Metro: Last Light Review Nicholas Bashore May 17, 2013 Consoles, Featured, Reviews, Xbox 360 Set in a post-apocalyptic world filled with radioactivity, mutated beasts, power-hungry human organizations and the constantly rising threat of death, Metro: Last Light brings players into the gas mask of Artyom once more. Last Light works to improve upon every system put into place by its predecessor, with an impressive presentation on both consoles and PC. Built as a direct sequel to the events taking place in Metro 2033, Last Light fulfills nearly every promise 4A Games was asked to live up to and brings the definition of immersion to a whole new level within the FPS genre. While my summary of the story seems fairly short in this review…it’s to preserve all of the beautifully crafted twists and surprises it provides. Metro: Last Light takes place almost directly after the events from its predecessor, Metro 2033, with Artyom wiping out the strange creatures known as the Dark Ones and moving to be a member of the Rangers. This time around, Artyom has a new and well-deserved level of respect from the get-go, which was a refreshing thing to see at the beginning of this title. Players will find themselves welcomed and known around the Rangers for their deeds in the previous game, and while this connection doesn’t fully represent the complete array of outcomes from the first game, it handles the transition quite well. Without digging too much into the story, players are set out into the wasteland of Moscow to find the last Dark One known to exist…in hopes of finishing what the Rangers started, that is; wiping out their entire race. But quickly Artyom finds himself captured and thrown back into the harsh world of the Metro, trying to survive once again. With this simple arch in mind, its important to note Last Light really works to extend the plot past the boundaries of what we have typically come to expect. The story line is consistently filled with twists and harsh moments that instill the same sense of desperation that we have come to expect from post-apocalyptic titles such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and at times, Fallout. But where Metro: Last Light truly succeeds is with the way in which it tells the story. Players will constantly come across journal entries which reflect the silent protagonist Artyom’s point of view. These entries are scattered and difficult to find at times, but help to provide some insight into the way the main character thinks, just as some of Elizabeth’s Voxophones did within BioShock: Infinite earlier this year. These logs are supplemented by detailed and well-scripted conversations from the many inhabitants of the metro, each with their own unique perspective reflecting on the brutality of this new post-apocalyptic world. Exploration and scavenging are key to survival in Last Light, especially in the ranger mode difficulties. Elements like these are what make it so necessary to explore the world Last Light provides, and take your time while doing so. Exploration is fairly rewarding, providing players with plenty of supplies needed for survival in the harsh world of Last Light, including filters for your gas mask, ammunition for your weapons, and scattered clips of military-grade rounds for you to spend at the various traders and stores around the stations. But the stations are the more rewarding piece of exploration this time around, with many citizens sharing stories about their experiences in this torn apart world. What’s unique about it this time around however, is that these stories and conversations actually have context within the world. For example, you may hear a soldier discussing a custom gun he looted off of some corpse in the metro with his buddy, and then if you wait and tail him back to his secret stash, the gun is all yours for the taking. Players also have the chance to watch an entire theater performance at one point in the game, which is decently sized with various acts. The idea this time around is that players have the capacity to interact with the citizens of the metro, either for better or for worse, which adds greatly to the overall feeling of Metro: Last Light. Last Light uses environments to build up suspense instead of horror, which helps to give it a unique and different feeling then other titles we’ve seen lately. The environments of Metro: Last Light are stunning, even on the console versions of the game. Every section in Last Light feels entirely different, whether it be the weathered and dangerous surface, or a service tunnel within the metro lines. Many of the metro tunnels and structures have been re-purposed to serve the inhabitants of the underground shelter, with shacks and animal pens made out of spare pipes or wooden boards. Metro cars themselves also serve as housing structures for the various bandits and renegades hoping to ambush a passing convoy in the tunnel, or catch a lucky break by finding an old military outpost hidden somewhere in those same tunnels. Last Light really pushes this type of environment almost the entire way through the game, but its what makes the whole premise so successful, because it helps to illustrate the thrown together world after the apocalypse. This same concept also provides the game with a sense of identity, which helps Last Light claim a distinct place within the many long-running series covering the post-apocalyptic topic. The surface portions of the game are stunning and impressive in scope, especially on the PC version of the game. The metro tunnels aren’t the only place players explore within Last Light, as the surface becomes a district environment on its own. Through certain portions of the game, Artyom is forced to work his way around the surface and into some new environments outside of what we have come to expect based on Metro 2033. The surface is beautiful, with the radioactive wasteland slowly recovering from the nuclear war years ago; buildings are covered in overgrown vegetation, trees and mutated beasts are establishing homes across the remains of humanity. It’s impressive that Last Light can provide the long-reaching vistas that it does, with the horizon branching out miles into the distance showcasing the destruction across Moscow.But whats even more impressive is that this aspect remains true on the console versions of the game as well, and while it doesn’t quite stand on par with the PC version of the game, it does remain graphically impressive compared to other games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 currently. Weapon customization in Last Light is extremely well-done, allowing players to tailor weapon setups that fit their play style. Weapons in Last Light are wonderfully constructed and unique. Players will have