- Editor's Rating
- Rich and moody environments
- Tense, claustrophobic atmosphere
- Plays with smart themes
- Shooting is improved but standard fare
- Some frustrating moments with mechanics
- Occasional freezes and minor technical issues
Quick TakeMetro: Last Light is an intelligent, richly detailed first-person shooter, but its average gunplay keeps it from being as good as it could be.
At its best moments, playing Metro: Last Light feels like suffocating.
The sequel to developer 4A Games’ cult hit Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light is a mechanically competent, occasionally frustrating and altogether tense first-person shooter. And like its predecessor, its best qualities are more aesthetic than mechanical.
Its post-apocalyptic Russian setting, which is based on the ‘Metro’ series of novels from author Dmitry Glukhovsky, is still the star of the show. It sees protagonist Artyom and a makeshift society of nuclear war survivors struggling to rebuild their lives in the underground Russian tunnels. It’s always dark. Above the surface, the world is a wasteland, grayer-than-grey and absolutely dead – save for the mutated animals and monsters that roam its swamps.
This is a world that evokes that mysterious, “lived-in” feeling, the kind that naturally intrigues by only giving glimpses of what life is like within. Last Light takes players to the Metro’s brand of military bunkers, political rallies, theaters, strip joints, monster-infested catacombs and more for only snippets of time, passing them by like dreary exhibitions on a museum field trip. It’ll make players want to learn more about how this all came to be. It becomes even more of a wonder when playing the game with only Russian dialogue.
There’ll be people drinking and laughing in dirty bars, vendors trying to make a quick buck, downtrodden families huddling together and begging for aid, old men telling stories of old days to clueless kids. 4A Games packed an intense level of detail into the Metro’s various stations, which is helped in no small part by the game’s gorgeous looks. Even on TG‘s Xbox 360 copy, Last Light is a thing of bleak beauty.
Last Light is a smart game, even if the interesting bits are hidden underneath some familiarities. Its plot centers on the fractured political factions within the Metro and a threat of war between them. There’s the commies, the Nazis, and the capitalists. This is a game for Western markets, so one can guess who the bad guys are. Artyom is in the middle of the whole thing, and has to save the Metro from imploding unto itself. Not surprisingly, achieving peace involves killing a lot of people.
But everything is in the details. That war above is consistently referred to as “inevitable,” and Last Light is positively Walking Dead-ish in its thematic commitment to the follies of men. Nuclear toys destroyed Last Light’s old world, yes, but it also gave its survivors a fresh start. And yet, here they are again, putting their faith in ideologies and megalomaniacs, killing and starving each other for manufactured ideals. Even the player, as Artyom, does little more than pointing and shooting at men with different hats. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This world looks and feels diseased, and it has the soldiers to match. For the most part, it’s thoughtfully done. There’s a few well-written twists here that should genuinely catch players off-guard too.
As a quick aside, it has to be noted that Last Light’s is a man’s world. There’s literally one woman here that exhibits any sort of agency here through the game’s ten-hour campaign, and even she becomes a sexual reward for the player upon making it to the end of the game. Everyone else is either a nobody, a stripper or one woman who almost gets raped. They don’t talk much. Does this fit with Last Light’s themes of society naturally destroying itself? Kind of. Would it be nice to see this game not be such a dudefest? Definitely.
Either way, Last Light’s narrative ambitions are trapped within a totally ordinary first-person shooter. The gunplay here is most similar to a cheaper Killzone; it’s weighty, slow-moving and grim. The weapons are standard – there’s the shotgun, the pistol, the sniper, the assault rifle, the better assault rifle, some grenades to throw, whatever. These can be modded with the usual upgrades. TG put a silencer on its sawed-off shotgun and didn’t really have to look back. There are a few setpieces – an on-rails shooting section here, another one there – but those are also too familiar to be notable.