Metro: Last Light Redux — Greatly Improved Sequel
Metro: Last Light (Redux) is the sequel to Metro 2033, and while the game isn’t exactly new, I finally got the opportunity to play it after snagging it during one of Steam’s various game sales. I was a fan of the original Metro 2033, and loved its writing, atmosphere and world, though the game did suffer from pretty dated game-play, so I bought the sequel with the hopes it will continue the original’s great story-telling but also bring more fine-tuned game-play to the table. This is especially relevant now that Metro Exodus is scheduled to be released exclusively (temporarily) through the Epic’s gaming platform, so anybody craving more of the Metro universe will now have another game to play.
Metro: Last Light is more or less a direct sequel after Metro 2033, a bit less than a year after the events of the first game. While Metro 2033 actually had two different endings, (SPOILER alert for the first game) this game assumes the player went with the option to fire the nukes at the Dark Ones, as the premise of Metro: Last Light is pretty centralized around what happened after the nukes dropped. Once again you play as Artyom, and this time a surviving Dark One has been found amidst the nuclear wreckage, and you are tasked with trying to meet up with it to try and establish contact as the starting point of the narrative. There are both familiar and new faces, though the main factions in the game’s universe are the same, including the Order you serve, the Nazi Reich, and the Communists.
The fundamental game-play doesn’t change much from Metro 2033, as this game is still an FPS with stealth/survival elements. However, there were a few significant upgrades to core mechanics that made Metro: Last Light a lot more enjoyable to play, whereas the original game felt like a slog at many points and overall very dated. The stealth system was greatly improved, with the AI feeling significantly more realistic and manageable instead of just being a bot that zoomed in on your location the moment you took somebody out. Also, the option to either stealth-kill or knock out enemies you sneak up on is also a great feature, as the original Metro 2033 (the very original, not the redux version) I played did not have that feature. The option to choose between survival mode and a more “standard FPS” (called Spartan in the actual game) mode was also a nice quality-of-life feature as well; I personally don’t find religiously saving ammo because of scarcity to be a fun mechanic, so I’m glad the developers added options to cater to both players like myself and players who enjoy a more survival-oriented experience. The level design is pretty good as well, and there are a lot of sections where you actually have the option to completely sneak around enemies without ever having to engage them, which I think is pretty essential to any game that has stealth as a central element.
While the overall game has been massively improved mechanically from the first title, there are still a few huge issues I personally have with Metro: Last Light that carried over from the first game that weren’t really addressed. The first one being muzzle flash from non-silenced guns; in this game you’re more or less forced to put on a silencer because non-silenced guns have extremely obnoxious muzzle flash that makes it borderline impossible to see who you’re shooting at. I frankly don’t care if that’s a decision based on realism; it’s a video game, and the user experience should always take priority over realism. In a game where shooting enemies is a core game-play mechanic, players shouldn’t have vision issues when shooting. Another issue I have is with the monster combat, and frankly I was not a fan of any sequence involving shooting monsters throughout the entire game. The monster combat essentially boils down to shooting bullet sponges that also move extremely fast, which I personally think is awful. I actually don’t have too big of an issue with the monster AI; they do a pretty good job of making the situation tense and forcing you to constantly be on your toes, but making them absolute tanks more or less ruins the experience of actually fighting them. By the end of the game, I dreaded fighting monsters not out of fear, but out of boredom due to how tedious they are to kill.
An interesting mechanic of Metro: Last Light that ties into the combat/stealth system is its underlying “moral” system, which determines the ending you get at the end of the game. It functions pretty similarly to the Chaos system of the Dishonored titles of Arkane Studios, though it’s hidden to the player and it’s affected by more than just simply choosing non-lethal over lethal force when it comes to dealing with enemies, as there are a few other things you can do in the game to “gain moral.” I do appreciate the use of a system, as it actually forces you to think about the consequences to your actions and makes you question yourself before taking the easy road and putting a silenced bullet through an enemy’s head, and the fact it doesn’t tell you really emphasizes that point to try be the better person. It’s a great mechanic for anybody’s first play-through, though it is a double-edged sword in a way. If you’re replaying the game (for achievements, to view a different ending, etc.), the fact it doesn’t tell you does make it more annoying since you’re sniping a particular achievement/outcome.
As far as the writing’s concerned, once again I think it is the main selling point of this series. The world, despite more or less being an underground shithole, feels alive due to the ambiance provided by the background characters. The central characters to the story are all compelling and well-written, and I didn’t find the plot particularly predictable which can be a common trap for video games. The Redux version of this game also comes with a few additional levels outside of the main story where you can play as some of the more important characters to the story, which also shed a little light on their backstories and what has happened to them over the course of the main story that you wouldn’t know while playing as Artyom. Thematically, not surprisingly, the idea of humans being un-accepting of anything different from them is prevalent once again. The first game (SPOILERS) ends with Artyom realizing that the Dark Ones aren’t necessarily evil and that they were trying to establish contact with the humans before the missiles dropped, and now the second game starts off with your superiors ordering you to kill the last survivor without bothering to entertain the notion of trying to communicate with it first. I feel like I’ve played many video games that share a central theme of people hating differences, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering today’s political atmosphere, but honestly it’s a theme I can’t really get tired of (as long as it’s properly executed); unlike the people who claim that politics should be left out of video games, I am happy to see an industry focused on entertainment actually try to address/tackle issues that currently divide so many people. The DLC missions featuring the important side characters also add to the overall narrative and give a bit of characterizations to the more important characters that Artyom interacts with in the main plot, and I believe the Redux edition comes with those missions included so I recommend playing them as well in addition to the main game. Anyways, the plot of Metro: Last Light nicely follows the original story while still being able to tell an interesting narrative of its own.
Overall I think the game is great, and a nice step up from the original Metro 2033. It still feels a bit dated, albeit not nearly as bad as the first game, and I find it actually fun enough to replay (for the first game I just looked up the alternate ending online as I couldn’t be bothered to replay the game again). Now that Metro: Exodus is soon to be/already out I’m excited to see how Artyom’s story continues.
Rating: The retail price on Steam is only $20, so for $20 it’s definitely worth getting at that price point.