Preview: Metro: Last Light

April 30, 2013

It’s very hard to keep some first person shooters down. Despite the closure of former series publisher THQ last year, Metro: Last Light has managed to persevere in development and is nearing release to the non-post apocalyptic world. Rocket Chainsaw was able to get a look at the very close to final version of the game before its proper release in mid-May. Did we too find some light in the darkness at last?Read on and find out.

For the uninitiated, Metro: Last Light  follows on from its predecessor Metro 2033. Set in Moscow after the apocalypse, the world is plagued by poison that fills the skies and rains down on the populace, turning people and animals alike into mutants who turn on their former species. Last Light is set in the very near future and also dabbles in some alternate history, as the Nazis have been revived and are among the human threats you must combat as Artyom, a young Russian who seems to have some kind of affinity with the mutated Dark Ones. Much of the previous game’s plot is nicely recapped before you launch into the proper action.

The real meat of our playtest began at a short tutorial at a shooting range, giving players a feel for the different kinds of weapons you have at your disposal, with the standard rifles, machine guns and sidearms being pretty close to what you’d expect from a first person shooter. As well as this you are given some special military rounds. The rounds are high-powered versions of the kinds of ammunition you’ll find sparingly when you start the game proper. Beyond ammo and the first aid kits, you’ll also receive a gas mask and some filters. The gas masks are crucial when you make your visits to the surface, with its poisonous air which can mutate and outright kill. You’re required to manually switch filters over when they run out, as indicated by your wristwatch.

And indeed, your watch proves to be both the simplest and one of the most important items in the game. Besides providing a countdown timer for your gas mask filters and giving a real-world time, it also has a special light indicator. When it lights up, it’s a sign that you are exposed and standing within a source of light, while having it go dark shows that you’re out of the light. Besides being a thematic element through the game’s plot, the use of light and dark is also a defining gameplay mechanic in Last Light – depending on the situation, it can condemn you or be your savior. When facing off against human enemies, stepping into the light will allow them to see you if they’re looking in your direction. In such situations it’s often the best course of action to take them out quickly and quietly from behind before they alert any of their comrades to your presence. Should you get close enough for a sneak attack you can choose to either kill or incapacitate them, with the latter offering up various achievements/bonuses for going through levels without fatalities. Of course, you can also shoot out lights and turn others off to make your efforts run even smoother.

When it comes to humans darkness is your friend, but if you tussle with the mutants and Dark Ones it can prove to be fatal. One notable part of our playtest saw us attacked by some big scorpion and spider-like mutants who thrived in the darkness. However, by using our bullet lighter and flashlight we were able to keep them at bay and in some cases actually hurt them, to the point where they would crumble into darkness. If you’ve ever played the excellent Alan Wake you’ll recognize it as a comparable mechanic.

The game’s overall atmosphere has quite the juxtaposition of atmosphere. When you are right on the surface, you’re beset by natural light and views of a world in ruin. It has an almost eerie stillness about it. On the other hand, descending into the tunnels can often be filled with gloom and a real cramped feeling. Despite not having to use your gas mask underground, it feels much, much more dangerous as there are points when you really don’t know what will be lurking around the next corner or at the end of a tunnel you are crawling through.

Metro: Last Light is definitely looking to ramp up what its predecessor did while also bringing a couple of new touches. The skillful use of light for thematic and gameplay reasons, pervasive atmosphere and enjoyable playing experience are all combining for a game we here at RC will definitely be looking forward to once it is released mid-May. Just be sure to keep the lights on – or, in some cases, off.