Metro Redux Review (PlayStation 4)
While everyone is gearing up to go back to school, we've been trekking through the irradiated wastelands of Moscow and the underground labyrinths of its railway and sewer systems in Metro Redux, the current-gen, remastered versions of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. Metro 2033 was released in 2010 for Xbox 360 and PC with its sequel, Last Light, debuting last year on the same systems and on PS3. A lot can change during four years when it comes to video game technology. With publisher Deep Silver's rising success over the past few years (from the Dead Island and Saints Row series), 4A Games has gotten more than enough funding this time around to give Metro 2033 the proper paint job it deserves to survive the jump to current-gen. The Fallout series reminds us that war never changes, but Metro Redux defiantly shows that it can sometimes use a makeover.
Since Metro Redux contains both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, we should note that Metro 2033 features the bulk of the changes. In terms of Last Light, you should know that it received minor upgrades, some bug fixes and it has gained all of its previously released downloadable content in Redux. Both games feature two new difficulty modes: Spartan and Survival. Spartan Mode maintains Last Light's action-oriented gameplay, offering plenty of ammo, quick reload speeds and lots of resources for you to use. Survival Mode is geared towards 2033's original survival horror-inspired gameplay style, which meant longer reload times, scarce ammo and limited supplies. Luckily, you can set your preference to both games in Redux, which tremendously helps maintaining a steady pacing when going from 2033 to its sequel. We must admit that playing Survival Mode felt authentic to the ruined settings of Metro. The Resident Evil/Resident Evil 6 comparison between 2033 and Last Light is gone due to how steady the transition can be by having Survival or Spartan Mode engaged across both games. This transition is eased even further based on how gorgeous 2033 now looks, which was brought up to Last Light's standards and improved even further.
While Metro: Last Light already looked good on its own, there was plenty to be desired in 2033. Mind you, 4A Games was developing 2033 throughout 2009. Luckily, 4A Games has cleaned everything up. Within the first few minutes of Redux (presuming you're playing 2033 before Last Light), we noticed its new, shiny lighting engine. There is a sense of awe you get from 2033's stunning graphics as you walk outside, across the radiation-filled ruins of Moscow. In the original version of the game, the outdoor areas were very much grayed-out, especially across the sky, to remind you that this place got nuked to hell. The result was a repeated look of a heavy overcast that was a bit too familiar to Washington DC's skyline in Fallout 3. The original 2033's grey visuals made the outdoor sections of 2033 look the game was perpetually stuck in a nighttime setting.
Metro 2033 now has a new day and night system. Combined with the new light engine, the outdoor sections of Metro 2033 look spectacular. Moscow's sky looks amazing. The only comparison we can think of are Destiny's impressive skylines. As bright sunlight permeates through the dense, fog-filled atmosphere and fills the streets, Metro feels very legit. The ability to wipe the condensation and dirt off of your gas mask is a nice touch, deepening the immersion.
Both games give you the popular first-person shooter choice of going in guns blazing vs. stealthily assassinating your foes. Taking the sneaky approach through Redux is much more enjoyable due to its revamped lighting and shadow effects. Even when there were only minuscule sources of light as we sneaked through the dark, we were stuck at the edge of our seat due to how much Redux's environments captivated us. Luckily, the in-game character models of Redux have been improved just as much as its settings were.
One of the things we hated most about the original version of 2033 were the glossy, fish-eyed looks that nearly every non-playable character had. Most characters looked at the screen in a way that never seemed to acknowledge your character's presence (instead, they just stared at the screen like Morrowind did back in 2002). Now, eyes naturally shift and react as Metro's characters speak to you. Characters randomly shift their weight and fidget their hands as if they were real. The other in-game models that were changed include the various enemy types. One of the more noteworthy changes were done to the Dark Ones, whose new looks are more inline with Last Light's, which again helps bridge the gap when playing through both games consecutively. Other non-player characters pertinent to the story have been redesigned so that they look the same in both titles, minus a few wardrobe changes since a year does pass in the lore between the two titles.
Random characters no longer look alien to their environments and seem much more natural, whether they are at rest, aimlessly passing the time, worrying about their impending doom or panicking on the surface. The people of Moscow legitimately look like they belong in this bleak setting (except for that one creepy child you have to escort). Metro Redux goes from exploring the irradiated wastelands to dealing with sentient, humanoid mutants with psychic powers and going to war against a reformed Nazi party, yet its presentation is so well done that it makes this crazy world believable.
