I have been waiting for some semblance of a new Metro game ever since I finished Metro 2033 in all of its glory, and at PAX East I finally sated my hunger. First thing in the morning on Friday we made a beeline to the Metro area in the Nvidia booth, and I can say with confidence the game did not disappoint. Considering I only had a chance to play the demo of Metro: Last Light for about 25 minutes, I obviously can’t judge the entire game, but from what I’ve played it seemed like some changes for the better have been made in the world of Metro.
First I would like to point out the impressive new models for characters, enemies and architecture alike (there were no human enemies in the demo, only the mutated surface creatures). The enemy creatures especially had a new attention to detail that made me double take before I filled them full of sub machine gun ammo. The character/enemy models are presented in a much crisper, more detailed fashion than in Metro 2033, which is a pleasant surprise and welcome improvement over the drab and dull mutant models in the first installment. The character models saw the same enhancement, even down to lootable corpses.
Fans of the first game will feel right at home playing Metro: Last Light. The shooting and combat remained largely the same as the previous game, but subtle touches to the ambiance have added a much needed sense of distress (especially on the surface). Air filters don’t seemingly last forever anymore, as they need to be replaced about every 4-5 minutes (your mask can still break and need to be replaced, too), and the time that is left for safe breathing is still displayed on a handy wristwatch. The filters are also much more scarce than in 2033, lending the game more of a sense of resource management. Ammo seemed to be just about as frequent as in the previous game but at the same time enemies felt more abundant with sequences that had me fending off against at least 15 or more mutants at once. The overall feel of the world remained largely the same.
The only available weapon in the demo was the standard sub machine gun, which functioned largely the same as the one from 2033. The combat mechanics felt natural (even if I could only experiment with 1 gun) and the pacing was handled quite nicely with the story elements and slower portions of exploration provided throughout the demo. On the surface mutants attack from seemingly random locations, like inaccessible rooftops or a hole in the wall behind you, which really helps to convey the fact that the human characters in the Metro universe are at a disadvantage on the contaminated surface. Enemies sometimes will attack alone or in large groups, which make for some hectic firefights. Exploration is still rewarded, as well: air filters and ammo can be found on corpses or they might be tucked away in hidden alcoves and corners..
Subtle improvements to combat and extreme attention to detail really help to sell the atmosphere in Metro: Last Light. Even with an AI companion, the world and the overall ambiance of the game make you feel eerily alone in a large, desolate world. With the additions of shorter lifespans on air filters and less of them to find in the environment, Last Light really feels like a fight for survival. When you walk through the world of Metro: Last Light you can almost certainly expect to be pulled in and not let go until you force yourself to turn your system off.