Metro: Last Light Review – Into the Tunnels Again
The biggest selling point of Metro: Last Light is the environment. Set in the ruins of the Moscow Metro, Last Light oozes atmosphere. The tunnels of the Metro are ruined and decrepit, and even in areas where a faction is quartered, it’s obvious that the battle the people are fighting against the elements and the monsters is far from a winning one. Inside the stations, the makeshift nature of Metro life is readily apparent. Kerosene lanterns provide light, people are scavenging almost anything they can find, and you’ll overhear people questioning all aspects of life. Weapons look and feel as if they were cobbled together from scavenged parts, even if they do work flawlessly. Venturing onto the surface is like walking into a living nightmare, and it always feels like you might not make it back.
Along the way, you’ll find yourself embroiled in a conflict between three factions — the Polis Rangers, the Nazi Fourth Reich, and the Red Line. The Rangers want to keep the peace in the Metro. The Fourth Reich wants to eliminate the mutants and the sick. The Red Line wants to consolidate all of the Metro under one Communist rule. The interplay between the factions, and the efforts each makes at attaining their goals, is the underpinning of the entire story surrounding the surviving Dark One.
While the story of Last Light is entertaining, it’s somewhat predictable. You’ll find yourself anticipating certain plot points long before they happen, although I did think a bigger twist was coming that never materialized. Still, it’s a competent tale, told in a manner with which gamers will be comfortable and familiar. Artyom advances through different Metro stations as the story progresses, but he also spends more time on the surface this time around. This means we see more of the Moscow ruins (including St. Basil’s Cathedral), and also that you spend more time creeping around trying to avoid the mutants that inhabit them.
Unfortunately, Last Light also incorporates some quick-time events. Get knocked down by a mutant, or grabbed by certain enemies, and you’ll be told to “quickly press E” in order to extricate yourself. There aren’t a ton of these moments, but every one of them is tedious and unnecessary.
While Last Light isn’t an RPG, it’s not just a shooter, either. It also incorporates some survival horror elements. Artyom will see flashbacks to pre-war days, be haunted and even grabbed by ghosts, and find himself in areas of the Metro where the barrier between real and unreal is perilously thin. This is another area where 4A gets the atmosphere just right. The tense mood is accentuated by Last Light’s lack of a traditional UI. While you will see an ammunition counter at times, there is no “health bar.” Instead, you’ll have to rely on Artyom’s heartbeat and blood in his vision to determine the state of your well-being. In the much-talked about Ranger Mode, the additional difficulty setting that was announced as a pre-order bonus (or a $5 DLC for those who didn’t pre-order) to much derision a few months back, the UI will be dispensed with entirely.
You’ll also have a few choices to make throughout the story. These aren’t presented as options on a dialogue wheel or a menu, but rather as the option to kill someone or simply knock them out. The interesting thing is that there’s a very short window in which to make these decisions, and no telling what may have happened if you had chosen differently, unless you play through a second time. This is a positive thing, as it adds to the urgency the whole game has spent time instilling in the narrative.
As you progress through Last Light, you’ll have to make a number of strategic decisions as to how you approach your missions, as well. Like Metro 2033 before it, Last Light is a bit stingy with ammunition. That means that the run-and-gun approach is a bit harder to sustain, although killing everyone in sight does provide you with a few more bullets than sneaking past them all. With a little patience, I was able to find routes through many areas in the game that didn’t require me to fight anyone at all.
A big part of these strategic decisions are the customizations you can make to your weaponry. You’re no gunsmith, but you can find one at the various Metro stations in the game. You’ll be able to attach silencers for stealth, longer barrels for accuracy, and stocks for stability, just to name a few. You can also scavenge weapons you find along the way, although you’re always limited to carrying three. However you choose to arm yourself, you’ll be greatly influenced by your personal style of play.