access to numerous weapons, such as the revolver-like shotgun known as the Shambler or the Kaslash AK74, each with a distinct feel and advantage within the wasteland. While these weapons can easily be purchased throughout the game at the various gun traders, but they are extremely expensive and thus will take a vast majority of your resources. This actually forced me to stick to a select set of weapons throughout the game, which was surprisingly fantastic. Most of the guns I ended up using during my playthrough were actually looted off my enemies or picked out of the many armories located in the military outposts across the game, but what I liked about this aspect is the way I became attached to my weapons. The three I ended up carrying stuck with me for the entire game, and I learned to use them with specific strategies to take down the various enemies I encountered. Last Light also allows players to modify their weapons with a variety of parts, customizing them for the task at hand or the play style that fits them, which is a really amazing addition to the system. These various options include scopes, extended barrels, silencers, night vision scopes, extended magazines and plenty more…each of while helps specific guns do different tasks. For example, I consistently found myself switching my revolvers extended barrel and silencer back and forth throughout the game to help me with different situations, but it was affordable compared to buying a whole new weapon. Overall the arsenal in Metro: Last Light is small but balanced, with plenty of new toys like the anti-tank sniper rifle known as the Preved to keep players entertained. Melee executions are easily the greatest piece of Last Light. These work with many other aspects to make stealth gameplay flow and feel fantastic compared to Metro 2033. Stealth gameplay has been greatly overhauled in Last Light as well, with the A.I. being almost too forgiving in certain areas of the game. One of the most noticeable additions within the game are the melee executions, which can be done while sneaking up on enemies. Players can choose to either kill or knock out opponents with their combat knife, making for some brutal take downs throughout the many combat scenarios in the game. These executions when combined with throwing knives and a silenced weapon make from some truly rewarding stealth combat, which is a huge improvement from Metro 2033, where stealth gameplay was often impossible. But it does come at a cost, with enemy human A.I. intelligence coming across as too forgiving. For example, I assassinated a bandit in the middle of a lit up engine room and his 8 or so buddies around him didn’t even seem to care…which definitely comes across as cheap rather than realistic. These situations are few and limited, but are slightly disappointing because they make the stealth aspect of the game too easy in many scenarios. The equipment menu in Last Light has been overhauled completely, allowing easy accessibility to every piece of gear on the fly. Equipment is also a huge part of Metro: Last Light, with many pieces of gear being essential for your survival in the rubble of Moscow. The most important piece of equipment in Last Light is the gas mask, which will be given to you very early on in the game. These masks allow Artyom to breathe and thus survive on the surface areas of Moscow, as well as the exposed open areas of the metro tunnels, but most constantly be replaced with new filters to keep oxygen flowing. Filters themselves aren’t very difficult to come across, especially in the later portions of the game which is a bit of a letdown…because it takes away the suspense of spending time in the areas a gas mask is required. However, these gas masks can break quite easily which then prompts players to find a new one from a corpse or emergency box before they die. Last Light also adds a new mechanic of keeping the gas mask visor clean and is a surprising but welcome addition to the mix of survival. This frequently happens in rainstorms or close-quarters combat, prompting players to wipe off the blood and water from their mask in order to see. Artyom also has a lighter, night-vision goggles, and a headlamp to light up the darker areas of the metro tunnels, with the last two needing to be changed manually by a small hand crank. The one aspect that makes these pieces of gear so unique in Last Light compared to other games, its the focus on reliability…because consistently throughout the game these various pieces of equipment fail and need to be fixed. It provides much needed tension in some areas of Metro and isn’t overused, which makes for a interesting few moments within the narrative of the game Metro: Last Light is a must-play for this year, well worth the $60.00 price tag. Metro: Last Light is a worthy successor to its predecessor Metro 2033, working to improve on everything that 2033 failed to execute properly. With massive overhauls to the inventory interface, weapon customization system, equipment and environments, Last Light does so much right and so little wrong. These overhauls each work perfectly for what they were intended to do, providing players with a more complete and fluid system while maintaining the difficulty Metro was intended to provide in most circumstances. Last Light also provides a truly engaging and detailed story, winding together many complex themes to explore the true conflicts of humanity while working to build a perfect atmosphere around them. This atmosphere is further extended with the use of detailed and beautifully crafted environments throughout the entire game, which work to fully immerse the player in the world of Metro Last Light. But with all of that noted, the game does suffer from some A.I. related issues and small technical glitches that can cause issues within the experience. Enemies will glitch through walls and human A.I. won’t see the player inches in front of them, however they don’t take away from the full experience the game has to offer. Metro: Last Light is one of the less-popular releases this summer, but it doesn’t mean you should pass it up. Ranger Mode, the way Metro is meant to be played…is only a pre-order bonus or $5.00 day-one DLC… On a side note, I was extremely troubled by the fact that the highly-marketed “Ranger Mode” which removes HUD elements, reduces resources and enhances combat by increasing bullet damage; is a pre-order bonus or day-one DLC that costs $5.00 for the game. This mode was specifically marketed as the way, “Metro is meant to be played” and yet it remains DLC which many may never end up purchasing. Having played Ranger Mode myself, I must admit it’s a very challenging and rewarding experience…but something that should be in the game and not added on for $5.00!