Metro: Last Light Review
The story is captivating, stealth is a blast, and the gameplay has improved exceptionally from the last game.
A few mutant encounters can become tedious in Ranger Mode.
Seeking Providence in a Broken World
You emerge from your underground safe haven, blinded by the sunlight that your eyes are not accustomed to. You clear off your gasmask, trying to remove the condensation that your breath facilitates. The landscape is desolate and ruined; buildings crumbled underneath their own immense masses, rust painted over their exposed skeletons. Unnatural flora has taken over the land completely, feeding on unseen and irradiated food, scaling structures with the kind of growth that can only exist when it’s unfettered by man’s touch. The clouds take on misshapen forms, with strong winds bullying them onwards. Playful (and lethal) dust accentuates the silent air around you, completing the picture of the long, dead Armageddon that you are cautiously walking through.
A deep and guttural growl reverberates through the air, far away but somewhere ahead, yet still too close for comfort. On the peak of the mangled hill in front of you, a dark and dangerous shape crests over, almost growing out from the hill itself. In the center of the shadowy mass, you can make out something growing; parallel sets of otherworldly teeth, with hunger dripping from their every jagged edge. The shape pulses suddenly, as if shocked by some unseen force. You realize that it has started. Started towards you. You wipe your damp goggles one last time, reloading your shotgun is taking forever.
Metro: Last Light is an astonishingly absorbing game. It is filled with countless moments like these, whether you are travelling through the populated but mostly deserted subterranean tunnels, or are walking with trepidation above in the ravaged city of Moscow. The story, graphics, characterization, and gameplay all combine to make Metro: Last Light a commendable accomplishment for 4A Games. Read on to find out what we thought about each aspect of the game.
Metro: Last Light continues Artyom’s journey from the last game, Metro 2033. The story in Last Light is established from the decision made in Metro 2033 of calling down a missile strike against the Dark Ones, the mysterious antagonists from the first game. In Last Light, all the Dark Ones seem to have perished, except for a child of their kind who is central to the story and plot of the game.
Artyom has become one of the revered Rangers, known for their fortitude and temperance. He’s sent off on a mission by the leader of the Rangers, Colonel Miller, to kill the last remaining Dark Child. Artyom has some doubts about this mission, since his visions point to some deeper connection between him and this enigmatic race of beings. He finds the Dark Child, but both get captured by the Nazi Reich.
In the hands of the Reich, Artyom finds kinship with Pavel, another prisoner of the Nazis. Pavel provides Artyom with a much needed friend in this desolate world, and they escape together, fighting through the Reich’s ranks. Pavel’s character is charming, friendly, and one that you would be hard pressed not to find some sort of likeable quality in. He provides witty banter, and helps you through most of the 2nd act of the story. When he accompanies you, you’ll be grateful for his cheerful presence; when he’s away, you’ll feel his absence.
Every character you meet in Last Light, telegraphs a sense of belonging, personal strife, and sometimes hidden agendas. They carry on with their lives, independent of your presence, and go about their daily trivialities convincingly. The characterizations are deep, and their own interactions with others are detailed. You’ll run across a group of soldiers regaling each other with tales of bravery and foolishness, a child asking an elder about animals long extinct, before the savage metal rained down upon the land and lay waste to man and beast alike. You’ll see theatrical performances portrayed convincingly, and will more than likely stay for the show. You’ll find your appetites satiated and your want for companionship fulfilled, by visiting the accommodating ladies of the red light district.
There are many twists and turns throughout the story; with faction wars, deception, and Artyom’s own foreboding visions, speckling his journey to find the answers that he seeks about the Dark Ones and their relevance for this broken humanity’s future. Themes of loss, betrayal, and destiny, abound in every part of Artyom’s journey and the story will arrest and captivate you from start to finish.
If you’ve played the original Metro 2033, you’ll recall the energetic and frenzied enemy encounters, the various enemy types, and the decent collection of roughshod guns that you acquired. Putting these three components together should have resulted in some pristine combat moments in the first game, but they didn’t. The reason for this lack of synergy for what should have been the perfect recipe for great combat encounters was one thing: the controls for the shooting portion of the game felt off. In spite of everything else the game did right, Metro 2033 completely dropped the ball on that aspect of the game. For Last Light, 4A Games improved the combat situations substantially. Not only do the shooting mechanics feel just right, the encounters are even better due to improved AI and better combat opportunities that allow for both balls out action and stealth.
