Around three quarters of the way through Metro Last Light, your sometime companion Khan tells you:
The Metro is a living, breathing thing with a heartbeat, a soul and a mind.
Hearing this in isolation means relatively little, but once you’ve played through Metro Redux and experienced the tale from the two games that this remastering comprises, you’ll believe exactly what he says – 4A Games and Deep Silver have delivered something special.
I had never played Metro 2033, but I have read the novel it’s based on by Dmitry Glukhovsky after being inspired by Roger and his enthusiasm for the game, and that lead me to playing through Metro Last Light when it was in a PSN sale last October. Both games follow a young man, Artyom, who has survived the nuclear holocaust that’s befallen the world and lives in the ruins of the Moscow Metro system. Through a determination to help others and a lot of random chance, Artyom adventures through hostile tunnels, inhabited stations, and even up to the ruined surface to help keep the human race alive. But is all as it seems?
Metro Redux is an overhaul of both 2033 and Last Light, offering loads of updates and new features (that we covered here) to enhance the games of current PCs and the new generation of consoles. Starting up Metro 2033 Redux, I wasn’t especially impressed with the opening cutscene as it looks like 4A haven’t changed them at all, and seeing the screen tear and jerky visuals did get me wondering what the hype was about. Not a great start, but one that quickly gets forgotten about. Cutscenes are pre-rendered and only appear at a couple of points in the game and are really, really not representative of the actual in-game engine. When you finally take control of Artyom, starting your adventure in the radiation destroyed landscape of Moscow, you’re treated to some of the most impressive visual design I think I’ve ever seen.
The team have targeted 60 frames a second motion and got that working at somewhere just under 1080 resolution. It’s not 1080p, but you won’t care on console, though you might want to think about resolutions on PC because it’s capable of running at 4k on the right rig. There are many games that look good where you absorb the environment but just stroll through. As Metro Redux is about mystery, exploration and most importantly, atmosphere, detail is everywhere and it makes you stop and stare. Like with The Last Of Us, I couldn’t stop taking screenshots and have compiled an album at the end of this review simply because I couldn’t pick the ones I wanted to use.
So it looks good, and that’s across both games. 2033 has been brought up to the same standard as Last Light in terms of the gameplay as well, and this works in its favour as you move from one to another. Having the opportunity to overhaul the mechanics of the game to bring it in line with its sequel has not been squandered, and I’d say you’d be hard pushed now to tell that originally there was a 3 year difference between the two titles.
At its core Metro Redux is a first person shooter because things are seen from your point of view only, but it’s much more than just running up a corridor and firing at anything that moves. There’s a large portion of survival horror in there, mainly due to the dark, confined and extremely creepy Metro system where the last remnants of the Muscovites try to live. The story is conveyed through the diary of Artyom with additional information added by the NPCs you encounter, though to really understand what’s going on (and what might come up) you have to explore and listen to the random conversations, as well as check out the surroundings. All is not as simple and straightforward as it seems with the humans, and then you’ve got the malevolent forces that have encroached on the tunnels and taken over the surface.
There are two distinct play styles on offer, stealth (Survivor) and all out assault (Spartan), though you’ll still mix things up depending on the situation, and there are plenty of opportunities to exploit both. I’ve predominantly played on Spartan preferring the knowledge that I’ll be able to find ammo and supplies in the environment instead of just buying it at certain points, though that doesn’t mean you don’t run low if you’ve made a wrong weapon choice. There’s strategy behind how you tackle the human enemies in the game, and a silenced pistol under the cover of darkness is sometimes the best way to go.
Providing a counterpoint to this organised and thoughtful combat approach is each encounter with the creatures inhabiting the world. Typically, these will swarm you and focus on overwhelming you with numbers – not a calming experience! When this happens you suddenly realise that swapping your machine gun for a double barrel shotgun with slow reload times was a pretty bad idea. This differing approach of the enemies is great to see and because it’s nerve wracking to play it creates tense situations where you truly decide whether you want to instigate a firefight or not. The humans are particularly sharp eared and accurate with their shots, the creatures are vicious and brutal in their attacks; assessing and planning is needed most of the time. If you’re a glutton for punishment (or just really want a challenge), then you can pick Ranger mode which amplifies the difficulty and cuts back on your resources as well as removing the HUD.
Your route through the Metro system and to the conclusion of the stories is pretty linear, with only one path offered most times. You’ll get open-ish environments occasionally, but even then they’re quite guided. There are some optional objectives to do, and whilst they don’t impact your progress, trophy/achievement hunters will want to seek them out. Flexibility and choice do come into the weapon system though, where you can select what you carry and what you modify. There are three slots to choose from and you can put any weapon in any slot, with the only consequence being that you’ll have to share ammo if you’ve put two weapons that use the same in your inventory.
Each weapon can be swapped out when you find a new one, or want to buy something different, and you can upgrade them with sights, different barrels and things unique to the individual weapon. All this costs bullets which are the main currency of the Metro, though it’s high grade ammo so it commands a price. A nice touch is that you can shoot away your cash if you’re out of regular ammo, and it’s more powerful too, it just means you won’t be able to buy anything when you next get the chance. It’s a nice nod to resource management without making things complicated. Additional offensive items come in the form of throwing knives, grenades and mines which can help you out with “boss” fights and groups of difficult foes. If I’m being honest the weapons side is nothing new or different, it’s just very well conceived and executed, and makes perfect sense for the world you’re in.
Reviewing Metro Redux has been a strange experience because I know there are loads of reviews from the original release of these games out there. I’ve deliberately avoided the story side of things, but that just leaves the technical stuff to talk about, and that feels a little soulless and does the games a disservice. Both the games are full of character and life despite the dark and fatalistic tales that are being told. Each encounter you have is memorable, and the underlying Russian humour and pragmatic attitudes (or my perception of that at least) holds the whole tale together throughout. I’ve been immersed in this world for the last week or so and can’t recommend it enough if you’ve never the pleasure. If you have played Metro 2033 and/or Last Light in their previous incarnations, don’t shy away from these thinking they’re just nicer to look at, you’ll find the time spent on Metro Redux has created a deeper and more enjoyable experience.
A review copy of Metro Redux for PlayStation 4 was provided by the Deep Silver PR team. Metro Redux is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC and bundles both the Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light games together, as well as all the DLC.