Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Review - Metro: Last Light (Xbox 360/PS3)

I apologise greatly for the review delay. My pre-order of the game was late. I'm also sorry for not posting an article for 5 days. I expected the game to arrive on time & the review to be posted a couple of days ago and didn't write anything else.

Metro: Last Light is the sequel to 2010's Metro 2033, a game that while was admittedly flawed, I absolutely adored. Unlike the first game, Metro: Last Light is not based completely on a book. The first game was based on a novel of the same name written by Dmitry Glukhovsky, however Last Light is not based off of any of the books sequels - Metro 2034 and 2035 - and is instead a unique story.

The game's story picks up from the 'bad' ending in Metro 2033. The main character, Artyom, bombed all of the 'Dark Ones' and is now a part of the highly regarded 'Order'. However after Hunter, a returning character from the first game, says a Dark One was spotted where the old Dark Ones were bombed, Artyom's sent on a mission with a girl called Anna to deal with the creature. However that doesn't go to plan and things go down hill for Artyom and basically everyone in the Metro from there.

There are two sides to this plot: the supernatural side and the political side. Both are connected however each can be understood in their own ways too. For instance the story behind these mysterious 'Dark Ones' is far easier to understand and more intriguing than the political story to do with the factions within the Metro itself and while both stories link together, you could say they are also kind of separate too.

I've heard some reviewers criticising the supernatural side, saying it is pretty stupid and not the direction the game should've taken, however I couldn't disagree more. The supernatural part of Metro 2033 was one of the most surreal and creepy and interesting things about its story. And it's the same here. Mostly.

The political side of things is harder to understand. I don't do politics in real life or in game life. I got lost pretty early on in truth, which will no doubt make me seem like a total idiot. It's fairly easy to get the gist of what is going on and who people are though and you never feel totally lost, but some things are harder to understand.

Throughout the game you'll meet various characters. Obviously you have your character, Artyom, who I believe has a different voice actor this time around. Either way he sounds better in this game than the first one. There's also a couple of real bastard bad guys who you'll want to kill as well. And then you have Anna and Hunter, two good guys helping you out occasionally.

To be honest the character building in Last Light is a massive missed opportunity. It's not BAD but it isn't what it could have been.

First of all Artyom never speaks in-game. He only reads out his diary extracts during loading screens in-between missions. What is up with this? Why on earth does he not have an in-game voice? It's absurd. People ask him questions all the time like "Artyom are you alright?" and he just says NOTHING. But the NPC's just continue talking like he's answered them. This is a really, really old school style of doing things and really poor. He needed to have an actual voice not only for conversations sake but also to make you like him more; for him to seem more real.

There aren't that many characters and this makes the lack of character building even less excusable. For instance Anna is a great character who appears what? 3-4 times? About that. Most of these times last between 2 and 10 minutes. Yes. Really. And towards the end it becomes apparent she is a really, really important character. So why in God's name did we not see more of her? Also her interaction with Artyom was COMPLETELY hindered by the fact he NEVER F*CKING SPEAKS.


The rest of the characters are good enough to be honest. Not much to add here. It's mainly their interaction with a completely silent Artyom that lets them down.

Just like in the first game, the Metro is totally alive and full of activity and people (and monsters, but more on that in a bit). There are Metro stations scattered around the tunnel system. Each Metro station is full of different people and things to do (like watching a full on live show or getting a topless lapdance). Everyone is always busy and in conversation and NPCs can talk for, like, ever. It's always interesting listening to people's tales and hear about what's going on around the Metro. The NPC interaction is superb and 4A did a super job of making places feel alive and breathing.

At these stations you can also stock up on supplies like ammo and filters and weapons. To purchase these goods you need money, and the currency in the Metro is bullets. Well, military grade bullets to be exact. You can use them in battle to deal more damage than the standard, worthless, cheap, handmade ones or you can use them as money to buy things. This system works better than in the first game because you now have a clear way of telling which ammo is military grade and what is the standard stuff. You won't be accidentally spending any bullets anymore.

However this system is somewhat weak as well. Unlike in 2033, military grade ammo is never really necessary to use in combat. In fact, you'll likely use them maybe once or twice to kill people. In 2033 you were constantly low on ammo (until the very end of the game that is) and using your money bullets was sometimes what had to be done. I remember feeling totally depressed as I shot away my money into monsters. But that was the beauty of it.

Like I said, it's not like this in Last Light. Unless you play on Ranger mode, which is the extreme version of the game, you won't really need to use up your money to kill people or creatures so you'll rarely be skint or low on cash.

The rest of the gameplay system has been refined and smoothed out too. It's now clear what supplies you need and the game isn't anywhere near as hard to understand as it was before.

However I still have a beef with the shooting. It just isn't meaty. It's like 4A Games didn't listen. The guns still feel papery and unsatisfying to use. It makes firefights less fun and combat not as good. I'm really disappointed this wasn't improved.

Another gameplay feature to note is the gas mask. You'll need to put your mask on when on the surface or in highly toxic areas of the Metro. There is far more gas mask ON time in Last Light than there was in 2033, which is good by the way, because the gas mask is a totally brilliant gameplay feature.

Things become more complicated when you have your mask on. First of all your vision may become distorted by dirt or water or blood covering your visor. To deal with this simply tap LB/L1 and Artyom will wipe anything the crap away.

Second of all you have to make sure you have enough filters. If you run out Artyom will suffocate. However unless you play on Ranger mode, you will find a LOT of filters lying around so you'll never have to fear.

The last mask related thing you must be cautious of is the gas mask breaking. However, unlike in 2033 this is hardly EVER an issue. In fact, on my first playthrough my mask never broke. Not once (except in the scripted set piece where it does break. But that's, well, scripted. Not much you can do about that).

