by Davneet Minhas, reviewed on
The Russian Underground
Walking through a Russian metro station as lead character Artyom in Metro 2033 is an experience much like Gordon Freeman’s introduction to City 17. You are given the impression that this is a living, breathing world, inhabited by people with unique stories and personalities.
But unlike City 17, the Russian metro contains less despair and oppression despite its claustrophobic nature: Two men listen to an old jazz record in their tight quarter, a married couple argue through a locked door, a father watches his young son draw colorful pictures on the concrete floor, and two women discuss flirtations with men while working in the kitchen. The crafting of such scenarios by 4A Games creates a palpable atmosphere in Metro 2033 that really immerses you in the game. In the case of metro stations, you are inundated by conversations and life from all sides. But outside these stations, the atmosphere is much more foreboding.
The tunnels that connect metro stations are solitary places, especially after the vibrancy of the stations. In the quiet darkness of these passageways, every little creak or piece of falling rubble creates tension, signifying the presence of nearby mutants. And that tension turns to frenzy when you hear their screams and see their dark outlines rushing towards you.
Stay With Me
Unfortunately, as much as 4A Games try to create a gripping atmosphere, they damage their efforts with immersion-breaking mechanics. Cut scenes in Metro 2033 inexplicably remove your control of Artyom, and sometimes even remove the camera from him altogether, giving the first-person shooter a third-person view. This can be especially frustrating during thrilling sequences in which you want to control Artyom as he is facing death.
Metro 2033, disappointingly, also incorporates stale quick-time events. If a mutant gets too close to Artyom in a certain situation, you have to pound a key to stab it with a knife. If Artyom starts to lose his grip on an unstable ladder, you have to pound a key to stop him from falling to his death. Not only do these events remove you from Artyom, they run contrary to the innovative and thoughtful mechanics that 4A Games has incorporated in Metro 2033.
Given the game’s post-apocalyptic setting, there are many places, including the surface, in which Artyom will need to use his gas mask. But this is no simple task. Wearing the mask distorts Artyom’s vision, giving the immediate landscape a grainy effect and severely blurring his peripheries.
The mask’s filter doesn’t last forever either, as evidenced by Artyom’s increasingly heavy breathing. Changing the filter when necessary is usually simple, provided you have an extra. But when you are fending off homicidal mutants and Artyom starts to breathe heavily, you will wish you were back inside with that quarrelling married couple. The gas mask can even crack beyond repair if Artyom takes too much damage, requiring you to quickly find another before it’s too late.
When moving through dimly-lit areas, Artyom has the option of using a flashlight or night vision goggles. Unfortunately, batteries are scarce in the metro, so you have to periodically wind a hand generator to maintain power to the two devices. If the generator loses all power, the flashlight will barely light the immediate floor and Artyom’s night vision goggles will cease working altogether. Much like the portable generator, pneumatic weapons must be pumped constantly to maintain adequate pressure. A fully pressurized gun can take down an enemy in one shot, whereas a pneumatic gun lacking pressure will have to be fired four or five times to do equivalent damage.
Such innovations are not revolutionary, but they really add to your immersion in the game world. Even a mechanic as simple as having to hit the reload key three times to fully reload the automatic shotgun deepens your experience.
Provides a phenomenal atmosphere.
Incorporates stale quick-time events.