Preview: Metro: Last Light

May 31, 2012

At THQ’s pre-E3 showcase last week, Rocket Chainsaw was also given a glimpse of one of the publishers yet-to-be-released dark horses – Metro: Last Light. First teased at last year’s E3, the not-quite-FPS will be navigating a path to Xbox 360, PS3 and PC later in 2013, with a Wii-U version also on the table.

Developers 4A Games have set a strict design document for their direct continuation of Metro: 2033. In a world dominated by bland military shooters, the makers hope to fight off what they label the genre ‘fatigue’ and deliver a memorable single player adventure, with a focus on narrative and player immersion. As such, Metro 2033 splices together a raft of gameplay elements – combat, survival horror, exploration and even some light role-playing.

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As the recent live-action trailer shows, what remains of the human population has escaped to the underground metro network to flee a world devastated by nuclear fallout. A toxic atmosphere had made the earth all but unliveable, and only momentary trips across the scarred surface are possible – with the assistance of a gas mask and an armoury to repel mutated creatures roaming the urban decay.

Nightmarish beasts won’t be the players only opposition. Survivors are constantly bickering over scarce resources, and bandits will just as quickly be out to deprive your precious armaments. As the developers have reinforced, every commodity single such as light, air and weapons is extremely precious and must be scavenged and defended.

This mindset aptly sets the frame for the start of our gameplay demonstration.  You again reprise the role of Metro: 2033‘s central character, Artyom, but knowledge of the previous adventure certainly isn’t needed to play the sequel. Our character and his companion have a dire objective – to cross Moscow’s treacherous wastelands to reach the next safe haven. We start out by foraging around the environment, collecting bullets and oxygen to sustain our perilous journey.

Just as in Metro: 2033, players are equipped with firearms that appear more like antiques than the military-grade hardware other games’ have made us accustomed too. Nevertheless, these functional weapons are more than appropriate to the game’s resource-poor apocalyptic setting. Further, your oxygen mask requires a continual supply of air, as indicated by a countdown timer on your wrist. The countdown serves as a constant remainder of your invulnerability, and further immerses you in a world where survival is a continual battle. Fresh batches of oxygen can be found lying  throughout the level, but with a finite supply, tension mounts and you cannot lingering around for a more than a second.

As we leave a darkened room with but five minutes of air on the clock, we are presented with our first glimpse of the scarred Moscow’s landscape, and indeed, the visual prowess of the game’s engine. Players witness the nuclear destruction firsthand, with what was once a lively habitat transformed into a living nightmares. Darkened clouds and brief sparks of lightening populate a dismal sky, while the destroyed husks of towers and remains of a nuclear winter litter as far as the eye can see. Sunlight occasionally pieces the gloomy atmosphere, and rain drizzles the desolate ground. This vision offers a compelling portrayal of a post-apocalyptic setting, entombing players in a haunting atmosphere similar to our experiences in Dead Space.

Creeping through a darkened tunnel, we are suddenly attacked by a mutated animal. Just are we are about to be devoured by a mouthful of sharp teeth, Artyom fires a shotgun point-blank. Blood and gore splatter over the oxygen mask, but the filth is quickly wiped from the visor and we are back on our feet. Steering clear of any more mutated animals, we discovered the remains of a crashed aeroplane. The craft is still populated with the bodies of its doomed victims. As we move through the grave, Artyom flashes back to the moments before the plane met its fiery demise. We visualise the passengers in their seats, and the final harrowing moments as the pilots loose control and nuclear explosions begin hitting Moscow. These scripted events will occasionally punctuate the story, giving the narrative a greater context and allowing players to experience the devastation wrought by the nuclear fallout.

The rest of the presentation demonstrates the action-orientated side of the Metro: Last Light and more traditional shooter gameplay. After killing a demonic flying monster, we stray right into the middle of the same mutated animals we encountered earlier. The creatures are alerted to us this time, so Artyom and his companion hightail it to safety of the underground, an escort of flamethrower-equipped guards eventually coming to the rescue.

There ended our viewing time with Metro: Last Light. Though we had but the slightest glimpse at the game, the demo encapsulated everything that we were hoping for – a compelling narrative, stunning visuals and engaging gameplay. Keep your browser tuned to Rocket Chainsaw in the coming weeks for more information on Metro: Last Light.