The gas mask is a really original feature that adds in an extra layer of depth and variety. You won't simply spend the entire game running around as normal. Things get switched up a lot.

In fact, there are a lot of great, realistic, gameplay features. Like pulling out your lighter to burn cobwebs, using your lighter in conjunction with your note pad and compass so you can see objectives and where to go, using your torch and generator thing to power it and also manually pumping up the air gun. Last Light has lots of original things that make it feel all the more immersive and realistic and the gameplay benefits massively from this.

During the time you'll spend in the tunnels you'll encounter a ton of radioactive creatures after your blood.

Things can get very intense when you're wandering around the darkness on your own. You never quite know when shit is about to go down or something is gonna jump out at you.

There's a lot more human enemies this time around though. As in the first game you can choose to deal with these guys with either stealth or all out blasting. Stealth works a lot better, however it doesn't really feel very necessary, except in Ranger mode. Most of the time you'll probably just silently take down a few people to thin out the crowd before blasting the rest to hell and back.

There's a nice amount of stealth orientated features though. Like being able to unscrew lightbulbs and turn out lights. Knock out or kill guards. Use silent throwing knifes and silencers too.

When you take things above ground it gets a bit harder. Not only do you have to use your gas mask but the surface is far more dangerous than the Metro.

There is a almost perfect contrast between the tunnel and the above ground setting. Above ground enemies are more varied and frequent. There are monsters in the air, in the water, in the grass and just wandering around.

The surface is extremely ugly yet beautiful and terrifyingly unpredictable. It really is a scary place. As you wander around with condensation coating the sides of your gas mask and a few cracks on the visor; with unknown enemies wandering around shrieking, out of sight, it is a very intimidating world indeed that you want to rush through as fast as you can. But in a very, very good way. The settings are without doubt superbly done.

One of Last Light's biggest issues is with its boss fights. There are several boss battles throughout the game however they are bad in almost every way.

Unlike the rest of the Metro game, which is realistic, unpredictable and original, the boss fights are completely unrealistic, predictable and unoriginal in the extreme. They are so unbelievably generic I was actually shocked. Bosses have totally cliche 'weak points' and take forever to kill and are totally, totally, 100% out of place. They weren't even close to necessary and add nothing to the game. The encounters with these bosses is not random or unpredictable. They are completely scripted and basically lame and generic.


The hardest bad guy to kill in 2033 was the Librarian, which was quite big and very dangerous. In a way THEY were the boss fights. But the great thing about the Librarians was they were very random and it was optional how you dealt with them. The boss fights in Last Light are terrible and just so utterly generic I can't even put into words how awful these sections are.

What makes these fights even worse is the ammo placement. If you're gonna make a boss fight generic and 'arena' based then you need to ensure that people actually have enough ammo to get them through it. If you screw up and go into one of these battles unprepared, the lack of supplies within the fight itself will ensure you die.

It's also worth noting that frame-rate drops plague most of these fights too.

Actually, as we're on the subject of frame-rate issues let's talk graphics and glitches.

The graphics in Last Light are almost exactly the same as they were in 2033. In fact, I can't think of any improvements. It's not an ugly game but it's not the most attractive either. Fire animations in particular are pretty awful. However, ironically, water animations are fantastic.
Lip syncing is sometimes great and other times non existent. Sometimes character's mouths don't even move making it almost impossible to know who is talking, especially when it's a random NPC with a generic voice rater than a main character.

As for glitches, Last Light has a fair few. There are some more minor problems, like pop-ins, screen tearing and graphical glitches like floating objects and bodies. However there are also a few game breaking freezes. I encountered a few complete freezes during the game. Everything froze and I had to switch off my console by the power button and restart from the last saved checkpoint.

The last main problem I want to note with Last Light is the pacing. Generally the pacing is OK. However towards the end, in the final hour, the pacing is absolutely horrendous. For possibly over an hour there is fight after fight after fight after fight after fight after fight after fight....And I'm sure you get the picture.

I can't actually even think why on earth 4A Games made the ending section a complete, full on flurry of battles. I don't get it at all. If anything the ending section of a game should be less action orientated. Very bad design decision.

The final thing I want to say about the game is the ending(s) (there are two endings by the way) are excellent and the music choice for the finale is pitch perfect.
It's a little odd that while this part of the soundtrack is good, the rest of the music used is poor and sounds like MW3. It's totally out of place really, making it feel a bit more like an action FPS than a survival horror game.

Anyway, the ending is excellent and very conclusive. It didn't feel too rushed and it leaves you feeling satisfied. However the mediocre character building I explained earlier leaves you feeling less emotionally impacted at the end than you could have been.

Overall Last Light doesn't improve on all of 2033's problems. This wouldn't be a big deal if some of them weren't so blatantly obvious and in need of changing. Like Artyom's lack of in-game voice and the flaky gameplay.

When I reviewed Metro 2033 on my old website I gave it a 9/10, which I acknowledge is a higher score than it probably deserved. The thing was, though, is it was just a fun, original and unique game that was, quite frankly, brilliantly flawed. Last Light isn't a big improvement though and while the story is far better told and some things have been improved, it is still flawed. I enjoyed it and loved it don't get me wrong and it deserves a high score for its story and originality, however it still has its problems and if they're going to do another game 4A MUST recognise its issues and do things a bit better.

Should you buy it? Well I'm keeping my copy because I just know I'm going to replay it a few times. It's still an awesome and enjoyable game. But maybe a rent would be more in order, given its slight lack of content. The single player will take about 9-10 hours on normal difficulty and 11-13 on hard. Ranger mode will take a good 14+ hours.

It's a great, fun, original and unique game. But just like its predecessor it has issues. The thing is that these should have been resolved beforehand.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Thought Box. Leave Your Thoughts Here.