Metro 2033: Dated Gameplay, but Not-So-Dated Story

Metro 2033 is a game that fell under my radar for a while, until I had the fortune of having the game’s premise explained to me by a friend who had played the game as well. That, combined with a recent Steam promotion that gave the original version of the game out for free was the final catalyst that got me to play this game. Now, this review was done for the original iteration of Metro 2033. There is a remastered version known as the “Redux” version, which supposedly improves on a lot of the flaws of the original game, but as I have played the original and not the Redux, my comments are strictly directed at the original version of the game.

The premise of the game is not exactly new; you’re in a post-apocalyptic setting. You play as Artyom, one resident of many in Russia’s underground metro station tunnels, where humanity now resides as the surface is now basically uninhabitable, and every day humans are forced to deal the monstrosities created by the radiation just to survive. In the game’s time frame, you are presented with a new threat called the Dark Ones, who are supposedly former humans that have evolved to withstand the surface’s harsh conditions yet still possess the intelligence of humans, and your job is to find a way to deal with them. The interesting thing is that you’re never really given a specific reason to take them out, you’re just told that they’re dangerous due to their sentience and that they’re threatening your station’s existence.

The atmosphere/world and the narrative are definitely the selling points for this game. As you traverse the different tunnels, there’s always the threat of the different monsters that also dwell in the tunnels. If you’re a fan of horror-style games that feature jump scares, this game also features plenty of that and that’s what most monster encounters are like. However, just like real life, sometimes your enemies aren’t necessarily monsters from nature, but other humans. There are two enemy factions in this game, the Nazis and the Soviets, though the game does not really explain why these two factions exist despite 2033 being almost 100 years after World War II. The general atmosphere is dark and the mood is miserable, but there’s still a faint glimmer of hope as residents of the metro stations hope to one day be able to settle the surface again. The characters you interact with on your journey are interesting and provide a lot of depth for the setting (and also lighten the mood), as Artyom is more or less a silent protagonist. The game also slightly explores a facet of human nature that society is struggling to deal with today, and that is racism. I’m of the belief that the fear/hatred of those who are different is something innate in humans, and that it is our struggle to overcome that. Why are we so bent on destroying the Dark Ones? Unlike the other bestial monsters, they haven’t actually attacked any human settlements in the stations, yet here we are on a quest to find old nukes to annihilate them.

A Nosalis, a typical enemy you encounter in the game.

While the story and the world building were excellent, the game-play definitely falls somewhat flat and at times seriously hindered my ability to enjoy the narrative, though that isn’t a huge knock against it as the game was made almost 10 years ago. That said, it’s still something to point out. The shooting mechanics leave something to be desired, and shooting enemies in this game can be frustrating due to the obnoxious muzzle flash from most of your weapons combined with the game’s generally dark atmosphere. The AI is awful, and stealth game-play is more or less impossible as silently killing an enemy is a complete gamble on whether the entire enemy squad will be alerted or not; there are a few times where I would sneakily assassinate an enemy soldier from behind out of sight, but the entire base would go on alert and somehow know my exact position despite never seeing me. This is also made worse by the fact that the most of the enemies in this game are all bullet sponges, and in my opinion that’s just lazy design to artificially pad the difficulty of the game. It could have been pretty awesome at the time of the game’s original release, but Metro 2033’s game-play does not hold up well in 2018 at all.

That being said, I still believe the story is definitely worth experiencing, and there is a chance the Redux version of the game massively improved a lot of the original’s problems. I have not played the Redux myself so I will refrain from delivering judgment, but I will definitely be looking at the Redux version of this game’s sequel the next time I decide to continue this series.

Rating: Retail price should be super cheap at this point, though get the Redux version if you can.

Software engineer and gaming enthusiast, writing reviews to share quality media; check out my personal site at www.edmondwu.dev

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