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Metro: Last Light is the delayed sequel to the 2010 title Metro 2033. Made by Ukrainian studio 4A Games (in reportedly terrible conditions) and published by Deep Silver after being bought during the THQ dismantling. 2010's Metro 2033 was based on the book of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky, but strangely enough, Metro: Last Light is not an adaptation of the book sequel, Metro 2034. Instead, it gets an original story written by Glukhovsky in conjunction with 4A Games.
Metro: Last Light's gameplay is rather similar to that of its predecessor. First and foremost, it's a first person shooter. The shooting feels much tighter than it did in the original. The weapons have a much better feel to them; recoil has a more realistic impact, using a sniper rifle is more rewarding and the pistol is nearly useless outside of close combat against other humans. In contrast, you'll still find yourself emptying entire clips into mutants at point blank range. Battles against mutants and human enemies require very different approaches.
Battles against mutants are generally about throwing everything you have against them. This does imply that selecting which weapons and mods you select before leaving a merchant will have an effect as to how well you would perform against a large number of mutants.
Battles against humans are very different and have several approaches. Firstly, you could take the typical run-and-gun approach, which would use a great deal of precious ammo. Alternatively, you could take a stealth approach. You can add silencers to your weapons, use throwing knives or just sneak up on an enemy. This allows for myriad ways to deal with human enemies. Several times after these battles, I discovered that there was a different tunnel or walkway I could have taken that would have made it easier.
Being set in a post-apocalyptic world, ammo and health packs are scarce (even fewer using the Ranger Mode DLC). This obviously impacts how you'll have to handle enemies. A neat feature is that the currency in this world is comprised of military grade ammunition. At first, it seems silly to buy ammo with ammo but it fits perfectly in with the world. If you run out of ammo, you can choose to use your military grade ammo instead.
The gas mask feature from Metro 2033 is still here and largely unchanged. You need to swap out filters for new ones when they run out and you need to change your mask when there are too many cracks in it. It makes battles on the surface a bit more exhilarating.
Wholly, this is a linear game. There are collectibles that fill in parts of the story and you can explore some of the vast levels and you can make choices whether the knock-out or kill an enemy but it is still linear.
The story in Metro: Last Light is better than most other stories in shooters at the moment. You play as Artyom once again after he has become a Ranger following the events of Metro 2033. You have to find the remaining Dark One. In the process, you get brought into an imminent war involving Communists, Nazis and other metro denizens.
The delivery of the story though is unfortunately haphazard. Cut-scenes, dialogue sequences and scripted sequences are how the key elements of the story are delivered. The cut-scenes are exceptionally well done, but run far too short for my liking. The dialogue sequences, where you maintain control of Artyom, are alright. This is where the bulk of the story comes from. Occasional bugs and bad mixing make some of this hard to hear; playing with subtitles is highly recommended. The scripted sequences vary in quality and these are more about action.
Oh my. Like Metro 2033 was back in 2010, the graphics in Metro: Last Light are fantastic. The lighting and shadows give one heck of atmosphere both in the metro and on the surface. The character models are brilliantly well done, both in texture and animation. Everything just looks grim, which is perfect.
Unfortunately, like its predecessor, there are plenty of bugs. Characters will be stuck half in walls, they'll talk to you without any facial movement, enemies standing exactly where you are and things of the like. Nothing game-breaking like a couple of bugs in Metro 2033 nor anywhere near as many. Strangely enough, most of the bugs appear in the last third of the game. I would love to see what 4A Games could put out given a much larger budget.
Some of the scripted sequences have had extra attention paid to them. A romance scene involving Artyom and a fellow Ranger named Anna is well done but is almost as awkward as the kissing scene in Heavy Rain between Ethan and Madison. There is also an extremely awkward sequence that involves Artyom getting a lap-dance.
Slow-motion is used heavily in the scripted action sequences and to great effect. During a rail chase, an enemy railcar explodes and flips over you, all in slow-mo. Very effective and cinematic.
Weather is very well handled as well. Lightning obscures your view for just the right amount of time, the rain landing on the mask feels like actual rain and the wind blowing objects across the screen is very effective.
The majority of the sound design is superb. The weapons sound brutal and impactful, except for the dynamite which sounds a bit weak. The mutants are fierce sounding and hearing their screams can set you on edge, except for an enemy that sounds like it came straight from DOOM. The incidental dialogue is fantastic. Overhearing fathers comforting their daughters to catching snippets of sick people begging for help add a huge amount of texture to the atmosphere.
While I didn't play this in Russian dialogue mode, the English voices with Russian accents are far better than the in the original, which at times sounded really laboured.
The soundtrack by Alexey Omelchuk is atmospheric and at key moments very stirring, especially in the last couple of missions. Due to some bad mixing choices, and the missing option to adjust volumes of different things, means that lots of music is very hard to hear.
Metro: Last Light is phenomenal. It has room for improvement, but what's there is fantastic. I would suggest playing through Metro 2033 first. I also must add a slight trigger warning in regards to an attempted rape scene.
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