What was once a fresh and exciting new experiment from THQ is now a blockbuster first-person shooter (FPS) from Deep Silver. Times may have changed the situation in which Metro: Last Light arrives, but one thing remains the same: this is a videogame that has made its way to retail shelves through perseverance and the commendable attempt to create a compelling videogame experience, as opposed to simply copying the existing model. Metro: Last Light is light years ahead of the average modern FPS, pulling far closer towards BioShock than the continuous stream of military pseudo-simulations.
Metro: Last Light’s story is not one easily explained on paper (ironic considering the franchise started life as a novel) but the interactive nature of the videogame medium informs the player of that which went before and the present situation very quickly. You are a desperate man amongst many desperate men, and in order to save humanity you must bet your hands dirty, and not always in the way you’d hope. Liars, cheaters, cowards and thieves make up the masses of the metro system the human race now calls home, and those who you call your friends do not always see eye-to-eye.
The story of Metro: Last Light is delivered entirely through the first-person perspective. There are occasional cut-scenes, but rather than a virtual out-of-body experience Metro: Last Light simple wrestles control away from the players for a few moments to ensure that they are in the right path. It’s a simple technique, and one which has clearly been learnt from the forerunners of the story lead FPS genre.
In its pacing and the variety of its set-pieces Metro: Last Light is clearly from the Half-Life school of design. Breaking the experience into its different components reveals a videogame that was made in a simple combat-story-combat structure, but it’s the duration of each of these sequences that earns Metro: Last Light its greatest acclaim. Never once outstaying its welcome, the stealth based combat against human enemies forces the player to think before they act but never punishes them unfairly if they fail to do so. Taking a leaf out of Perfect Dark‘s book, stealth is advisable and easy to execute if you have the patience, though the skilled and nimble fingered are welcome to simply wade into battle hammering that R trigger.
Combat against the mutants is arguably weaker, but still enjoyable for the most part. A large variety of enemy types makes the player switch between tactics regularly, and only a handful of times does Metro: Last Light dare to throw the kill-all-enemies mechanic at the player, and even then only once with the annoying wolf-type creatures pouncing about with abandon.
Metro: Last Light could be considered a fairly short experience, certainly not as lengthy as the titles which have inspired it, but aside from a couple of moments in which it relies on worn gameplay design every minute of the adventure is of a high standard. Metro Gaming has always held firm to the fact that four hours of magic is better than thirty spent on run of the mill gameplay, and Metro: Last Light sticks closer to the former. It won’t take more than a couple of days to complete, but it’s a ride that’s certainly worth taking.
Set to launch later this week, Metro: Last Light is a successor worthy of the original Metro 2033 and an experience that establishes the franchise as one of the pioneers of the FPS genre. There have been few titles that blend story with gameplay so well, and that Metro: Last Light is one of them earns it accreditation as one of the best titles of the year, if not the current-generation of consoles. If you’re an FPS gamer looking to break the trend, Metro: Last Light is a videogame that should rank highly on your list of ‘must play’ titles.