E3 2011: 10 Thoughts on… Metro: Last Light (Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, PC, Nintendo Wii-U)

A while back, THQ took a big risk on an unknown property, Metro 2033, and published a game based on the Russian novel of the same name on the PC and Xbox 360 in the US. While the game received mostly positive press, it was largely not a good seller, and while the game could positively be compared to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., it wasn’t without its technical flaws and issues, unfortunately. The game was largely a winner, however, so much so that, personally, I can attest that it’s one of the few games I’ve completely cleared of all its Achievements, even in the Ranger Pack. As such, I was highly enthusiastic when I heard about the game receiving a sequel, dubbed Metro: Last Light, which I was hoping would be playable at E3. Alas, such was not the case, as there was only a video demo on display, but what the developers had to show was interesting enough that it’s only increasing my interest in playing the game more.

1. The first thing the demonstration makes fairly clear up front is that the game once again follows the exploits of prior main character Artyom, so the game really seems to pick up right where things left off. The game also seems to be saying that the “If it moves, you kill it” mentality of Hunter won out, as the narration implies that the Dark Ones have been eradicated. This is unfortunate, as I was hoping the storyline would go into greater detail about what their motivations were and where they came from and such, but the narration promises an all new threat borne from the sins of the past, so there’s still a bit of lingering dread. There’s also no guarantee that the Dark Ones are really dead, of course…

2. The first thing I noticed about the game is that the visual engine has received a major upgrade, as the environments and weapons both look a good deal cleaner than they did in the first game, and the various locales pop a bit more than before. Metro 2033 looked pretty good, all in all, so it’s impressive to see that Metro: Last Light is looking even better, both in exploration and in combat.

3. The developers noted that the original game was somewhat criticized for its action, and they make a good effort to showcase that the new game isn’t as problematic when it comes to giving up heavy duty action experiences. We join Artyom as he’s attempting to navigate through what seems to be a Nazi camp, with the idea being that he’s expected to do this thing silently, and the player showing this off does a good job showing what Artyom can do. We see weird spiders in the beginning of the area that look, well, deformed, and the player produces a hand-held torch, which he uses to burn away the webs in a neat spot. A bit later, when sneaking up on an enemy, Artyom brandishes a knife and completely shanks the guy hardcore, something the first game wasn’t so good about, which makes stealth a more viable tactic this time around.

4. Another nice thing that pops up is that Artyom is more readily able to interact with his environment. The player shows this by shooting a water bowl hanging from a spit over a campfire to put out the fire, complete with the water hitting the fire and all, in a nice touch that’s useful for stealth. Later, we also see that the environments are far more destructible than before, which is nice to see and means that cover… may not be for long.

5. The garbage guns make their return, as Artyom employs a pneumatic sniper rifle once again to take out nearby guards silently before pissing off the entire encampment and going postal on everyone present. Combat in general seems more intense, which is a good thing, as Artyom’s cover was obliterated in a matter of minutes. After taking out the guards giving him problems, however, the player wandered off to find an equalizer, in the form of A GIGANTIC TWO HANDED ELECTRIC GATLING GUN. Yep. All I know is daddy want, and it looked like a ton of fun to mow through enemies with it.

6. Later on in the demo we meet up with… actually, the demo didn’t really identify who Artyom meets up with. Signs point to it being Miller, but it also looks somewhat similar to Khan, actually. I’m assuming it’s Miller, though, as it seems like Artyom is still working with the Rangers at this point. Anyway, we meet up with Miller, only to find that the characters have to walk through a Nazi-infested station to move forward, which involves actually walking through a group of people before Miller sets off his revolver, starting a massive chase scene through the station. The Nazi’s are actually interesting looking, in that they… look like what you’d expect Russian Nazi’s to look like, but they’re not immediately identifiable as such, oddly enough. I guess I was expecting a swastika or something, but in retrospect, perhaps this is for the best that it’s not so apparent. Either way, they’re still dicks, so it doesn’t matter.

7. Later, we get a train car sequence where Miller pilots the train car down the tracks and Artyom unloads on various enemies. It’s a good reminder of the fact that nearly everyone lives in the underground stations in the world of Metro, and it’s an enjoyable looking action sequence, though it doesn’t do a whole lot beyond what the similar sequences from the prior game did.

8. Artyom ends up being flung onto a moving train by Miller, and with an inspirational “good luck”, we get our final major action sequence of the demo. The demo shows that taking cover seems a bit more fluid than before, as Artyom is dipping between chairs and such on the train, taking out Nazi’s like a pro until the front of the train car blows up for unspecified reasons and the main demo ends.

9. At this point, the developers noted that we hadn’t seen any mutants (in a way that implied that the people watching might have been wondering why, though I think I was probably the only person in the crowd who cared about this thing), so we jumped into a new section to showcase a new mutant type. After a little bit of screwing around with some Nosalis’ mutants, a gigantic mutant came ripping through the wall, baying for blood. It looked like a larger, somewhat more deformed Nosalis, and for the most part was sufficiently scary enough to be intimidating, as it wiped the floor with the player in about ten seconds.

10. Metro: Last Light looks like a significant improvement over the first game in all the ways that matter, and while it seems to be turning some heads, whether it manages to retain that momentum until release remains to be seen. THQ seems to be giving the game significant backing, however, and if it ends up being a highly rated release when it comes out, well, I wouldn’t be very surprised at all.

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