Stealthy Journalist Preview of Metro: Last Light [PAX East 2013 Preview]

Is Metro: Last Light losing its way?

Metro: Last Light

I wish I’d gotten a bit of hands-on time with Metro: Last Light, but I did use my super secret investigative journalism abilities to watch someone else play it. If you’re looking forward to heading back into the dark, oppressive world of Metro 2033 you’re in luck. The world may not be the same as you left it, though.

I only got to see the main character move through a couple of environments, all of them having that broken-down feel that was so prevalent in Metro 2033. I’m used to going through warehouses filled with crap in my shooter games, but Metro: Last Light and its predecessor made it all feel much more important. All of that stuff lying around added to the game world and its atmosphere. There is supposed to be all of these broken electronics and nicknacks lying around after the overworld apocalypse. This useless junk just makes these places feel like they’re abandoned and that life is only just returning.

A lot of the returning life is pretty hostile toward our character, too. I didn’t get to see any settlements during the video, so I can’t vouch for anyone who’s nice to you, but there sure seemed to be a lot of enemies. The stealth element still appears to be in place and going strong, as there were lots of dark places to hide in while you crept across the battlefield; creeping up on whoever you could and dispatching them without getting anyone’s attention. Being seen by multiple enemies at once still creates a very bad situation, often resulting in the player’s death.

This wasn’t as sure of a thing as it was in Metro 2033, though. From what I could see, a lot of the guns worked a whole lot better than they did in the last game. Many of the guns in Metro 2033 just weren’t useful at any kind of range, failing to hit the mark when the enemies were too far away. This could be annoying from a gameplay perspective, but it was important for the game’s atmosphere. If you’re in a destroyed world where you have to build weapons out of parts you just find, then the guns aren’t going to work that great. There was also something about the pneumatic guns and having to pump them during a firefight you accidentally caused that just made the game very memorable.

Metro: Last Light

The guns in this demo seemed to work just fine, hitting opponents at range without much issue. The guns also looked more like real guns than the slapped-together ones of Metro 2033, so it took some of the immersion of that neat world away. I know that the gunplay was probably an aggravating point with many of the players, and it got on my nerves more than once, but it was also an aspect that gave the game its own personality and presence in the glutted shooter market. You couldn’t just shoot your way to victory, but had to know each gun and its strengths and weaknesses if you were going to survive. It made me feel more invested in the game, and I’m worried that element may have been lost with the move to putting more effective, better-looking guns in the game.

I also would have liked to see more of the bizarre creatures from the last game show up in the demo. Part of Metro 2033‘s appeal was that you wouldn’t just be fighting soldiers in tunnels, but that these strange monsters would get thrown into the mix sometimes. They managed to come up with some unique creature types for the last game, but I didn’t see any of them during the PAX East demo. I doubt the series has moved away from them, but I still would have liked to see some examples of new monsters or just improved graphics on the existing ones. They added a lot of depth to the combat beyond just shooting other guys with guns, so I wish at least one example had been present.

Metro: Last Light appears to be shaping up as a good shooter, but some aspects of it appear to be losing their way in order to broaden the game’s appeal. The gunplay might have been wonky in the last game, but a big part of the game was learning to adapt to it. The homemade guns were an aspect of the ruined world you were fighting in, and so I think they were an important part of the game’s immersion whether people liked it or not. Tweaking that so more people like it may get some more people to enjoy the game, but the reason this one got a sequel at all was because of the ways it made itself stand out in the previous game. The bad guns made players attack the game differently than they normally would in a shooter and created a whole different experience because of it. Most of the rest of the game seems to be shaping up nicely, but I really don’t know if improving the guns is a good idea. I guess we’ll just have to see what comes of it in the following months until release.

Joel Couture
Joel Couture
Joel Couture

MASH Veteran

A horror-obsessed gamer, Joel is still spending his days looking for something to scare himself as much as Fatal Frame. Even so, he has ridiculous action games and obscure gems to keep him happy in the meantime. A self-proclaimed aficionado of terrible retro games, he's always looking for a rotten game he hasn't played yet, and may be willing to exchange information for candy.

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