Metro: Last Light is a significant improvement over its predecessor

It is time to return to the tunnels of the Metro, the subway network under author Dmity Glukhovsky’s dystopian near-future Moscow. Glukhovsky’s novel Metro 2033 was earlier adapted into a game of the same name in 2010 by Kiev-based 4A Games. 4A’s Metro: Last Light picks up where 2033 left off (ignoring its multiple possible endings), a year after protagonist Artyom called down the missile strike on the Dark Ones. It is brought to his attention by the mystic Khan, that there was a possibility that one of the creatures survived, and could be the key to humanity’s future — an ongoing civil war among what is left of the human survivors seems on the verge of spiralling out of control, with self-annihilation inevitable. Thanks to Artyom’s special connection with the Dark Ones, it is his job to find the surviving Dark One, and hopefully, save the world.

Metro: Last Light is a shooter with survival horror elements. There’s a lot of gunplay, but this is made challenging by the lack of readily available ammunition. It’s often advisable to take down enemies silently using suppressed weapons or throwing knives, and subsequently looting them for ammo, which will come in handy during a firefight. You can also purchase ammo and upgrade weapons in the game’s various human settlements. Some of the game’s shootouts are unavoidable, so it’s always wise to stay stocked up. Despite this “forced” stealth, there’s enough variety in Last Light’s campaign to keep the player interested — including daring escapes, large-scale battles, boss fights and spiritual interludes.

Like 2033 before it, Metro: Last Light is a fantastic looking game. The environmental effects in particular, are quite outstanding. This can be felt during your various explorative outings to the city’s surface; the water effects on the swamp and marshlands of new Moscow, snow and rain which can be accompanied by powerful winds, the frosting of your gas mask — the sheer visual splendour of the elements in Last Light cannot be overstated. Top all of this off with some incredible lighting effects and you’ve got one of the best looking games of the year so far. Light also plays a very key role in the game’s stealth mechanics while having an effect on combat in general. Enemies wear helmets with spotlights — avoid their field of view by hiding in the darkness. Entering an enemy-infested area? Switch the lights off and play ninja. Light also reflects off literally everything in the game — water, weapon scopes and sights, as well as other light sources. There are sections in Metro: Last Light where you’re just shooting blind — not because it’s dark, but because there’s too much light and reflection. Light is also a weapon — some of the game’s creepy-crawly enemies aren’t its biggest fans.

There is also a heavy dependence on audio to create atmosphere in Metro: Last Light. The base sound effects (weapons and monsters) have shown great improvement since 2033 —the silenced weapons, in particular are quite impressive. Monsters can sound quite menacing, even outside of battle, giving you the feeling that you’re being stalked and being set up for the kill. But it’s the general attention to detail in ambient sound that really sets the tone here — whether it is general NPC chit-chat in one of the various human settlements or the sound of water dripping in the distance when you’re all by yourself in a sewer. In terms of voices, it’s a mixed bag, with some trying-too-hard Russian accents crashing the party — I would recommend playing the game in its native Russian with English subtitles for a completely immersive experience.

If you’re in the market for a dark and gritty shooter with survival horror and stealth elements, there’s no need to look further than Metro: Last light — a game that is in every way superior to its predecessor. Its design choices can be an acquired taste (ammo and item scarcity to the point of ridiculousness, forced stealth and a hidden karma system), but Last Light will keep you coming back until you’ve beaten it. Its visually stunning environments, atmospheric sound design and environmental effects, claustrophobic gunplay, and unusual-yet-intriguing plot combine to deliver quite the unique package.

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