Metro 2033 was an incredible game. Not every well-known critic thought so, but to me it was sublime. It is easily one of the most in depth and well built horror first-person shooters I've ever played.
While the first Metro game was based on the book of the same name (Metro 2033) by Dmitry Glukhovsky, this second installment takes its own route and has a totally different plot to the any of the other Metro books. However this is no reason to lose confidence in how good it may be; Glukhovsky himself is helping 4A Games develop a really immersive and story driven experience.
There are many reasons I can't wait to return to the Metro. The first game nailed so many things, however it also failed in some areas too, so Last Light will have to work its ass off to ensure it tightens up the screws.
One of the biggest draws of Metro 2033 was its sensationally well-realised and developed setting. The Metro stations that you visit during the story are safe havens that you feel lucky to be in. They are alive, full of people selling and buying things or just chatting and hanging about. However everyone is on the same plate. There are dark and dangerous Metro tunnels out there and an even more dangerous outside world.
There was an incredibly well developed sense of dread that you felt before leaving one of these little town areas. You knew you'd have to leave pretty soon, but when the time came you'd be hit with this surge of anticipation at what would come at you next. What was lurking around this corning and what monsters and humans were out for your blood?
Some of Metro 2033's finest moments were simply when you were wandering around the tunnels with one of your AI companions, chatting a bit but always on high alert. the characters were actually really well done, although the player's character, Artyom, was a little meh due to him never speaking during gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, it wasn't, arguably, Metro's strongest point. I actually liked the gunplay more than most people I've spoken to or read that have played the game. While it was very papery and not very meaty the variety in guns and the whole different ammo thing made it feel really intense and deep. I loved the detail that was put into the weapons too. The first SMG that you're given is pretty naf to be honest when it comes to killing anything, however it looks awesome, and the reload animation - as stupid as it may sound - was fantastic.
Actually, when you first receive your pistol and SMG, they're pretty shit guns, but you feel somehow safe, like you're clutching onto some holy item or something. This is something that the game unfortunately lost a little bit towards the end of the story. In the final 3rd of the game you became quite powerful, which not only felt unrealistic but also made it easier. I really wanted it to stay intensely difficult and scary throughout, with no gun really proving to be that good at taking down monsters.
Anyway, back to the overall gameplay.
There are some key good and bad points to Metro 2033's gameplay. I already listed the guns and variety as pros, however there as some clear cons too. Before we get into these, however, I want to note just how awesome the atmosphere was.
Wandering through tunnels, old trains - or whatever they're called in Russia (or do they just call them trains?), going outside into the bleak world that was never ending; no matter what you were doing, the atmosphere was always in tact and scary as hell. And even when it wasn't as scary, like when you were in those safe havens, it still felt totally immersive because the quality and level of detail never faltered.
I also adored how realistic 4A tried to make it feel. OK, Artyom may not speak, but every gameplay feature felt realistic. Like when you view objectives and you pull up, in real time, your little note board thing and light a lighter in order to see it better. This was totally brilliant. The objective system wasn't simply hitting the pause button or holding Select or something; it was an actual gameplay feature that was implemented like you/Artyom were actually using a real in game tool.
Then you had the gas mask, which while it was, at times, admittedly a little annoying it was also fantastic. This, and every other gameplay feature, including the varying bullets, made it feel so much more realistic and immersive and unlike any game I've played.
Like I said, Metro's gameplay was still lacking, though. Despite looking awesome, weapons didn't feel meaty or strong. They felt weak.
The AI was hit and miss, with the monsters acting like goons half the time and the humans being sometimes intelligent as hell and other times stupid as fuck.
Then you have the stealth. Now I applaud 4A for trying to spice things up and keep the whole 'realism' thing going by allowing you to sneak your way through tricky situations, however they do need to realise that to be able to actually use this stealth feature, it has to, uh, work first.
Stealth in Metro 2033 is near impossible. Unless you want to sneak past two, maybe 3, enemies, then you are screwed. You can turn out lanterns, walk in the shadows, silently kill guards without other enemies seeing - you can use every stealth tool that is available to you to the utter max and you will still be spotted and shot where you stand.
It was almost like 4A had given you the tools to do it, but in keeping with the realistic nature of the game they didn't really input any way of getting through situations. Like the guard patrols; they are almost always unpredictable, which is fine, however they never seemed to actually allow you to tackle them well. Like this guard may be alone, but chances are he has another guy looking at him, and you can't kill THAT guy because he's got another guy watching HIS back and then that guard has someone standing 20 feet away keeping an eye on both of them. There was no way to take someone out without other people knowing within, at most, a minute.
The entire stealth system was a flop, meaning every human encounter was a fight, which didn't do wonders to the pacing and the overall enjoyment, as fighting the human bad guys was a little meh to be honest. I mean, I know the guard is wearing armour but how the fuck can he still take two shotgun shots to the head and survive? HOW?
Then you had the issue of confusion, which is less gameplay and more technical.
Metro 2033 was confusing as hell. It had little to no explanation of anything, really, and the way of finding objectives was, well, a bit crap. The arrow on your little note board that was supposed to point you in the direction of your current objective always seemed to lead me somewhere and then say "Haha got you. Now turn around and go the other way motherfucker".
It was annoying to say the least.
The currency system, while awesome when you knew how it worked, was a total pain in the ass. There were two types of ammo for guns: shitty ammo that is made out of rubbish and does minimal damage and good military ammo that is rare and does more damage and can also be used to buy goods at shops. As you can see, the idea is there, but the execution was pretty odd. In the game you were simply told as much as I just told you about it. That is OK. I mean, it's not THAT complicated, right? RIGHT? No.
The concept is good and understandable but if you want to buy something with these good bullets then all hell breaks loose. There was, like, practically no difference between the bullets and what they looked like or what guns they were for or ammo type they were. When I first played it I ended up blindly spending my cash on God knows what and wasting ammo. It was incredibly hard to understand.
And that wasn't the only thing lacking a proper tutorial. The whole gas mask thing, while, again, a good idea, wasn't implemented or explained perfectly. If you haven't played it already take note of this: FILTERS ARE ESSENTIAL. This is something that wasn't made clear in the game. It explained little how the gas mask system worked and I ended up going out into the world with few filters and dying again, and again, and again, and again, and again and you get the picture. In the end I had to start from the beginning of the story again.
However in a way I remember all of Metro 2033's flaws as being some of its most awesome parts. The fact I had to work my ass off and made a dozen mistakes in order to understand how everything worked made it feel harder. Indeed, in not becoming completely familiar with the game from the very start, it felt like the entire game was as much a learning experience as it was a fun time and it never once felt 'boring' or 'old'.
There aren't many things I actually want to see in Metro: Last Light. All I want, or hope, is that they haven't dumbed it down, it is longer and harder, it has fixed stealth and gameplay and Artyom becomes a slightly more interesting main character. The rest is up to the devs. I really hope that Last Light can recreate the incredible magic that 2033 had and the awesome way it made me feel.