid the noxious air of the surface.
The tools and resources are plotted via the D-Pad and four face buttons (A), (X), (B) and (Y) respectively corresponding with each utility. The radial menus are designed not only for ease-of-use, but also have more practicality and allow gamers to select each utility without having to navigate a list of items, offering more speedy applications.
Are you a Ninja, or a Gunslinger?
Gameplay in Metro: Last Light is basically broken up into two different types: stealth action and FPS action. There are levels that focus on one or both of the two types, adding a nice mixture of the two types that actually compliment one another in various ways.
Stealthiness is emphasized in Metro: Last Light and gamers will find many situations throughout their journey where stealth is key. There are also a variety of achievements associated with completing certain missions stealthily, and although sneaking requires more patience, it can be more satisfying as well and offer more tactical strategy to gameplay.
In order to maintain stealth throughout each level, players must stick to the darkness and shadows, essentially making the dark your best friend. These stealth levels are usually centered around missions where players encounter human enemies like Reich or Red Line soldiers.
Metro: Last Light isn't just a shooter that encourages wanton barrages of bullets, but also caters to the careful stealthy ninja in all of us with dynamic sneaking mechanics.
The inner areas are often covered with sterile fluorescent lighting, and to keep unseen and in cover, players will have to unscrew or shoot out lights–whichever is most practical in any given situation.
To stay hidden, gamers will not only have to rely on their sense of sight–maintaining positions on each of the soldiers–but also sound, as enemy footsteps and even dialogue can help pinpoint their location.
The enemy AI is quite adroit as well, and they will respond to any gunfire–even a single silenced shot used to take out a nearby light bulb.
In order to stay out of the enemy's field of vision, gamers will rely on their handy watch, which not only shows how much time is left on a gas mask's filter but also displays if players are seen or not.
When the watch flashes blue, players can be sighted by enemies, and when its orange, players are unseen. This concept is quite simplistic, however the enemies can be unpredictable at times and will turn on their headlamps when the lights are turned out.
The best laid plans of mice and ninjas often go awry; in those situations you'll have to shoot your way out and leave a rather messy trail of bodies in your wake.
The game does a nice job in presenting certain situations for players to take advantage of in the way of sneaking; often there will be breaker switches that can be turned off, which in turn switches most of the nearby lights off. Once used, enemies will become suspicious and will come to investigate–further adding to their dynamic AI.
When in stealth mode, players are given the option whether to kill or knock out an enemy. Killing enemies counts against a hefty achievement that's unlocked when players beat the game without killing anyone (unless they have to).
Furthermore, it doesn't matter if you knock out or kill an enemy in terms of gameplay, as you can't move the body out of the way like in the Metal Gear Solid series. This would be very helpful as often enemies come across their fallen comrades and trigger an alarm.
The key to staying unseen is not only to use the cover of darkness and to be patient, but to also wait until the enemies break off, as its best to tackle each bad guy when they're on their own. The ninja-like stealth is a welcomed addition to the game and offers a satisfying change of pace to the game, and players can also learn tidbits of info and insights into the socio-political structure of the Metro itself.
Demons are undoubtedly the winged scourge of the surface, and will pick players up and drop them all over the place–which is more annoying than it is lethal.
The Horrors of the Metro
The enemies in Metro: Last Light are quite varied; from the horrid mutated abominations that roam the surface–such as the winged Demons or the terrible fast, rat-like Watchmen–to the monstrous spiders in the deep catacombs of the Metro, all of the enemies are lethal and will punish any mistake.
Certain weapons are more adept at dispatching the different types of enemies, as you'll come to find that shotguns do best at taking out Watchmen as they leap toward you to attack.
There are even more deformed and malign creatures just waiting to chomp on Artyom's bones, including such terrifying monstrosities as the aquatic Shrimps that shoot acid at faraway targets, the dreaded Nosalises who are feared for their rapid attacks and agile movements (they can even climb walls!), the winged Demons that fly across the blasted skies of the surface and dominate the clouds, and of course the Watchmen, those fast pack animals that can easily overrun even the best of gunslingers.