Weapons are your standard ARs, revolvers, shotguns, SMGs, and rifles. You can purchase upgrades for your weapons at the different vendor areas placed throughout the underground towns in the Metro. Other items like health shots, old ammo, etc. can also be acquired through these shops, and paying for anything in the Metro universe requires ‘new’ ammo, which is used as currency (and in some cases, you can use your ‘money’ for ammunition in a pinch).
Human enemies are decently smart and will call out your position, take advantage of opportunities to flank you, and will be quite aggressive in their search if you happen to drop from their lines of sight. The stealth in Last Light comes into play seamlessly, as you can unscrew light bulbs and blow out candles and gaslights with ease, providing you with more shadows to skulk through. Stealth has become a bonafide playthrough method in this game, and is highly gratifying. Melee attacks are legitimately brutal, but are satisfying to execute, especially on unaware enemies.
The monsters, or rather mutants, in Last Light are varied and each have their own methods of attack. They lurk in both the subterranean and surface areas, and all are equally dangerous. From spiders to killer shrimp in the depths, to mutant dogs and flying demons on the surface, you must always be vigilant when traversing these enemy territories. Surface altercations demand more caution, in that you’ll constantly be on the hunt for gas mask filters to replenish, as your time on the surface is usually constrained. Having 2 or 3 mutant dogs on your tail, while you have 30 odd seconds of air left on your filter is not a scenario that I’d wish to repeat.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The graphics in Metro: Last Light are amazing. I couldn’t think up a more apt sentence to explain the game’s aesthetics. Every area in Last Light exudes character and ambiance. From the moldy, webbed and dark spider infested caverns to the irradiated and destroyed surface of Moscow, every area in the game has been given an insane amount of detail and depth. Each location conveys a mood, whether of safe harbor or dangerous horizons, and completely envelops you in it.
Characters in the game are adequately modeled and are aesthetically pleasing. Their lip syncing is also decent enough. What really shines is the crazy amount of dialogue given to NPC characters. If you give yourself a moment to stop and listen, you’ll have the advantage of hearing a lot of the backstory of the Metro (even going as far back as the first game), as told by the residents of these towns.
The sounds in the game also do a tremendous job of enveloping you in its aura. The drip-drop of water somewhere in the distance while subdued and inhuman caterwauling echoes throughout the hollows has left me doubting my steps quite a few times. At the same time, the sometimes tomb-like silence of the surface is also quite distressing.
The soundtrack is close to the original game’s, with soft and pleasing guitar riffs playing during the intro, Artyom’s narratives between stages, and other key moments in the game.
There really are no major issues that I discovered through my playthrough. The few minor ones had to do with the occasional mutant enemies getting stuck behind some abutments during the second act, but those instances can be counted on one hand. Really though, I’m stretching for issues since 4A Games made such an exemplary game in every respect.
No major extras have been included in Metro: Last Light, except for the hidden notes that Artyom can pick up (these are his own notes that he writes while picking up these pages). They provide quite a lot of insight into what Artyom is thinking at the time during key parts of the game.
Ranger Mode is available as DLC, and provides harder enemies, less ammunition, and requires the player to be more cautious in his approach to conflicts. Ranger mode is the way Last Light should be played, since the stealth component is so well executed. Hiding and executing (human) enemies has never felt better. Mutants in Ranger Mode become deviously hard, and will become a test of your patience on occasion, since using stealth against the beasts is futile, at best.
Metro: Last Light is a tour de force. The story, gameplay, combat, controls, graphics, and settings all coalesce to make Last Light greater than the sum of its parts. There will be multiple endings in the game, dependent upon your choices near the end, but each one gives closure, and provides answers about Artyom’s journey and relationship with the Dark Ones. His sojourn will involve you, captivate you, and will affect you on an emotional level. A multiplayer component was not needed for Last Light, and honestly, would’ve felt tacked on, so the game’s longevity does suffer. But it still warrants two playthroughs, one of them being a complete (and gratifying) stealth run in Ranger Mode. At full price, this game might be worth it for Metro fans, but for the rest of us, paying full MSRP might be too high, especially considering the lack of additional modes in Last Light. But if you can purchase Metro: Last Light at a reduced price, do not hesitate to buy it.