Metro: Last Light Hands-On Preview: Into the Darkness Again

I’m crouched in the darkness, surrounded by hideous mutants and hostile humans, trying to plan a way to take them all out with a minimum of noise. I don’t have much time to plan, because my gas mask filters are running out. It’s not the end of the world; it’s just Metro: Last Light. I was a huge fan of Metro 2033, so I was hoping that the sequel would live up to the original. I got the chance to sit down and play about 45 minutes of Metro: Last Light this weekend at PAX East, and based on what I saw, it looks like Deep Silver is on the right track.

The demo I was shown began about a third of the way into the game. I’m back in the shoes of Artyom, who is worried that his choice to eliminate the Dark Ones may not have been the best course after all. If you didn’t choose to eliminate the Dark Ones at the end of Metro 2033, well, sorry. The game starts from that point and progresses onward. There’s no importing of your previous save, and no option to choose the ending you picked in the first game.

Right away, Last Light feels exactly like 2033. The tunnels of the Moscow Metro feel just as crumbling and dangerous as they always did. The run down feel that everything had in 2033 is still present, and the PC build I played looked outstanding. The rig I was playing on was top of the line, so I can’t speak as to how it might run on mere mortal machines. Still, if you’ve got the hardware to run it, you’re going to love the way it looks.

Since I was dropped in part of the way through the story, I’m not sure how the story progresses beyond what I have already mentioned. When I began playing, Artyom was trying to make his way from one underground settlement to the other,  picking his way through both human and mutant foes.

Weapons still look like something that could be cobbled together in your garage, and ammunition for those weapons is still precious. I started out with a silenced pistol. Using it, I progressed stealthily, which helped conserve a lot of ammo. Headshots are a must, and you need to be sure that no other enemies can see your target as they are quick to sound the alarm. Even though I found an AK-47 and bullets, they were quickly exhausted when my attempts at stealth failed and heavily-armored enemies showed up.

Before long, I’d reached a friend who told me to take his railcar, complete with bright lights and an engine. Riding along the rails and picking off mutants is still lots of fun, and the inevitable blockage forces you to leave the relative safety of the car to connect power and open doors. One of these sequences provided the most evident look at how Last Light embodies survival horror.

A door was preventing me from proceeding down the tracks, and after leaving the car, I could see the switch wasn’t powered. Heading through a nearby door, I found myself in a room covered in heavy cobwebs. Taking out my lighter, I was able to burn back some of the cobwebs, but as soon as I got a bit further into the room I was set upon by large, spider-like mutants. They’re extremely fast and resilient, and you’ll be tempted – as I was – to shoot them up. However, if you charge your flashlight, the spiders will retreat from it, and if you can keep them in the light it will actually kill them outright. Trying to keep your light pointed at the spider in front of you and hearing the skittering sounds of another approaching behind you makes for some tense moments, and you can quickly use up a lot of bullets if you aren’t careful.

Overall, the demo of Metro: Last Light only reinforced the idea that 4A Games is building on the successes of Metro 2033. With its blend of survival horror, FPS gameplay, and (light) RPG mechanics, the game feels tight, and the PC controls worked well. It does seem as though movement and reloading are faster than they were in 2033, but it’s difficult to nail down how that might affect gameplay so far. Regardless, Last Light is shaping up to be another great game, and it’s definitely one that’s on my list of must-have titles releasing this year.

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