The tunnels are full of terrible creatures like the Watchmen, who travel in packs to overwhelm their prey.
Apart from the terrors and horrors that lay wait on the blasted surface or in the dark tunnels, players will come to find that no enemy is more dangerous and nefarious than man himself.
Throughout your journey, you'll come across various unspeakable cruelties enacted by the various factions of the wasteland, including the Reich's "concentration camps" for "mutants" that have rightly earned them their nickname (Nazis) or the Red Line's stringent government which weighs down on their civilization like a towering stone, forcing refugees to flee in fear–and to be killed if they're caught or return.
The menacing factions have been contorted by the destroyed world around them, and have let their humanity mutate along with the radiated environment, spreading malice and discontent like a plague.
The people of the Metro are hurting and are hungry for change, yet each faction has a powerful army that taps into the nationalistic pride that promotes the government's iron-willed ideologies, forcing others to adhere to the laws or be killed–or worse, cast out onto the bleak surface.
Lightning arcs in the blackened skies above the wasteland in this piece of concept art, adequately portraying the game's distinct visual flair.
Shooting, Looting and Transportation
The first-person shooter action culminates in a series of firefights that are quite enjoyable, and often players will have the chance to punish nefarious villains for doing unsavory things–such as tormenting captives–which adds a nice sense of justice to the game. Artyom has become a symbol of redemption, and as such, he uses his lethal skills as a Ranger to protect the innocent and weak from harm.
The combat is pretty much the same as it was in Metro 2033 apart from the stealth mechanics, although the weapons seem much more accurate in this game. Players can take a certain number of hits from enemies before dying, and health can be replenished quickly from medkits but also regenerates over time. As far as weapons and ammo go, players will find a variety of caches hidden throughout their journey that include basic weapons, ammo and the Military-Grade Ammo that's used as currency.
Throughout their journey players will also come across various Notes that chronicle Artyom's adventures and divulge key information and insight to his past. This is interesting as Artyom is a silent protagonist, never saying anything at all throughout the campaign, and the notes offer rare insights into his inner being.
Artyom's past in itself has been somewhat mysterious, however the notes shed some light on his previous years–as does the game's opening cinematic scene–which is quite interesting. The notes also discuss info relating to the current mission at hand, providing a chunk of additional information that compliments gameplay.
Although the radiation has wracked the weather patterns of the ruined world, winter comes in full force, blanketing the city in snow and adding even more lethality to the environment.
Gamers will also get to use a motorized railcar on their quest to track down the Dark One, allowing Artyom to traverse the railways that snake through the heart of the Metro system. The car itself is pretty basic and is fixed to the rails, and offers a pretty general form of transportation–but it's awesome nonetheless and is portrayed in the game's signature makeshift post-apocalyptic style.
The notepad returns as well, with its directional compass that aids in navigation to nearby goals and is very helpful in the event that a player gets lost. The current objectives are also written on the notepad, giving a quick summary of the mission's parameters.
Playing the game on Normal doesn't really offer that much of a challenge–if you're looking for a real challenge be sure to skip Hard mode and go straight to the daunting Ranger Mode.
Ranger Mode is included with the Limited Edition of Metro: Last Light–otherwise you'll have to shell out $5 (400 MSP) to purchase it as a separate DLC–and is just as relentless as before with increased difficulty and punishing gameplay. Not only do you take less hits before you die, but enemies are stronger and ammunition is much more scarce, forcing players to scavenge for precious resources like filters and ammo.
All in all the gameplay is impressive and offers an entertaining blend of mechanics that culminate in a singleplayer campaign that lasts for a dozen hours. 4A Games has delivered a genuine adaptation of Glukhovsky's series and continues the franchise with a stalwart rendition of the Metro's iconic post-apocalyptic universe.