A while back, I played Metro: 2033. It’s a dark, linear tunnel-crawly sort of game, set in a post-nuclear apocalypse in the Moscow Metro. It’s dark, life is cheap, and things are kind of scary.
I really enjoyed “Metro: 2033”, managing to earn the “good” ending. So much of it was skulking around amidst chaos, seeing brief slices of a ravaged world trying anything to survive and strange hallucinations in the darkness underground.
I squeed with delight when the sequel was announced. I was quite concerned when THQ fell, and it looked like Last Light would be cancelled. Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened.
Last Light takes place after1 the original, using the original’s “bad” ending as canon. In that ending, a new race of sentient beings known as “Dark Ones” were exterminated by the players’ actions, and our hero, Artyom, is wracked with guilt for it.
The opening of Last Light shows us that actually one Dark One survived, and through Arytom we can go on a journey of atonement-by-shooting-people, save the last Dark One, and let us see another slice of the wonderful world of Last Light.
“Wonderful” is the right world, too; everything feels unpleasantly real. Throughout the game, one encounters small snippets of life being lived, from a father having to explain cancer from irratediated fish to his child, to rescuing a convoy of ambushed refugees cursing themselves for leaving their homes, and the experience of new life in the Metro.
People talk, banter, and truly try to make their homes in this world, dealing with the same day-to-day struggles of political banter, hunger, work, and childrearing; the losses and triumphs that we all face.
These experiences show us a world worth fighting for, people worth saving.
The Story and the Game
I’ve tried to make it little secret that I’m a huge fan of story in games; gaming can give us good stories, amazing stories; not having great stories lessens what could otherwise be an outstanding experience.
Metro: Last Light tells its story against this backdrop of the real. It’s predictable, linear, and rather enjoyable. I wanted to see what happened next, wanted characters to get their comeuppance, wanted to know how the story ended.
I also stated that Dishonoured had an amazing world, but the story was predictable, bland, and uninteresting, caught in its own sudden but utterly expected betrayal. Last Light sees itself with a rotating stable of NPC characters, each different, each with their own motivations, and in one case, rather startling behaviour. It held my engagement in spite of its basic predictability, kept me searching for clues in the midst of a shattered world.
In terms of play, it’s a shooter that tries to force you to be stealthy. The stealth mechanics are passable, but nothing of the level of Dishonoured. By midway through the game, scoped and silenced weapons make long-distance kills trivial, and skulking around the shadows becomes much less appealing.
Most jarring to the immersion of the story is how repeatedly the player is yanked into an uncontrollable cutscene; we don’t choose when Artyom makes choices, the choices are made for us. The only choice ever offered to the player is whether or not to kill.
Story happens to us, we never happen to it.
Of course, the game judges the player based on whether or not they kill, and whom they choose to kill. This offers some change to the games’ ending, if the player killed the appropriate people at the appropriate time; or not.
Even Metro: 2033 was better in this regard; how the player interacted with the hallucinations had an effect on the endgame, on being allowed to choose to take the good ending.
Last Light offers no such choice, no such ability to choose, and it is worse for it.
Women in Gaming
There’s a single woman as part of the story; a sniper. In one of the later sequences, she comes on to Artyom for… actually, I don’t know why. I don’t think there’s an actual reason why it happens in the game, except as “hey, the dudes playing it want to see some tits!” And then, polygonal breasts.
In a few of the towns, there’s also a sex trade, and female models (with limited dialogue, of course) in scanty dress.
I’d say play it. It’s competent, not stunning, and an entertaining diversion.
Don’t pay more than $30 US for it, it’s not worth full price.
A year? Less than a year? I really have no idea.↩