Back to the Sewers

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Metro: Last Light was one of this year’s happiest E3 surprises. Its predecessor, Metro: 2033 was a solid game. Sara (Cyn) loved it, praising its mix of action and survival horror elements. Although I wasn’t able to finish it (though, after seeing Metro: Last Light, finishing the first game has become priority number one), I loved how different the experience was compared to other shooters. The game managed to gain a cult following, so I was surprised to see a sequel so soon.

Although it wasn’t playable on the show floor, I was able to check out a 15-minute preview, showcasing a few of the mission types scattered throughout the game. Last Light takes place after Metro 2033. Surface radiation has dropped, allowing people to venture out into the sunlight for a couple of minutes without risk of extreme contamination. However, most of humanity is still holed up in the sewer system and resources are becoming even more scarce, leading to an escalation in the civil war.

The demo opened with Artyom, Metro 2033’s protagonist, entering the sewers. Almost immediately, I was struck by how amazing the visuals look. It was something that would carry on through the rest of the demo, but Metro: Last Light manages to capture all of the best elements of a theme park dark ride. It is hard to not get sucked into the atmosphere developer 4A Games is building for its post-apocalyptic world. It is dark, moody and full of usually overlooked details.

The first part of the demo focused on stealth sections. Light is incredibly important; the tunnel was crawling with guards and the slightest of shadow would be enough to give Artyom’s position away, spoiling his infiltration mission. Once again, the lighting effects are stunning and it is cool that you can affect the lighting. Artyom can shoot out or unscrew light bulbs, but I was even more impressed when he shot a boiling pot. The water spilled out of the pot, dousing the flames below. It was enough to bring back memories of the old Splinter Cell games where you had to account for every light source in the room when attempting a stealthy entrance.

Stealth is just one part of Metro: Last Light’s gameplay. The next section showed Artyom following a fellow soldier, Khan, through a rally for the game’s main group of bad guys, The Reich. Artyom pushed through the crowd as a charismatic speaker tried to fire up the crowd. The grey-haired partner gives a signs for an attack on the speaker, kicking off a firefight.

Gunplay was not one of Metro: 2033’s strong points. It was clumsy and a bit awkward. I wasn’t able to get my hands on the controller, so I can’t verify it for myself, but 4A Games has tightened the shooting mechanics. Watching the demo, the presenter was able to hit a few well-placed clutch shots in both the stealth and action segments.

After a short shootout, Artyom made his way to a chase sequence that, really, you have to see to believe. The sense of speed and danger was intense. To repeat what I said earlier; it is all of the best aspects of a theme park dark ride. "Expedition Everest" with gun-toting Russians instead of a Yeti. Although you’re really just going through an on-rails shooting sequence, there was a thrilling sense of danger and speed. I also really dug the smaller details scattered throughout the chase. While aboard The Reich’s supply train, it become readily apparent that supplies aren’t as scarce as previously thought. There’s something deeper going on, and I love that those details are being hinted at visually. It’s a tool more storytellers should use in games.

Fans of Metro 2033’s survival horror elements shouldn’t worry that the game is leaving those elements behind in favor of a more “Western” experience. The survival horror elements will still have a place. Mechanics like your mask and keeping tabs on your ammo count are still a big part of the game. Instead, 4A Games’s goal was to keep those elements, while fixing the problems that hindered Metro 2033. Towards the end of the demo, we got a chance to see one of the new mutants, so they're still around as well.

Metro: Last Light doesn’t ship until next year, but this is one you’ll want to add to your watch list. If the demo is any indication, Metro: Last Light is something to get excited about.