Metro 2033 is based on a Russian novel of the same name. The novel was previously only available in Russian but an English version will be released soon to coincide with the game’s release. Before I go into the good and bad to this game I want to let you know that Metro 2033 has a place in my heart for what it did right. In a time where every game has to even be open ended or just a complete sandbox, it’s a nice feeling to play a game that walks with you the whole time creating a compelling narrative without having to hold your hand. The debut effort from 4a Games should not be overlooked as it is an atmospheric shooter with some flaws that hold it back from being amazing.
The game sees you take the role of Artyom, who lives in the Moscow Metro. Humanity is on the brink of extinction and due to wars the surface is peppered with radiation. Normal civilisation has become nothing more than a legend. The surfaced has been surrendered to the mutations of the radiation. Humanity though has just discovered an even bigger threat and it is up to Artyom to leave the most northern station and get to Polis to inform everyone of the threat. As he progresses on his journey, he begins to hear voices and witness surreal events.
The game can sometimes feel like it’s holding your hand but to be honest that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With a lot of games now talking a more open world role, it’s refreshing once again to return to the corridor like shooters. The story is what keeps you intrigued if you’re not interested too much in more linear shooters. The story is extremely deep and takes you throughout the Moscow Metro, even above ground for a few little missions. It is survival horror at heart but that’s not say that it is the only aspect of the game. The survival horror in Metro 2033 isn’t as strong as you’d expect. Sure you may jump a few times but it’s because of cheap pops. It can feel claustrophobic at times but that really just comes down to the level design in some cases.
The developers decided to use darkness to convey some of the horror and compactness. It seems to make sense because it’s underground and it’s almost the end of the world but they seem to use it nearly all the time thus rendering the darkness as a horror mechanic useless. Switching it up and bring other mechanics into it may have made the game more scary. May if the added a big enemy to run from or something else to make you jump and say, “That’s new”, but most of the time you’ve seen it before. The game though is still very original, it’s just the horror aspect that grew tiring.
Probably the best part of Metro 2033 is the atmosphere. The game’s story is a work of fiction but there are many things that make it eerily plausible. If you’ve ever even looked at the Moscow underground you will see that it is gargantuan in size. The stations could be used as places to habituate. When walking through the stations in the game they really make it come to life. Children are running around or writing on the walks. People are gathered near a fire and some people are looking for some change to eat. The sense of humanity’s desperation and it’s struggle of survival is apparent in every single place you visit.
When travelling from one station to the next is when the atmosphere really takes control. The levels are dark, moody and tense. The technical brilliance of Metro 2033 lends itself very well to creating the atmosphere. The lighting is amazing and at times it can be one of the best looking games out there. The atmosphere is complete with the great use of sound. The music can really grow the suspense until a sharp cue is heard and leaves your heart racing. Encounters can be tense but never really scary. This really is down to the dumb A.I.
The A.I. on the human characters can really be pretty terrible at times. They are completely indecisive. They will run from one cover to the next without even taking a shot at you. Sometimes though they will even just stand out in the open ready to be shot at. Thankfully though the mutations are smarter. They will run at you at be pretty aggressive regularly leaving you to retreat and try make some space between them and you. They’re not perfect though. A few times I did encounter times when they just stood there like their human counterparts. It is most due to the dumb A.I. that the horror aspect never really takes off.
Unfortunately there is something else that really dampens the whole experience and that’s the controls. Compared to the rest of the game it is really disappointing. They are awkward and just don’t feel natural at all. My advice to you is to play around with the control settings before really getting into the game. The controls are not broken but they aren’t really good at all. Do not be thrown off by the controls because they just take some time to get used to and everything the game has to offer is worth seeing.
With a mountain of first person shooters out there it is hard for one game to stand out against another but the atmosphere and storytelling is enough to divulge into Moscow Metro. There is another major gameplay feature that is unique and that is the gas mask. The mask is used to go through uninhabitable areas due to the radiation. The graphical effects are pretty impressive. You use you watch to see how much longer you can use the mask for before filtering it. The longer you leave it the more condensation that builds up on the visor and makes it harder to see. When taking hits wearing the mask, it cracks and eventually breaks causing you to look for another mask somewhere. It is an extremely interesting concept that leaves me thinking of the possibilities that concepts like that could be taken advantage of in future games.
The watch also includes an indicator of three lights which are used to determine whether you are visible to human enemies or not. Stealth is never really implemented and even when it is it isn’t executed extremely well. Not that it doesn’t work, it just isn’t followed through well enough. You can turn off oil lamps to make the place darker but nothing more than that is used for stealth purposes.
Though the game isn’t perfect I feel it certainly shouldn’t be missed. It sometimes feels like Half-Life, other times it feels slightly like Bioshock but trust me it is original enough to warrant a playthrough. You won’t be disappointed, granted you get over it’s slight flaws.