Expansive Overview: Metro: Last Light

Metro: Last Light has experienced development hell, yet it managed to survive the transition from THQ to Deep Silver.

The question is: did it survive completely unscathed?

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Format Tested: Xbox 360
Release: May 17th 2013
Price: £39.99

Metro: Last Light is the sequel to Metro 2033 and set against the same apocalyptic background as the previous game. Players are cast as Artyom once again, a man who has learned how to deal with a hardened, broken-down world, plagued with radiation and mutated monsters.

Metro: Last Light casts players into darkness and they must find their way through abominable lairs using naught but a lighter, flashlight and a hard-hitting arsenal of weaponry to make it through.

The game’s narrative is its strongest suit. It naturally follows on from Metro 2033 but also drives the title towards its greatest strengths.

Unfortunately, it cannot mask several weaknesses.

Gameplay

Despite the lack of an open-world, it’s hard not to instantly think of Fallout when playing Last Light. Many of the creatures Artyom faces are abominations that would feel at home in Bethesda’s universe. It’s unfortunate that players can’t just dive into this epic universe in open sandbox style as there’s a lot of narrative scope to support that.

All that being said, the mechanics driving Last Light struggle to keep up with even a linear storyline, let alone the wider world outside of those murky corridors.

Right from the beginning, I encountered severe glitching issues. One in particular saw my character fall out of of the left side of a cart I had been travelling in. One minute, he’s talking and getting the background of the story, the next he’s feeling a gravitational pull from left, goes overboard and gets stuck in a wall, forced to watch the cart pass him by. It doesn’t give off a good first impression.

Sadly, the problems don’t end there. On occasion, the music and sounds of the game corrupt and considering Metro is all about immersion and atmosphere, hearing such things sadly pulls you out of the game ever so slightly. The game also relies on a checkpoint save system and on one particular occasion the save file completely glitched out on me, forcing me to restart the chapter.

Devs, If you’re going to insist on having checkpoint saves, you should at least make sure your game isn’t going to bug out and force the player to restart at inopportune moments.

It’s also fair to say that the enemy aggro range, at least in the early stages, is borderline ridiculous. Even if all the lights are out in a room and you kill a guard, many will still swarm on your position. Also, once you’ve been discovered, it’s almost impossible to lose that scent.

The game relies heavily on stealth, even on the easiest difficulty. If a player moves between rooms, the detection level resets and any alarms going off are forgotten about. Poor continuity on the developer’s part.

Metro-Last-Light-preview-1

It’s not all bad, though. Guns are fully customisable and they really do improve from the original state the player finds them in. Once guns are equipped with night vision and silencers, the game changes drastically and becomes a lot more satisfying. The weapons also have a more desired impact on the whole. Still, the customisation options are limited and don’t give the player much outside of comfortable stealth benefits.

The game also allows players to use throwing knifes, as well as smoke and explosive grenades, so there’s nice opportunity to diversify combat approaches.

Last Light is a slow-burner and takes a while to ‘kick-in’. But I’m happy to say that the middle doesn’t feel like filler and is filled with some truly fantastic moments, whereas the start feels as if it has suffered for interrupted development and transition time.

On the whole, the atmosphere is also genuinely better than that found in most games. Tense moments with lights flickering on and off and the need to keep quiet and out of sight cannot be understated. However, this is supported further with making sure stocks are supplied, such as refilling breathing apparatus and repowering energy for flashlights. The atmosphere is also supported through the co-operative bond shared between Pavel and Artyom. This is one AI partner you’ll remember, and isn’t like a generic marine you’ll find fighting by your side in a Call of Duty or Battlefield.

Metro: Last Light plays like a mixed bag. On the whole, I wanted to like the game and I certainly did get some enjoyment out of it, but it’s difficult not to feel irked and disgruntled by several severe issues. None are really game breaking, but all are highly disruptive and entirely noticeable.

Graphics

Playing on Xbox 360, I’m almost certainly not experiencing the best version of the game. As I’ve pointed out in several recent 360 Overviews, modern games are really starting to struggle on the system. The hardware has already been pushed past its paces and is well overdue an upgrade. The original Metro shone brightest on PC and I’m inclined to believe the same of Last Light. Still, the game handles ok on Xbox 360. Without the benefit of higher resolutions and smooth rendering, it feels somewhat of a middle-cycle console release; neither making full use of the system’s graphical energy, nor under-utilizing its full potential.

The game doesn’t stutter or stammer like DmC or Tomb Raider, but its not the finest example of graphical beauty on Xbox 360, even though the murky, dank world is visualised in such a poignant way.

Sound

Aside from the breaks in sound, Last Light is at its most glorious with the effects on full. The sounds of breathing creatures in the swamplands accompanied by dramatic music will make hairs stand up on end and suck you deeper into this depraved world, kicking and screaming.

Sound plays a big part in Metro, from simple beeps on a watch to tell the player how much air is left in his breathing apparatus, to the location of an enemy and if the player is making too much noise. Even the voice acting of the main cast is solid and well-spoken, though some of the sub-cast is questionably off-course.

When it’s on-point, however, Last Light will send chills down the spine.

METRO_LL_SS_2

Final Analysis

I can’t help but see that a better game is dying to claw out from the ashes of Last Light. It’s a worthy sequel and has some great moments, but there’s no question development hell has scarred it in the nurturing process.

Narratively,it pushes down barriers and handles some very deep political issues, all the while giving life and meaning to the surrounding rotting world, but mechanically, Last Light struggles to keep up with the high standards already met in 2103.

Last Light can offer atmosphere, a good story and occasional shooty satisfaction. It’s just a shame that time wasn’t better spent polishing this title and giving further customization to Last Light’s limited offerings.

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,