It’s dark, the tunnels are cold and frightening, you’re travelling to the surface to confront whatever looming horrors await you. It’s grey up here, the cold wind blows ash, buildings are burnt to a crisp, the thick ash clouds hang high in the air. Quietly, you travel through a building, suddenly you’re attacked by mutants, there are many, too many! You are cornered – there is no running – you have to fight. You draw your weapon, unload into the Mutants and, against all odds, claim victory. You’re worried, you barely made it out alive.
You move further, stepping through the darkened world, your allies arrive and suddenly it’s time for battle. You see mutants flying from rooftops, you soon realize, what if the Mutants aren’t primitive, brutalized creatures, but evolved killing machines? They descend on your group, battle ensures, you know you can’t win, you have no chance. There is no victory for man in this world anymore.
When Hunter – an elite Metro ranger, the last source of justice and protection – reveals that mutants named “The Dark Ones” are responsible for several attacks in the Metro – many leaving death in their wake – you’re thrust into a journey to save the Metro. This is the last stand for humanity, you can’t afford to fail or the last light of man will go out forever.
Metro 2033 is the pinnacle of world building and atmosphere, it forces you to appreciate the story being told, thrusting you into a dark, stunningly realized nuclear future, and doesn’t let go. It’s a total experience of immersion – the feeling of dread, fear and desperation dwells inside this world and, after time playing, it will dwell in you too – it feels authentic, quality and gloomy. it’s now that you realize, you’re not in Call of Duty‘s New York, Deus Ex‘s London, or even BioShock‘s Berlin. With Metro 2033, you’re in Moscow baby!
This dark world is what makes the game. Metro 2033 wanted to tell a story, and it didn’t just want you to experience it, it wanted you to believe it. Your really feel like an inhabitant of this dark, depressing world, where you are exposed to the harsh realities of life in the Metro, and that there are real people relying on you, and they are being defined by your actions. This is such a rare occurrence in games, it’s brilliant to see a title that doesn’t rely purely on mindless, hollow action to get you through the game, but instead it uses it’s excellent, atmospheric world to get you through.
There are some genuinely tense and exhilarating moments in the game: When you transverse Moscow Library and must avoid detection from the ‘Librarians’, when you survive an attack on your cart by hordes of mutants, or when you sneak or blast your way through a battle between the Red Line and Pro Slavic Neo-Nazis, or even something as simple as when you finally reach a pocket of safety after travelling through the frightening Metro tunnels. It’s moments like these that justify playing Metro 2033, these are the moments I remember most fondly.
The graphics are also superb, they successfully combine the gritty, run down elements of the post-apocalyptic future with great lighting and visual effects. This enhances the world, and the graphics are first-class. It’s so detailed, it’s beyond ridiculous, with Metro stations being claustrophobic and exhibiting that classic ‘Lived in’ feel. Even when you leave the stations, the rustic, decaying look of the Metro is so unique, and the depressing, devastated surface being rich in great environmental effects and setting.
Metro 2033 is a first person shooter, but it has a lot of survival horror in its mutated DNA. Combat is stressful, with ammunition running low and the player often facing off against challenging enemies that are usually either better equipped or numerous then you, forcing you to use wit over firepower. When shooting your way out of a situation isn’t an option, this is where the stealth system comes into play, it combines a tense, dynamic stealth experience with the reactive, engaging environment. You can hide in the dark to avoid detection, or shoot out lights. This is the way stealth should be, being rewarded for doing clever things. This makes stealth a very viable choice, because it’s often impossible to compete with certain configurations of enemies. This creates the feeling that you aren’t an unstoppable badass, but instead just a regular guy who happens to be exposed to an extraordinary situation. This adds to the immersion, and reinforces the excellent atmosphere.
But if you do find yourself well-armed or forced into combat, it’s time to bring the pain. It encourages you to experiment, innovate, engage and enjoy. It offers a meaty combat experience with heavy, reactive weapons and powerful shots that combine the defining heaviness of the Metro-made Weapons and the precise, surgical strikes of the military grade firearms. Anyone that tells you the gameplay in Metro 2033 is bad, is wrong.
When we look back at games when we’re old and grey, I think Metro 2033 will remain a testament to what can be achieved through world building. Metro 2033 didn’t want to be a run-of-the-mill modern combat shooter, it wanted to send a message. It showed us the horrors of nuclear war and inspired us to get up and do something about it. If it’s an essay, or a conversation, we should all appreciate how talented the guys and girls are who make the game.
Metro 2033‘s combination of an immense world, outstanding visuals and gritty combat makes for an incredible experience that absolutely must be had. Believe me, when you enter the Metro, you’re going to submerge yourself in the fiction and atmosphere, and you won’t want to come up for (Irradiated) air.
-Rory Mullan. He’s new to the Low Fat Gaming team, go give him a follow @TheNomadProphet.
Want to hear more about Metro 2033? You can read survival-horror expert Bill Boreham’s Retrospective here, and stay tuned for our review of the sequel, Metro: Last Light, coming soon. As always, leave your thoughts on our Facebook page, or tweet us @LowFatGaming.