There are reviews of Metro: Last Light that praise it for its unique take on the post-apocalypse, pitting the user into the Moscow Metro and showing after-the-disaster survival from the Russian perspective. It’s hardly unique in this respect, however, as neither a story nor a computer game. Last Light is merely the latest in a slew of post-apocalyptic adventures that have rolled out of Russia in the last decade or so, and it cannot really hold a candle to the accomplishments of the vast Stalker series. It is, however, an enjoyable and immersive game in its own right.
First person shooting on the rails
Last Light is the sequel to surprisingly atmospheric (and challenging) Metro 2033, based on the book by Dmitri Glukhovsky. Like the first game, and the book, its dedication to a story that follows the tracks of the underground railway leads to a very linear approach to storytelling. It’s a rather uneven tale of an Odyssey that relies heavily on written narrative. The player’s actions have little consequence (other than surviving the current task), and it’s near impossible to stray off the required path. Some areas are even flatly inaccessible, for instance side-paths and doorways that appear passable but are not.
That being said, this linear style isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gives the game full control over its atmosphere, after all, like a well-designed haunted house that can spring the most effective surprises by knowing exactly where you are and when. And the action allows variety in other ways, with the wide option of weapons and customisations, and open combat scenarios where stealth or direct assault are an option. Combat does still fall a little flat when you’re faced with the monsters of the game, though; these creatures can be horrible and terrifying when they’re stalking you, but once they’re out in the open survival becomes something of a mess of button mashing.
Becoming a part of Metro: Last Light…
Those nitpicking points are the flaws of the game, but its real strength is in the atmosphere it creates. Last Light is of a high quality in appearance, a much more mainstream gaming success than the eclectic Stalker series, and as an action romp it’s difficult to fault. As with the first game, the use of lights, gas masks and filters, and the scarcity of ammunition, make survival a real challenge, and the strange hallucinations and dark creatures that pervade the Metro give it an undeniably creepy atmosphere.
Most notable of all, though, Metro Last Light makes fantastic use of sound. It’s a real mark of how successful it is when you notice the ambient noises more than anything else in the game. The monsters can be heard long before they appear, the structures around you drip and groan. And the musical score adapts based on what you’re doing; stray into the light of a guard’s headlamp, and the music suddenly becomes very tense. This is a game that builds sound into its design brilliantly, and as such really draws you into the survival atmosphere.
Metro Last Light doesn’t rise to the grandeur of the epic Stalker games, with a fairly short, and generally restricted, story. But it succeeds in its own right as an entertaining first person shooter that does the post-apocalyptic genre justice, with a highly engaging terse atmosphere.