It's the aesthetic changes 4A Games gave the random NPCs that helped strengthen 2033 by making every person feel genuine and much more realistic based on their locations. Many characters were replaced with new models. Despite all the Russian accents you hear throughout all of Redux, no voice ever seemed like a Russian stereotype and the script was done with excellent delivery, even when its story got weird. Redux should be enjoyed on a 1080p big screen with surround sound blaring, because it is almost up there with The Last of Us Remastered in terms of its overall presentation.
In terms of gameplay, Metro Redux's core mechanics were left unchanged. It felt like every change made for Redux was cosmetic, and the underlying issues that plagued both 2033 and Last Light were untouched. Sure, Spartan and Survivor Modes are nice to have, but Metro's core gameplay is still heavily bugged. Despite the new models, many enemies are still clipping into random objects in the background. Though Redux offers you the opportunity for stealth across many areas, the player-detection system for the AI characters is absolutely horrific, especially when you try to be sneaky. There are many objects filled with holes or gaps that you logically think you could shoot through in order a hit an enemy, only to find out that your bullets are still hitting empty parts of the object and not your target. Luckily, the shaky character-detection system of the enemy AI might only throw off one enemy to the game's mistake instead of a whole room. The enemy AI only gets worse when you go around corners.
For some reason, nearly all enemies, whether they're a mutant, Nazi or regular soldier, never accurately follow you if you zip around a corner to lose them. It's like once line-of-sight is broken with the AI, many enemies simply reset or continue around the corner and act surprised when they see you when they should be trying to use the corner as cover themselves. Using corners to our advantage eventually made the game too easy, even on the harder game modes. Combined with the shaky detection system, using the stealth route to kill your enemies just felt like you were cheating due to atrocious AI that was left untouched while the game was being remastered.
The original, craptacular tutorial system that left us clueless throughout the old games is still here. Well, it certainly doesn't feel like it's there. Since modern video games no longer offer instruction manuals, we must rely on tutorials during the opening sequences of a game to learn the various actions you can do, except Metro doesn't really try. Actions that should be easy to learn are essentially left hidden, many of them are never even mentioned in the game at all. For example, since Metro gives you the option for stealth, you would think there would be proper ways of introducing the player to your melee weapon, throwing knives and stealth kills. You're left with discovering your primary and secondary attacks with these melee weapons on your own (Google is a much better teacher). When it comes to all-out combat, everything is very clean. The only times when we actually felt challenged were when we were going in guns blazing or when the timer was running out for our gas mask and we were out of filters. We must comment that we love the improvised-yet-futuristic guns of Metro and the various effects they have. The actual gunplay (when you're not corner-cutting) is solid, whether you're fighting humans or monsters in an open setting.
One of the things we hated the most about Metro Redux was the linearity of both games. Within the first few hours, we found ourselves getting bored really fast, despite its eye-opening visuals. There are simply too many chapters of the game where simply nothing eventful happened in the plot besides a group of monsters invading. Metro is based off of a book series with tons of lore. The game looks beautiful, its environments are perfect, it has a solid script and features excellent voice acting, yet we found ourselves getting bored. This is mainly attributed to the overall layout of the player's experiences throughout both games. It was almost formulaic: go to a room, look around, shoot some things and move on. Some rooms have dialogue replacing its gunplay, and that's about it.
There is a mystique about Russian culture that Metro could have easily flushed out, much like how Fallout 3 is filled with 1950s Americana. This could have helped us stay engaged with Metro's content since its a culture most gamers aren't familiar with. Unfortunately, we don't get much of that from Metro. Instead, we're going in straight lines, hiking to a survivors' refuge, climbing to the outdoors, exploring a railway, finding another survivor's refuge, venturing down a sewer, climbing to the outdoors, with firefights sporadically filled throughout your straightforward adventure. Sure, the survivors talk about how bad the world is, but there aren't many hints as to how good the world was and what was lost, which games like Fallout and The Last of Us executed so well.
For a game that captivated us when we first entered its world, 4A Games did very little else when it came to encouraging us to stay for the ride. We must admit that the amount of gameplay you get from Redux is an absolute steal, especially considering it will likely drop in price in the future. You're getting two pretty, current-gen titles for less than the price of one new game, despite there being some fundamental gameplay issues that were never addressed during this apocalyptic remix.
This review was completed using a purchased retail copy of Metro Redux for PlayStation 4.