Game Review: Metro 2033
Release: March 16 (NA) March 19 (EU)
Genre: Survival Horror/ Shooter
Developer: 4A Games
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
ESRB Rating: M
Metro 2033 represents what happens when foreign literature and western videogame conventions collide. To begin to describe it would be to spoil the review, but in introduction I must warn you ahead. Metro 2033 is a defining game, it is unique, more unique than any other shooter I have ever seen before. It borrows heavily, yet continuously reinvents and adds new layers of fine crispy first-person goodness. The flaws and finesse may be in perfect harmony, so much so that Metro remains a masterpiece. As you’ve probably heard from other reviews, the game has many, many flaws, but I will peel back this criticism and see whether the critiques are worthy.
Metro 2033 tells the story of a book of the same title, by Dmitry Glukhovsky, a tale set in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, Russia. In actual real life fact, the metro stations in Moscow were built to contain human life in the event of a nuclear outbreak. You play as Artyom, a young man born in the station of ‘Exhibition’, tasked by your soldier idol to deliver a message in the event of his disappearance. Alongside Nazis and Communists, you must fight the ‘Dark Ones’, the next step in evolution. Other habitants of the new nuclear wonderland are also against you.
You will need to journey across the Metro to seek the cure to the problems that face you station, and all of humanity. Metro tells all of this story by letting you pace through the streets of stations, creep down Communist Metro tunnels, give bullets to the homeless and many other techniques. It’s a first-person shooter, quite a traditional one, with elements from Far Cry 2. The element here is immersion and atmosphere, with little HUD and more emphasis on getting to your destination than exploring the subway caves. It’s a linear title too, but one that uses linearity to its full capacity, linearity can never be a game’s downfall unless down wrongly.
Metro 2033 takes all the past ideals of modern day first-person shooters and runs into foreign land. The themes go hand in hand, atmosphere and immersion taking center-stage alongside a revealing story. At times, I was so enveloped into the ruins of a Metro system, that I forgot I was playing a videogame. This immersion is really on the level of Far Cry 2, and it’s only boosted by the further impacts the game shoves into your loving faces. The currency exchange is a new, interesting concept. Basically, you trade bullets, before the war. Homemade bullets are of poor quality, but pre-blast ammunition is scarce and valuable, making it the ideal currency. You can change your ammo types with a quick hold of the reload button, and it’s always clear what you’re blowing into faces. The faces you blow into a dynamic, and fit the aesthetics perfectly. The plot seems to go hand in hand with linearity, shoving you down a clear path and dancing with your mind. It ends on a very powerful note, albeit a cliffhanger, and the split endings aren’t a strict choice of ‘killing all humans’ and ‘saving the world’, it’s a very grey ending. One that will probably be debated.
The only things that Metro doesn’t do well is the level of how it tries to fit videogame conventions into this world. Shooting is traditional, recoil makes guns fly, it takes ten homemade bullets to kill anyone compared to just 3 with the pre-war blast ammo. It ends up becoming annoying because headshots seem to function randomly. There’s a choice to go in stealthily, but it always ended in a bloodbath for me. No matter how well hidden I was, when I killed one guy, everyone just seemed to know where I was. One intense shootout in a guardpost led to me running around sucking up all the ammo and dodging the five shots that my character can absorb before dying. It’s not all candies and lollipops too with the aesthetics; facial animation and animation in general looks like plasticine, it is a new studio after all, some of the textures are very basic and sometimes it just has that ‘cheapness’ factor to it. Your viewpoint is Artyom, who speaks no words except in the interludes and to other people (where the whole conversation is blocked). I can see they wanted so much immersion they basically wanted to put the player in Metro, but it seems like a cop-out. It’s like playing Half-Life 2 and having Gordon speak, but only outside of what the player experiences.
Metro 2033 is one of the most visceral and surreal experiences, only let down by the near-ending level. I can’t beat Metro. The section near the end has respawning enemies, which hurt you when you kill them, and can hurt you if you don’t kill them. It’s a stupidly designed area that spoiled the game for me, and I had to watch the ending on Youtube.
Nevertheless, for every dark moment in the game there is a masterpiece of first-person gold. The hallucination sequences are very well done, on the level of Batman Arkham Asylum’s ‘Scarecrow’ levels, the destroyed vistas seen through cracks of your gas mask, as condensation creeps in just paints the palette of the world around you. For every bad voice actor, or early issues with dialogue, there’s a shining line or character which just makes it all the more better. This videogame isn’t meant to be played as a shooter, it’s just meant to be observed and experienced.
Nath’s final say: Metro 2033 stands on foreign soil, 4A games themselves are Ukrainian based, and it seems that the escapism is tuned to the max. The shooting doesn’t hold up that well, there’s some slight AI issues and some of the early plot expression comes across quite cheaply. In the end, I had fantastic fun with Metro 2033, I came out a whole lot better. This was a great, strong impression of what we can expect of such a small developer, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.