Scotch Corner – Going Underground

Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 24th June 2018.

 

METRO started life as a series of Russian sci-fi books before 4A Games introduced gamers to a family surviving in a post- apocalyptic Russia.  Metro Exodus aims to take what made the series great . . . and make it bigger.  I got hands-on time with an early build of the game in London recently . . .

IT is 2036.  Exodus follows on from the last title, Metro: Last Light, but you will need the book Metro 2035 if you want to fill in the blanks.  You fill the boots of Artyom.  He has fled the underground Metro system in Moscow and is hoping to reach the Far East.  Artyom is joined by his wife Anna and a group of Spartan Rangers led by her father and you are all on the Aurora train.  This is a first person shooter with a strong “golden path” storyline.  Don’t expect side missions or any other distractions, but also don’t anticipate a straight-forward journey.  If you wander at all, the world will tell its story through the items you find and places you visit.  The game is spilt into a number of different-sized areas that you can explore.  It has escaped from the restrictions of the narrow tunnels in the last game.

Exploration is the key to success because you will need to find new kit, health packs and air filters and you have to craft gear and ammunition.  Your weapons range from assault rifles and pistols to crossbows, but everything has a rough and ready feel because you are constantly swapping parts on them.  The combat doesn’t have to be an epic firefight — the section we played included a number of ways to fight.  You could go in all guns blazing but you could also stealth your way through by knocking enemies out and throwing knives.  We were intrigued by some group attacks.  If you killed a few of them then the rest would just surrender and the section was over.  More interestingly, the story picked up on how you had fought out the battle.  If you had blasted everything, it would say that you did not need to have a bloodbath.  Or, it hailed you as a Ninja for using stealth to get through.  That suggests that the game will adapt to your style of play and tweak the dialogue to fit.

There is also a full day-night system as well as weather — and that can play a major role in how successful attacks can be.  Attack at night and there may be less enemies at an outpost . . . but there could well be other nasty things lying in wait.  You couldn’t expect to get through a post-apocalyptic adventure without crossing paths with an array of mutants and beasts living in the waste land.  They can be tougher to dispatch than the humans.  What is clear is that Metro Exodus is shaping up to be an interesting addition to the series.  It keeps the core game play loops but has got bigger and better.  There is some sad news — the game has been put back until February 22, next year, but that gives 4A Games plenty of time to add some polish that would make this an outstanding title.

Metro Exodus is out next year on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Talking to the Man

RUSSIAN author Dmitry Glukhovsky is king of the Metro Universe.  The 39-year-old has written the three books that inspired the top-selling games and has spawned a community of authors across the globe who are adding their Metro tales.  He said:

“Metro isn’t just a game trilogy nor a book trilogy.  It is a franchise of books written by other authors that are set across the world which tell how Metro takes place in lots of different locations around the globe.  There are over 80 books so far that would fit well into a series format by some global broadcaster like Netflix or Amazon Prime.”

There is even a Scottish Metro tale . . .  written by a South African.

“Actually there is a book already set in Glasgow in the universe called Metro 2033: Britannia which was written by Grant McMaster which is about a guy who travels from Glasgow to London.  Sadly it was never published here in the UK as it was only released in Russian and a few other languages like Polish.  But it is set in Glasgow and it just shows that any city in the world is a good backdrop for a tale in the universe.”

Dmitry may have called time on the Metro books after the third title, but he is playing a major role in shaping the games.  He said:

“The team came to me with a general draft idea of what the game could be basing on the book so I suggested locations and events as they journey across the Trans-Siberian railway.  They picked a few of their own then they came to me to create the characters for the Spartan group.  I also chose to introduce the triangle relationship between Artyom and Anna and her father which is a element that closely follows the book.  There has been a lot of back and forth between the team and myself as they send me the dialogue which I polished and added to.”

But he admits you will need to find his books if you want to complete the Metro story.

“The new game continues the tale of Metro 2035 and not the last game.  So whatever happens between the last two games is told during the book — it answers why has the series gone from the dark tunnels of the Metro system to the wide open over-world.  It explains why you don’t need to wear a gas mask anymore.  But, on the other hand, 2035 will be the last book in the trilogy so, if you have read the book, the only way to find out what’s next after the curtain falls on the book is to play Exodus.”

Dmirty, seen above with me, wrote the first book at just 15 years of age.  He said:

“The inspiration came from a number of things — from my love for post-apocalyptic fiction like Mad Max and Fallout games to classic Soviet science-fiction by the Strugatsky brothers like the Roadside Picnic as well as the collapse of the Soviet Union which I lived through as a kid.  It was the same feeling of living in the ruins of the old world and trying to build some sort of new world from the old bricks.  Also Moscow was a huge inspiration — my home station was the same station that the main character in the series lives in for the games and the books.  I used the Metro daily so the main character is doing the same ride that I did on the way to school.  That all gave me a rich base to build the world of Metro.  Now we have Metro across the globe.”

Jurassic World Evolution (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £47.99)

IT’S a dino-fest at the cinema with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom so it makes perfect sense to add the gaming extras.  British developers Frontier Developments have conjured up Jurassic World Evolution — a business simulation which lets you build and manage your own dinosaur theme park.  Well, try to.  Things start off quite slowly as you have to do missions around the five islands — and you must complete one before you can move on to another.  The first island is really just to teach you the ropes about building the business and dino hatching.  Business is all about profit-making.  Everything needs cash to work and, once you have enough, you can hunt down the fossil DNA of the beasts you want and start building your dream park.

There are over 40 dinosaurs at the moment with more on the way through a free update linked to the Fallen Kingdom movie.  It is a shame that you don’t have any flying or water-based ones because it limits what you can build and stops you recreating great scenes from the film.  The core game play is a bit of a grind.  You need fossils and 100 per cent genomes to open the door to playing God by creating custom versions.  Then you have to manage everything in the park, from storm damage to rampaging break-outs.  It is quite cool that, instead of the game tracking down your escaped dino, you can take the chopper and bag it yourself.

The graphics hit the sweet spot — with loads of detail — and the soundtrack backs it all up with a strong movie vibe.  The beasts roar and bark and you have that great movie theme tune.  It has the uber-cool Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm, who clearly had fun doing the part again, and most of the other cast members, but no Chris Pratt.  And the actor who did get the job is no . . . well, no Chris Pratt.  Our biggest issue though was that there is no fast forward button to speed up the slow sections.  You spend a lot of time doing nothing as you grow your cash.

Just as annoying is the fact that if you fail with a dinosaur birth, you lose that cash as well.  Jurassic World Evolution is a must for fans of the movies, but it just falls a bit short of being that must-buy game.  That could all change with a couple of patches and a few tweaks.  If they got those right then this would be a bit more of a monster hit.

Score: 3.5/5

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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