Step down below- again
The post-apocalypse has got to be one of the most used settings in video game history. Whether it be via alien invasion, meteor impact, zombie outbreak, or any number of other terrible fates, there’s something about the downfall of civilization and video games that go together like chocolate and peanut butter. While many games opt to use this as an excuse to let you run around and blow everything up in a testosterone-fueled rampage, 4A Games’ Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, based on the novel of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky, focus more on the quiet and creepy side of post-nuclear war Russia.
The combination ended up being a winning one, earning both critical and customer praise. And now, four years after the original Metro 2033 and a year after Metro: Last Light, the Ukrainian developer has released a re-mastered version of both. While the games are only being sold as a package of both titles on consoles, PC players have the option of picking up the pack, or snagging each one up individually. This review will only cover the Last Light Redux half of the package, while you can head over to Jonathan Irwin’s review to see how Metro 2033 Redux turned out (spoiler: it turned out awesome).
For those that weren't aware of Metro: Last Light its first time around, the game is a direct sequel to Metro 2033, with the plot being set forth by the last moments of 2033 (note that while 2033 ends in a choice, Last Light picks one of the endings to use as canon). Russia has been decimated by nuclear war, and the only way people were able to survive was to turn the underground metro system into makeshift settlements. Above ground, animals have mutated into horrific beasts, and mysterious psychic beings called the Dark Ones lurk both above ground and below. In Metro 2033: Last Light (and therefore in Metro: Last Light Redux) the monsters aren’t the only danger, as different factions from Neo-Nazis to Commies and beyond are all duking it out for a doomsday device in a civil war for control of Russia’s remains. It’s up to Artyom, the player character, to learn more about the still-mysterious Dark Ones and try to keep relative peace throughout the metro. I really enjoyed the narrative. While the plot itself isn’t terribly original, the world and characters are expanded in the way a good movie sequel grows things not simply for growth’s sake, but to make the player feel even more like they’re in a living, breathing place (or in this case, a barely breathing one, on the brink of death place).
Bridging the Franchise
What makes Last Light shine isn’t how many things go boom or how many monsters get pumped full of lead. I mean there’s definitely action, and when it’s there it is satisfying, but where the game series as a whole really succeeded was in creating a palpable atmosphere dense with despair, anxiety, and powerlessness. In some ways Last Light improved on the immersion of Metro 2033 through fully first person cut scenes, expanding the game’s universe, and greatly improved graphics that brought out each spiderweb and puddle of mud. However some people - including myself - thought that the actual gameplay was a step in the wrong direction. The game lost some of its survival horror elements in favor of an increased focus on fighting. Bullets were easier to come by, keeping track of gas mask filters wasn’t as pressing, and there was less time of quiet wandering. I suppose that’s personal preference, regardless of which style of gameplay jives with you more but there’s no doubt that it at least created some disconnect between 2033 and Last Light.
Let’s you play it as a survival horror game, setting and mood are fantastically dense, and the game still looks and sounds good.
There just isn’t enough added or improved content for those that already played the game and didn’t mind it’s more action-oriented style.