Reviews

Metro 2033

ReviewThere have been quite a few games set in a post-apocalypse scenario, where the world as we know it has been devastated by nuclear war and human beings are forced to retreat to underground shelters to escape from the hostile surface environment and survive. The Fallout series is perhaps the most well known, with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. being a more recent addition to the genre. While Fallout and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. both propound an open-world hospitable surface environment, Metro 2033 paints a bleak, unforgiving view of the world and sets up a completely linear route through the game to ensure that the player is always immersed in atmosphere that the developers have created.

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And what an atmosphere it is! Metro 2033 serves up a visceral and psychological browbeating that will make you believe that you really are in the game world. Developers 4A Games have taken their past experience with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. at GSC Games to craft a replica of the world described by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovski in his novel Metro 2033, which serves as the inspiration for this game. After a nuclear war destroyed the Earth’s surface, a handful of survivors retreated to the stations of Moscow’s underground metro system and have continued human civilization there. You play a character that was born in the “Metro” and has never left his home station. Due to changing circumstances, you need to travel to another metro station across Moscow to deliver an important message. Thus begins your journey in the game.

Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter at heart, set in a survival horror motif. By discarding any notion of multiplayer, 4A Games have been able to focus on crafting an absorbing single-player campaign. The game world is extremely linear, thus differentiating it from its similarly themed peers and allowing the developers to craft a tightly controlled experience. This approach worked extremely well in games like Half-Life 2, and 4A Games does a commendable job in tethering players to the narrative and scripting the flow through the closed route that players need to take.

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The game world is pretty unforgiving with poisonous environments present both underground as well as on the surface of the world, meaning that you will be making regular use of your gas mask. Your arsenal includes five types of weapons, including knives (stabbing and throwing), pistols, automatic rifles, shotguns or pneumatic guns and explosives. You can swap out different models of each type of weapon through out the game in order to boost the weapon’s effectiveness. The currency in the game is military grade ammo, which supposedly ceased production after the war, making them rare and very valuable. They also deal out more damage than the standard ammunition you come across in the game, giving players a choice of conserving the military ammo to use as currency or equipping to take out particularly bothersome enemies.

The health system is of the now standard regeneration type, but the regeneration time is far longer than that seen in the likes of Modern Warfare 2, meaning that at certain times, players will need to make use of the medical aid injections that you can pick up. Scavenging is the name of the game here since everything is in short supply. So players will have to scavenge dead bodies and slain enemies and explore every nook and cranny of every level to make sure they haven’t missed out on any vital stashes of ammo, gas mask filters, or health packs. You play the game mostly by yourself, but from time to time, you are accompanied by allies and these segments are excellent, thanks to the banter they maintain and the fact that your allies can actually shoot and kill enemies without your aid. But be warned, they can die too. These aspects drive home the survival aspect of the game much more convincingly than other recent examples. It’s almost like a hark bark to the original Resident Evil titles on the PlayStation One.

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You will need all the aid and supplies you can get. Players face a variety of threats, including bandits, human enemies and the creatures that survived the nuclear radiation and have mutated as a result of it. These creatures form the bulk of the enemies you will face and are tough to take down. This is largely the reason why the gunplay in the game feels less than satisfying. Enemies do not react to your bullets as you’d expect and it often takes far too many rounds to take down an enemy. This is partly explained in the game by the low quality of the standard ammunition, but it doesn’t make up for the immense amount of effort it takes to kill a single enemy. There are a few situations where you run into groups of them and it’s an exercise in checkpoint reloads and modified tactics to get past these sequences.

The game also encourages a stealthy approach to situations thanks to the presence of a light meter on your wrist that indicates how visible you are. But thanks to broken AI and lack of alternative routes through levels, the stealth sections are a mess, so the only way through some of these sections is “all guns a-blazing”. The game’s plot is also not properly resolved, so the culmination of your efforts may not yield the results you desired. The game features one of the cheapest enemy creatures in the history of gaming and I can guarantee that some of you will probably just give up during the section, where they make their appearance. I would recommend that you keep at it though, because there is a very satisfying ‘payback’ moment you get to experience.

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Since much of the game takes place in the Metro system, your flashlight is your most handy tool. Thankfully, it never runs out of charge and you are actually provided with a manual pump that can boost the power and range of the flashlight. There is, however, a good amount of diversity in the environments since the game takes you back and forth from the underground to the surface on more than one occasion. The levels do not get repetitive thanks to the unique design of each metro station and the gorgeous surface world depiction.

Metro 2033 is not the first DirectX 11 game to hit the market, but it’s the one that has made the most effective use of the technology till date. Metro 2033 boasts some of the most impressive visuals, especially in the indoor underground levels. High resolution textures, extensive smoke and particle effects, and an astoundingly brilliant lighting engine draw you into the game world like few others can. Character animations are top notch with lifelike movements and environment suitable clothing. Those of you with high-end rigs and ATI 5850 and higher series graphics cards will really enjoy the visual delights this game has to offer. The levels towards the end of the game are simply breathtaking and will completely justify your expenditure on a high-end rig. To sum it up, the visuals are the star attraction of the game since the experience is completely dependent on the player being absorbed into the atmosphere that it creates.

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The audio is competent, but is let down by the rough voice acting thanks to the use of Russian accents for the English voice acting. For those who have multi-language versions of the game, I would recommend Russian voices with English subtitles for a much better experience. There are appropriate metallic groans from the aging metro infrastructure and you can often overhear NPCs chatting away with amusing anecdotes. The creatures make the obligatory threatening sounds, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before.

Conclusion

Metro is a study in contrasts. A well crafted single-player experience highlighted by top notch visuals, some genuinely great levels and a tense, unyielding atmosphere, marred by broken stealth mechanics, a bad decision relating to one of the enemies, and weak weapon effects. Thankfully, the frustrating stealth sections are short and you only have to face the cheap sh*t enemy for one level, so the majority of the experience is quite enjoyable. If you are longing for a good single-player shooter to engage you for about 9 hours, then you would do very well to take the train to Metro 2033.

(+) Stellar visuals
(+) Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere
(+) Engaging narrative
(+) Delivers a proper feeling of survival

(-) Unsatisfactory conclusion
(-) Problematic stealth sequences
(-) Weak gunplay
(-) One frustrating enemy creature

How we score games

Title: Metro 2033
Developer/Publisher: 4A Games/THQ
Genre: First-person shooter
Rating: 16
Platforms: PC (Rs 699), Xbox 360 (Rs 2,499)
Reviewed on: PC

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