Metro: Last Light – PC
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Genre: Action, FPS
Reviewed by Mitch Cullen

Review Score: 4.5 of 5

Back in 2010 I reviewed the FPS, Metro 2033; a challenging, unique, and somewhat bleak survival game based on the novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The game blended interesting story ideas with a realistic survival-style shooter set in a post-apocalyptic, radioactive Moscow, where survivors had taken refuge in a sprawling subway system.

Metro: Last Light takes us a bit deeper into those subway tunnels, expanding upon the lifestyle of the survivors and introduces new challenges, enemies, and situations. The game picks up where the last one left off, with the race of Dark Ones being all but wiped out by the nuke that our hero, Artyom launched. Now, the balance of power is distributed across four main factions; the Red Line, The Hansa, the Reich, and the Rangers. The settings and scope are much broader in the sequel allowing for greater story depth and character development, mostly handled through brilliant character interactions with Artyom and dozens of NPCs he will encounter throughout his journey.

At its core, Last Light is an FPS game so when you aren’t talking you are killing, and there are plenty of customizable weapons to keep the carnage fresh from start to finish. As was the case in 2033, bullets are still the main form of currency and come in various grades of quality, but unlike the original game that had you questioning the necessity for each squeeze of the trigger, standard ammo is fairly abundant throughout most of the game; at least when fighting enemies that shoot back and leave their loot when killed. Going up against non-human enemies can quickly drain your resources. The weapons are fun and generally well-balanced, but the various attachments were a bit uninspired and seemed thrown in merely to pad the content.

Another factor that helps reduce your reliance on ammo is the improved stealth aspect of Last Light. While you could sneak in 2033 it is much easier to do so in this game provided you move slow, stay low, and extinguish all nearby sources of light. Even so, it can border on the side of ridiculous to be crouched close enough to an enemy to tie the laces on his boots and him not seeing you. Enhanced enemy AI also helps the stealth aspect. Those who played the first game will remember that if anyone spotted you everyone else knew where you were. In this game you actually have a few precious seconds to kill an alerted target before he can warn the others.

As was the case in the first game, the atmosphere outside is toxic and keeping a fresh supply of breathable oxygen can be a bit challenging, but this too has been made easier in Last Light. Not only must you keep your gas mask in good repair by not getting it cracked and damaged in combat, you must also find or purchase a good supply of O2 filters for extended stays on the surface. The whole gas mask idea works pretty well, both from a visual aspect with real-time cracks when damaged to getting fogged up when you run and breathe heavily to the eerie sound effects of hollow, raspy breathing, and even from a psychological mindset when that O2 counter hits the red zone are you could be desperately searching for a refill. Even light becomes a precious commodity when your flashlight starts to drain forcing you to pause and crank up some more juice with your portably generator, hoping that nothing attacks you from the dark.

Metro: Last Light sets a nice pace for its 10-12 hour campaign with a casual and somewhat linear tutorial and opening first act, but later the game opens up a bit, offering a few decisions and branching paths, but always under the tight control of the narrative. You have a mix of claustrophobic corridor shooters mixed with outdoor survival horror, and some major action sequences you would expect from a Call of Duty game. The variety of locations, themes, and gameplay all help create a captivating story and engaging gameplay experience that never leaves you hanging for too long.

Metro: Last Light is definitely easier than 2033, partly due to the abundant resources in the game (at least compared to 2033) as well as several sections that can be totally stealthed avoiding time-consuming combat. Normal mode in Last Light is comparable to Easy in 2033, which makes the infamous Ranger mode a must-play option for serious gamers. Sadly, this mode is only being offered as a $5 DLC, so you’ll have to decide if you want to pay for the privilege of playing on the extreme difficulty with no HUD and other realistic limitations.

Metro: Last Light looks incredible on the PC, but you will need a powerful rig to exploit the full potential of 4A Games new engine. Even on my super-PC with a EVGA 690 I had a few framerate hiccups in the larger outdoor areas, usually when entering a new section, but things always smoothed out after a few seconds. I’m guessing there was some background texture loading going on. Character models, the clothing, the gear and weapons detail, and especially the facial animations are outstanding, and the lighting and shadows is some of the best I’ve seen this generation. A solid audio experience enhances the gameplay and graphics with great surround sound support, realistic weapons effects, creepy environmental noises, and a cinematic score that sinks you deeper into the game.

Offering a unique mix of shooting and stealth gameplay; Metro: Last Light is an unexpected pleasure and delight to play and sets a new benchmark for survival-FPS games in 2013 and beyond. I enjoyed the story and internal struggle of Artyom as he was forced to deal with his actions from the first game, as well as the new characters and situations thrust upon him in this new adventure. And for the record, the original game is nicely recapped at the beginning, so playing Metro 2033 is not required but certainly recommended.