THQ

Metro Last Light is the apocalypse seen through Russian eyes: this is what survival horror should be

Metro Last Light is the apocalypse seen through Russian eyes: this is what survival horror should be

Metro 2033 remains one of my favorite first-person shooters of the past few years. The game is dark and oppressive, with an air of mystery and hints of supernatural elements that are barely explained. There is nothing like it on the market, and the combination of toxic environment with underpowered weapons, which are explained inside the game’s world: gunpowder is scarce, and these guns were created by hand. Survival is hard. The problem was the shooting itself was terrible, and many people failed to get past the sub-par mechanics to see the quality of the setting and atmosphere of the game. It’s a shame, but I don’t blame them; I suffered through many parts of the game as well. Mark Madsen, the global brand manager for Metro Last Light, the upcoming sequel to Metro 2033, assured me that this would be a game that delivered the hopelessness and feeling of the first game, with drastically improved gunplay and action elements. “We showed the code at last year’s E3, and that was a vote of confidence for the Metro 2033 fan. We showed that there were some things we could improve upon looking back at Metro 2033 and we’re doing just that, mainly the core combat.” I asked if he was tired of answering questions about the first game’s poor shooting.“Yes, to be honest,” he said. “But it’s a first-person shooter at its core, so we understand the concerns. It’s a labor of love for us, and we’ve been focused on that.” The trick is to make the shooting feel better, without sacrificing the idea of weapons that have been hobbled together, in a world where you’re supposed to feel powerless. “We’re still going to have the two types of ammo, the military and regular grade, and those will have different damage upon your enemy,” Madsen explained. “We’re adding new weapons into the game, so everything looks slightly out of this world but still familiar. We’re going to be incorporating a lot more of that into the game. The shooting is going to feel tight relative to the gun you’re using.” In other words, don’t expect to feel like a killing machine, but expect to wield weapons that feel “right” in the universe. I was shown a lengthy game play video, and the sense of fear and lurking dread remained from the first game. You have to find gas masks with working filters to venture into the open air above Moscow's subways, and your watch will let you know how much breathable air you have left. You can hear the sound of your character breathing in and out in your ears; you're always aware of that mask. It's terrifying, and even in wide open environments you feel trapped by the world. In the first game, I sometimes won fights against enemy forces, only to realize my mask had been cracked. Sometimes I died, gasping, before I could find the next one. Every time you pull the trigger you have to weigh the immediate danger of the situation against the very limited amount of ammo in your collection. This is what real survival horror feels like: The stakes of even mundane actions are incredibly high. The first game mixed the reality of what survival among a ruined society might feel like, with supernatural elements and scenes. That walk among the “ghosts” was easily one of the most impressive things in a shooter in… a decade? More? If you don't know what I'm talking about, give the game a shot. Metro 2033 presented a world that felt like it was slipping in and out of our reality, and that aspect of the game reminded me strongly of Stephen King's Dark Tower series of books. The world had moved on. There is no firm grasp of what is real and what isn't. I was told that some aspects of the supernatural part of this would be explained, and that's almost disappointing; the mystery is always more interesting than the explanation. Still, no other game matches Metro's sense of time and place. “We call it 'claustrophobic atmosphere'. There is tension in every step. There will be moments where you’re given respite from that; you’ll be able to explore city stations and look at how society has evolved and carved out its niche in the past twenty years,” Madsen said. “But you’re right, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not a happy-go-lucky story. It may not be necessarily at the end, but you’ll have moments of redeeming qualities. It is claustrophobic, it is depressing, but we can afford to be different.”