My god… it’s full of stars.
I realize this is going to sound completely insane but as I played Metro: Last Light there was this vibe that was pronounced, most likely experienced by myself and few others, of a serious Sewer Shark. Yes, that Sega CD game. To be clear, I’m a huge Sewer Shark fan. I loved that game. Also, to be fair, Metro: Last Light and Sewer Shark have a lot in common. Both games feature:
- A post-apocalyptic future where environmental destruction has forced most of humanity to live underground
- Dangerous mutated creatures
- Both are a ‘1’ on the sliding scale of linearity
Quite literally jaw-dropping.
Personally I feel what backs these visuals up is the crazy attention to detail in the environments and even on your own weapon. For instance in one of the first scenes you assume ‘Artyom’ — the protagonist of the game — you are looking up at the ceiling with a florescent tube lamp. The thing that immediately sticks out is that there are roaches crawling along inside the enclosure. When talking about the environments of Metro: LL ‘perfect’ is the only thing that comes to mind.
The attention to detail doesn’t stop there either. All of your weapons indicate how much ammo you have left or the pressure remaining in your air gun. Most people wouldn’t even bother to notice such a detail but it’s there. And because there are portions of the world you need to traverse through with a mask – damage to the glass, fingerprints, condensation, blood/gunk on the outside of the mask that needs to be wiped away… all of these details are in the game. Not only are these little details awesome, they extend to actual game mechanics to heighten tension by blocking your vision.
I also geeked out when I replaced a busted up mask with a new one and my ‘damaged’ mask was now in it’s place. I am a huge stickler for the little details and when developers take the time out for the little stuff, it really makes my day.
Call of Duty may have realigned publishers take on FPS’ to be more scripted and linear and Metro: LL does follow along that path but I think it might be appropriate to coin these games under a new subset like Cinematic FPS. Again, one of the small nice features of Metro is how they disable jumping during dialogue sequences in Metro. Because for whatever reason we all jump around like maniacs during dialogue with NPCs. However, one feature very un-cinematic is not being able to shoot padlocks off of doors. What’s up with that?
There had to be a catch.
This game is practically oozing with holy-shit levels of atmosphere. I am gushing about the environment and detail to Metro: LL, hell even the cloth physics are insane, but it pains me to say that the character animation and lip-sync are pretty terrible.
Perhaps it’s because of the stark contrast between the two elements? The crazy amazing environments and detail compared to the extremely average character detail. Frankly I’m kind of taken aback by how polarizing these two elements exist together. I can dismiss quite a few discrepancies, especially when considering just how many characters exist in the game. But when NPCs flat-out don’t even respect the position of the player when they are talking to the player is kind of nuts.
Just walking through the environments of Metro: LL is unbelievably immersive. The animation, lip-sync and dialogue-direction are so poor that it immediately takes you out of that immersion. It really is surprising how divisive these elements are when juxtaposed.
The only other things I was slightly disappointed with were the enemy AI and your mask. There are quite a few moments where you have the ability to completely disable huge swaths of lights and only one out of four times that this happened did the enemy AI decide to investigate why it happened. Perhaps I wasn’t close enough to the enemies when I switched off the other breakers and couldn’t hear them but it never seemed like they would go and investigate the reason.
Regarding the mask, one of the game mechanics in Metro is the need for you to scrounge and replace filters for your mask to breath outside. The only problem with this is that when you are in outdoor environments, instead of exploring all the crazy detail, you now have this timer ticking on your wrist letting you know of impending doom. This could be one way to break free of the linearity a little bit. By no means is it a deal breaker, I just wished they were a little more gracious with the amount of time a filter provided.
Outside of that, I’m a huge fan of Metro: Last Light. Despite the game being very linear, you do have two methods of combat. One is obviously just cowboy-ing through the level and the other more favored (clarity – Metro favors if you play stealthy as if alarms go off beefier guys come out to handle you.) method is via stealth. And there is also a very nice aside later in the game where you are just experiencing life in one of the underground communities.
I’m actually proud of myself for not going into the story at all during this entire review. Trust me, it’s the reason you want to play this game and I wouldn’t want to spoil any of it.
TL;DR portion of this review: Metro: Last Light manages to push the graphical fidelity of this generation into the next. Through screen shots alone you may be fooled into believing Metro: LL is a next-gen game. Though character models and animation quickly yank that thought decidedly back into this-gen like a bad case of whiplash. The combat is tight, tense and well developed without feeling repetitious. Sprinkled in-betwixt the great, poor, and solid, respectively are game mechanics that reinforce the narrative of a post apocalyptic future. Regardless of the overall small short-comings, Metro: Last Light easily commands itself as one of the best Cinematic FPS’ ever made.
9/10: The Sewer Shark sequel we never asked for\the Sewer Shark sequel we all deserved.