Metro 2033 is the latest in the (hopefully) growing trend of post-apocalyptic first person shooters. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky and you play through as the main character of the book, Artyom. Developed by first time studio 4A Games (formed by ex-GSC Game World employees who left just before the release of the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game), it’s a phenomenal effort but not without several downfalls.
The gameplay in Metro 2033 is almost standard FPS fare. Almost. 4A Games were very particular in creating a rather realistic experience (well, as realistic as one can imagine) and as such there are a quite a lot of rather annoying things but also quite a few subtle features that add pleasantly to the overall experience.
The general shooting is okay. Not great. The aiming seems to go rather screwy sometimes even though you’ve got your sights directly on an enemy. This can get quite irritating to say the least. You can unload a couple of clips on enemy right in front of you and they won’t die. This, combined with the fact that bullets are rather scarce, gets on your nerves. The aiming is quite bouncy, but not too bouncy that it’s ridiculous. Reloading, unlike other FPS, actually needs to be done at appropriate times for different weapons. They all have different loading times, which after a little bit of learning, becomes a rather neat feature – it adds to the horror feel of it all. There is some vehicle combat (well rail-vehicle combat), which is well executed. Melee combat features briefly in the form of a knife you carry around and certain weapons can be used to smack enemies. Sometimes enemies will jump at you, forcing you to ground and to get out of these situations, all you really have to do is press a button in rapid succession.
The major factor in gameplay is survival – I very rarely found myself buying items. While outside of the Metro or in radiated areas, you have to wear a gas mask. With this gas mask, you have to put in new filters every so often and during combat it can be damaged and destroyed, which is really inconvenient when you can’t find a replacement mask within 10 seconds or so. Medkits take a while to use. Bullets are very scarce, and are used as currency in the world.
[img_mid]center,15,2010-06-07/Metro2033-C.png,What must be going through Artyom’s head?[/img_mid]
The story, while based on a book, is strangely underplayed. There are extremely long sequences of combat with just a hint of story thrown in. Other times, while looking for locations or items, the talking of NPCs is just not information. This, once again, adds to the ‘realism’ of the game and adds the horror feeling that works quite well. The odd parts of the story reveal themselves nicely and the characters are well written and varied. One rather unfortunate let-down is the ending. It just isn’t executed well, kinda leaves you wanting more or wishing that it was a bit more epic!
The presentation is rather bleak and minimalistic. There isn’t really much of a HUD apart from the ammo display but the rest of the information (like health depletion and health of your gas mask) is displayed over the entire screen.
The cut-scenes are shown at useful times and there is a combination of pre-rendered and in-game cut-scenes. Both look great. Oddly though, about two-thirds of the way through, the production quality and frequency of in-game cut-scenes trebles. Really strange but totally worth it!
[img_mid]center,15,2010-06-07/Metro2033-B.png,"Goodbye, cruel world…"[/img_mid]
The sound is unfortunately one of the weak points of the game. The weapon sounds are rather weak and almost generic sounding, the enemy sounds are a little bit better but not much so and the sound Artyom makes when he is hit is just plain bad. Rather a shame as it takes away from the overall horror experience. One good part about the sound is Artyom’s breathing, which warns you about his mask filter and overall mask damage. When his filters run low during a firefight, it becomes rather stressful and you find yourself making little mistakes.
The music is thankfully better than the sound. Albeit mostly mood music. It really does help add to the atmosphere but sometimes the cues just feel a bit cheap and clichéd. There is the occasional music that goes with the story (i.e. in the cut-scenes) which is rather decent.
The voice acting is a mixed bag as you can play the entire game with either an English or Russian dialog track. The English sounds a little bit cheesy with all the Russian accents but the Russian voice track works a charm (even though you may spend most of your time reading subtitles, which is hardly a bad thing!).
[img_mid]center,15,2010-06-07/Metro2033-D.png,"…and on the right, we have a severely messed up corpse…"[/img_mid]
This is the strong point of Metro 2033. The graphics are breathtaking although not without their fair share of glitches. The landscapes are stunning (and by landscapes, I mean the inside of the Metro tunnels and the occasional forays into the deadly open). The detail put into the Metro tunnels is astonishing and everything looks like it once was functional before the apocalyptic events and that since, it has become the only way of life. The outside environments are also astonishing and it does look as if an apocalypse hit Moscow. Crumbling buildings, rusted cars, fallen billboards, thousands of corpses littered about, really makes it all seem ‘realistic’.
Now the bad points about graphics, which really are a pity. The enemies. Graphically, they’re quite nice but they suffer from many glitches, especially clipping problems. Small creatures you’ll find, tend to disappear into stairs mid combat, thus rendering them indestructible until they appear fully again. You will also find that Artyom, especially while standing on the rails, will just slide randomly until you jump.
[img_mid]center,15,2010-06-07/Metro2033-A.png,Simply stunning despite the obvious bleakness[/img_mid]
Metro 2033 is a strong single player shooter with a rather engrossing story. It has a good bit of horror and feels rather bleak, just what you want from a post-apocalyptic first person shooter. If you look past the downfalls, it really is a great game but some problems, such as the constant clipping issues, it may take its toll.