Metro: Last Light: Redux
Back in August I reviewed a little gem of a game called Metro 2033: Redux, and talked about how the video game industry as a whole was in a state of flux. I touched on how on one hand, gamers in the present age were being treated with some truly eye-sizzling graphics that are so real that they almost have to make you do a double-take in order to make sure that you’re not playing a live-action movie. We’re also enjoying a high point in creative storytelling for the first time since the 1990s, with some really original plots and narratives that make some of today’s games so compelling that you don’t mind playing through them again and again.
On the other hand, I covered how a comparison could be drawn between the gaming industry and the film industry AKA showbiz. Many film companies (more like conglomerations these days) have seen fit to release films with the intent of releasing additional content piecemeal. In other words, what might seem as a single film is actually a test-the-water platform for a major movie franchise, which regurgitates the same (or very similar) material over, and over, and over, and…you get the idea. In that way, there is a pre-sold audience and the corporations can pretty much put everything on autopilot and cruise their way straight to the bank. Needless to say that in these cases, creativity is often the first casualty.
Since I cited Metro: Last Light, the sequel to Metro 2033 as the reason I even tried Metro 2033: Redux, I thought I’d cover the rehashed version of Metro: Last Light, called—wait for it…creatively enough: Metro: Last Light: Redux [hears applause]. Now was that confusing enough? So let’s see here—how exactly does it stack up with its excellent forebear’s reiteration? Let’s find out…
Metro 2033: Redux really impressed me from the first time I played it. It had completely overhauled gameplay mechanics, had an even more compelling narrative, and a shiny new paint job in that its improved graphics really helped to further immerse me into its interesting plotline. Whereas 2033: Redux stood upon the shoulders of its original predecessor, Last Light: Redux took the safe way out.
Metro: Last Light: Redux came out just a little less than a year after Metro: Last Light. To me, that was sort of ridiculous and reeked more of a cheap cash grab than anything else. The original already had excellent graphics so they didn’t really need to be remastered, although they did bump up the resolution for all of the lucky 4k gaming folks out there. It also offers some DLC content and a few additional weapons and ammo types, but that’s not exactly compelling enough to warrant a purchase, unless you’ve never played the original.
Let’s jump back and cover the basics first. Metro: Last Light picked up where the last moments of 2033 left off. Russia has been devastated by a nuclear conflict which completed irradiated the landscape, driving any survivors underground into a labyrinthine subway system. Horrific mutated creatures run rampant on the toxic surface, including a mysterious band of entities called the Dark Ones (which also sneak down into the subways as well).
But Artyom, the game’s main protagonist, soon realizes that the misshapen monsters above and below aren’t the only enemies that need dealing with. Warring factions also exist and have carved out their own territories to reign over. If that wasn’t enough, they’re also gunning for territorial expansion and so in that vein, are warring with one another constantly, in bloody conflicts here, there, and everywhere. And our beloved hero of the underworld, Artyom, has suddenly transformed from more of a creeping around in the shadows type to a full-bore Rambo-esque character virtually overnight.
That’s because whereas in 2033, ammo was made scarce, which in turn made the enemies that Artyom faced that much more dangerous and scary, forcing him to slink around in the dark, in Last Light the developers seemed to have given way to Call of Duty fever and rained buckets of bullets down onto our newly buffed-up protagonist. Now he is able to saunter around like The Terminator and blow the baddies away instead of having to use his brain and figure out ways of stealthily navigating around his foes.
A direct comparison can be made between Metro’s games and the Dead Space franchise. The first Dead Space featured some truly creepy atmospheric horror elements with the same scarcity of weapons and ammo as 2033 did. But by Dead Space 3, it’s like the developers threw up their hands and said “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and imbued the game with more of a run-and-gun appeal. Which is sad since they sacrificed the need of using ingenuity and guile on the altar of impatience and shoot ‘em up antics.
The sudden switch-up in prose and gameplay style has confused many gamers, including myself. By the time all of billowing clouds of gun smoke cleared, I had Artyom standing in piles of shell casings wondering why pumping monsters full of lead just wasn’t that fun. The new Duke Nukem approach of swaggering around and clearing rooms, became more of a chore than anything even remotely associated with survival horror. 4A Games seemed to become self-conscious of this jarring change-up at the last minute, adding a mode that tries to emulate a more stealthy approach to playing Last Light. But it feels like a tacked on afterthought more than anything, and is poorly implemented.
It must be said that those who are into blazing muzzles and orange fireballs will enjoy Last Light, however, especially those who have never played any of the Metro games. The environments are creepy, with cobweb-laced passages and the drip-drop of moisture in moss and lichen covered caverns and chambers. The dystopian setting is fully realized with the game’s powerful graphics engine, and you really feel like you’re part of a barely-hanging-on-to-life dark world. The sounds also capture the dangerous and depressing mood perfectly, featuring eerie creature squeals and moans, and excellent weapon and combat noises.
In all, Metro: Last Light: Redux is oozing with the creepy, post-apocalyptic setting that its predecessor, 2033 pulled off so well, but with better graphics and effects. Unfortunately, the gameplay took a turn for the worse in my opinion, as it places a higher premium on room-clearing and combat, and less emphasis on sneaking around and outwitting your adversaries. Fans of the more fast-twitch style of gaming will be right at home with Last Light, however, and the game moves along briskly at a smooth clip. The story is a compelling one either way, with plenty of fascinating characters to meet and talk to, mysterious plots to uncover, and monstrous creatures to blow away.
Just as with Metro 2033: Redux, Metro: Last Light: Redux graphics can be mesmerizing in their arresting grittiness. One must have an equally monstrous gaming PC, however, in order to get the most out of its captivating visuals:
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