Sunday, September 21, 2014

Metro: Last Light

Developed by 4A Games
Published by Deep Silver

     There is something to be said for games which are deeply immersive. Not just attempting immersion, but putting elements into every part of the game. Last Light drops you in the middle of post-apocalyptic Russia, and you never stop feeling it.
     Taking place a year after the events of Metro 2033 and following that game's bad ending, the Dark Ones have been destroyed and the Rangers have taken over the former military bunker D6. However, the news that a single Dark One is still alive leads Artyom in pursuit of it—and along the way, uncovering enemy plans to take over D6.
     Where Last Light immediately hooks you is in much the same way that the original game did so. Your objectives are shown on a clipboard that Artyom carries, allowing you to pull it up at any time (and turn on your lighter in the dark). Trips out on to the surface require gas masks and air filters, and you have to wipe water and gunk off your mask if you want to see. It brings you into the game before you even get to the superbly crafted gameplay. Running and gunning is certainly a tactic, but not a satisfying or smart tactic unless you enjoy dying and watching your resources run out. Meanwhile, it's much more fun to sneak around, turning off lights, hiding in the shadows and darting past patrols. Stealth here is fun and rarely frustrating. If it seems like you can't possibly get past a group of people without getting caught, chances are you just need to look more to find the way on. And it also rarely requires killing.
     Which is good for people trying to get the good ending because, as with the previous game, it's extremely difficult. Even if you do every good action you come across and try for a pacifist run, it's still very likely you'll get the bad ending, thanks to the laundry list of morality points you need with many well-hidden. It encourages exploration and thinking to get them all, but it can still be annoying when you play the game, look around plenty, and still find the bad ending at the end. There's also some serious flaws in the story, the biggest one being Anna. When you first see her, she's a pure badass that immediately became my favorite character. Naturally, she quickly gets shunted to being a secondary character who by the end has completely just fallen into a woman for the male gamers to stare at. Even when there's a big final battle towards the end, she gets left out for the all-male generic soldiers. I get used to games being male-centric, certainly, but it just really rubbed me the wrong way here. This, combined with the often rambling nature of the story (at times it feels like you're just going from location to location), made me enjoy the gameplay more than any time that focused on story.

     Metro: Last Light is worth playing for the top-notch stealth gameplay and atmosphere. It's just a shame that, with a game so obviously built around a story, the story is more cringe-worthy than anything.

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