In a day and age where first-person shooters are a dime a dozen, it can be difficult for developers to create games in the genre that stand out from the pack. Many shooters use big explosions and even bigger bad guys to cover up a weak story line, and most of the time copies still fly off of store shelves. Developer 4A Games released Metro: Last Light and proved that it doesn’t take the grandeur that FPSs are known for to make an immersive, memorable experience.
While Last Light doesn’t exactly turn its nose up to over-the-top theatrics, the most standout moments come from subtleties such as NPC background dialogue and wiping a mask off to clear a player’s field of vision. It’s in these details that drive the game forward and give it the rough personality people will recognize it for.
Last Light is a sequel to Metro: 2033 and follows Artyom, the original title’s main character, in his quest to rescue the last survivor of a strange species known as the Dark Ones, a race of creatures Artyom helped destroy in 2033. He has to compete with Communists and Nazis (because it’s not a true shooter without Nazis, right?) in order to get to the young Dark One and attempt to rescue the remaining humans that reside in the Metro with its unknown abilities.
The game handles like any other shooter, so Call of Duty and Halo players will immediately feel at home with the controls. What sets this game apart, though, is the survival horror elements it integrates into the experience, which demands players act sharp to stay alive. For example, there are environments in the game that require the use of a gas mask. If the mask is damaged too much or the player runs out of filters for the mask, Artyom dies. This proves to be quite a task to take on when a pack of giant, mutated rats are gnawing on your face.
This is where stealth comes into the game. By staying in dark places, crouching or flanking enemies, certain sneak attacks can be used to quietly subdue foes and generate no attention. Most areas offer means to outwit or avoid baddies, so the clever player will always be rewarded.
Other small steps that need to be taken for survival include regularly charging your flashlight, switching badly damaged gas masks and wiping your mask when blood or mud spatters onto it, which obscures vision.
While being frustrating at times, these fine adjustments add a sense of realism and urgency to Last Light that future survival horror shooters should take note of. Last Light finds a pleasant balance with these mechanics and adds just enough difficulty without making the game feel like one big chore.
Gun selection is limited, but the weapons available can be customized in numerous ways such as laser sights or adding a silencer. These customizations can either add firepower or make it easier to remain unnoticed among many enemies. Guns can also be scavenged from fallen foes, and any customizations on a foraged gun will be displayed before it is taken. Players can carry up to three guns with them at a time, and an array of side weapons, such as grenades and throwing knives, bulk up your inventory.
On Last Light’s normal difficulty, certain parts can be a challenge, but is never too easy or hard. Ranger mode offers heightened difficulty and can be purchased on the PS3 store for five USD. Last Light takes about 10-13 hours and awards players for exploring areas with extra ammo, filters and story line notes to be collected.
Enemy intelligence is nothing to write home about and in a few times during my play experience an enemy failed to spot me when I was in plain sight, only inches away from them. Glitches can also be found in both enemies and environment but they are small and infrequent enough to forgive.
Presentation in this game is incredible and takes the small details enforced by the gameplay and gives them a place in both the environment and story line.
One of the most impressive aspects of this lies within NPC interactions, whether it is between Artyom or the NPCs themselves. A few times in the game Artyom will be taken to a city. Here players can buy ammo or guns and can customize the weapons they already own, but the real draw comes from the inhabitants of these run down places. Upon entering these cities a loud bustle of conversation can be heard, and when Artyom walks close enough to NPCs they can hear, in detail, what the people are saying. These interactions aren’t mandatory for the game, but they can offer clues that will help players in their travels or can offer insight into “Last Light’s” story. Conversations can go for three minutes and beyond, which shows how much effort 4A Games put into this game’s voice acting.
Other environmental details such as howls in the distance, screams coming from a room over or skeletons on a crashed plane create an eerie vibe that builds in intensity as the game progresses. The music is minimal, but adds to the creepy wasteland and tunnels being traversed. Sounds move along the game more than anything, which helps build the realism founded by the gameplay early on.
The story line is interesting and has a few twists and turns that players will have mixed feeling about. A variety of dreams, flashbacks and assorted visions give a surreal feeling to players but leads to a fulfilling ending that can be seen in one of two ways.
In all, Metro: Last Light is much more than your average shooter. Obscure interactions help fill the game with personality and puts players in Artyom’s shoes. Some minor glitch issues, average AI and a small weapon selection take away from the game, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Last Light proves that shooters don’t have to be all about the guns and uses realism to draw gamers down into the gritty underbelly of the Metro.
Small details help Last Light shine bright.