In a crowded marketplace overflowing with first person shooters, it’s not easy to make a game stand out from the competition. Fortunately, the developers behind Metro: Last Light have a genre that hasn’t been explored too deeply by the rest of the world. Sure, the post-apocalyptic genre has become pretty commonplace, but post-apocalyptic Russia? That's another story entirely.
Originally developed by 4A Games for the now defunct THQ, Metro: Last Light is the latest release from publisher Deep Silver. While normally noting who developed and published the game is just a cursory line in most reviews, this is incredibly important when identifying how Metro came to be released. While the game was developed by the same crew that made Metro 2033, because of the financial failings of THQ, Metro: Last Light was left in a new publisher’s hands. In some situations this might lead to a poorly marketed release or a game that is just shuffled into stores without much support. Although we won’t know the honest truth about the release of this situation for months, it’s very important to recognize that the public perspective on the release of this game is directly affected by THQ’s collapse.
Now, for the real reason you are here. Is Metro: Last Light a good game? Yes. Metro: Last Light delivers an engaging gaming experience that oscillates between stealth and shooter gameplay mechanics. It’s really up to the player whether or not to play the game with an emphasis on stealth or full-on combat. Both approaches provide an entertaining experience that provided a high-quality shooter experience that will fill the gaming void until the Fall glut arrives.
For fans of Metro 2033, Last Light continues with the story of Artyom, a Russian survivor of a nuclear war as he travels his way through the Russian underground. The continuation of Artyom’s story is a nice connection for fans of the first game, but for those of us that missed out on Metro 2033’s release (it did share the same release date as God of War III), the newest chapter does a nice job of setting the scene. At its core, the story focuses on Artyom’s travels in the underground, the various and nefarious people he runs into, and his willingness to brave through the toughest of situations to find a semblance of rational humanity. A fascinating mix of villains and anti-heroes makes Artyom’s quest a challenging one to process and provides an engaging complexity that many shooters disregard these days. While I wouldn’t place the storytelling in Metro: Last Light on par with the exceptionally well crafted Spec Ops: The Line or Bioshock Infinite, this game is going to give gamers much more to think about than the majority of shooters on the market.
In direct correlation with an above average story, Metro: Last Light has a solid voice-cast that lends credence to inherent character struggles. As a testament to the developers' great work with their cast, none of the voices are easily identifiable as well-known actors and, yet, the lines are delivered with full polish. Especially considering that the English is presented with a Russian accent, these characters never fall into cartoonish stereotypes that we’re accustomed to. It’s hard to discern if this is due to the Ukrainian origin of the development team or the universal nature of Artyom’s struggle.
As was mentioned earlier, how the game is played depends on the choices of the individual player. Metro: Last Light can be played as a stealth action game that supports players looking to survive without killing a single human. On the other hand, for those of us looking to viscerally destroy some post-nuclear Neo-Nazi scum with a sawed-off shotgun, Metro: Last Light can accommodate that as well. The game appears to be directing players to stick with a more stealthy approach but on the first play-through if you happen to trip an alarm, an intense firefight is still quite manageable. In that way, this game is highly flexible with how players survive -- even if the story is a straightforward point A to point B experience.
For the most part the weaponry in this game is pretty run-of-the mill for the genre. While there is a heavy emphasis on the value of ammunition, on the Normal difficulty, it’s not that common to be short on supplies. Furthermore, the customization of weapons is a nice addition but doesn’t appear to be as fleshed out as other games that include this kind of feature. Although there are some minor RPG elements to this game, it’s more of a footnote than anything else. Fans of the deeply customize-able combat of Mass Effect 3 should look elsewhere.
The game also suffers from a mediocre set of artificial intelligence. It is very easy to run away from an enemy to hide in a closet or a bathroom, therefore trapping the A.I. in easily manageable choke points. The movement of the enemies appeared to be very robotic and not as complex as the cream of the crop from this generation. Nevertheless, the A.I. isn’t so bad as to weaken the experience of this engaging story. Instead, it’s a missed opportunity that could have increased the overall quality of the experience.
Metro: Last Light is an entertaining single-player experience that fans of games like Bioshock, Dead Space, and Spec Ops: The Line should playthrough. It mixes genres incredibly well and presents an enjoyable FPS to fill the void for the next couple of months. The fact that this was possible with the rotting corpse of THQ in the shadows makes the latest Metro game that much more special.
This review is based on a publisher provided copy of Metro: Last Light for the Xbox 360.