It’s rare to find a First Person Shooter that goes beyond the common “run and gun” nowadays, even more so finding one with a solid storyline and added stealth elements thrown in the mix. Enter Metro: Last Light; a model of what the modern FPS’s should aspire to be. Its predecessor, Metro 2033, was a great game released back in 2010, but easily found its way into my “Most Overlooked Games” list of the decade. Thus, I felt it needed to have some light shed on it and be given the credit it deserves. Being the slightly matured version of Metro 2033, Last Light moves the franchise even closer to storytelling and gameplay perfection within the FPS genre.
Players continue the story of Russian Ranger, Artyom, who lives in a world devastated by nuclear holocaust, radical faction conflict, and massive, mutated creature attacks. A handful of years have passed since the events of the first game, after having obliterated the psychic monstrosities known as the “Dark Ones” who were threatening human existence below the surface. Becoming a hero of the underground tunnels called the “Metro”, you eventually are told that a surviving Dark One was spotted on the surface and are tasked with finishing the job you started. Long story short: things take a turn for the worst; you become captured by an enemy faction looking for blood, and must escape them to complete your original mission.
Last Light isn’t about racking up the highest kill count or obtaining the best items. Instead, the heart of this game lies in the unfolding story and the player’s interaction with the characters and beautiful environments. As you progress through the storyline, small, gray flashes across the screen appear when you listen to fellow Metro dwellers talking to one another or by locating dead soldier bodies in the outside world. These “gray flashes” are just as important as killing ferocious, mutant rodents, as every moral choice you make produces them and determines the final outcome of the game’s plot. Thus, Last Light’s gameplay becomes a highly immersive within the story and focuses most of the mechanics around it.
For example, I decided to go a very strict, stealth-oriented style throughout the whole game, maneuvering around guards by unscrewing light bulbs and taking out floodlights with my silenced pistol. I never made one kill against a human the entire time (mutants were fair game though). The game then made account of these choices and determined one of two appropriate story ending based off of my decisions, whether they were malicious or peaceful. Giving players the option to either stealth kill them or the new mechanic of simply knock them unconscious are just some of the ways to do this, with others revolving around “Good Samaritan” actions or locating deceased soldier’s bodies. The simplest way I can explain most of the mechanics is to play the game as if you were really a part of the world you’re in.
Listen to everyone you pass by or meet. Doing so will change the outcome of the game.
The other half of the gameplay is basically in pure survival, using every last piece of equipment and resource to help get you through each chapter alive. Last Light doesn’t try to hold your hand that often either, almost punishing you for not being careful enough to mind your supplies or not keeping up with your mission partners. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve run out of gas mask filters when trying to find all the hidden soldier bodies or military grade rounds on the radioactive surface. Luckily Last Light did tweak a few things from 2033 to help you stay more organized and informed about your inventory. For example, with the addition of sound indicators for low battery power or the revamped wristwatch features, the overall gameplay was immensely sped up instead of having to stop and manually check every minute or two. You’ll find that these new features will easily tell if you’re visible to enemies or how much time until a gas mask filter is used up and keep you moving. I personally love using the lighter as a new way to clear out spider webs slowing me down and having to wipe my gas mask off when running through thick mud. The game doesn’t let you feel like you can get away with not keeping an eye on your own well-being; a very refreshing take opposed to normally feeling like we are all invincible badasses in most other FPS’s.
Your watch's blue light indicates if you can be seen or not, while the timer is linked to your gas filters.
One of the main downsides I’ve found within Last Light includes the mediocre AI, in need of some work still. Mutant enemies tend to come running right past you then immediately turn around to attack, while human guards have almost no visibility of you even in a faint shadows. I was easily sneaking up on them directly in front of their face and they still weren’t alerted to my presence (I was playing on the hardest Normal mode). There are more difficulty settings of “Ranger Mode”, but I doubt that they increase the visibility of guards like that. This brings up another issue that I have with the game: the DLC. Now, I didn’t get the chance to try out any of the Ranger modes myself, but I feel that the included content isn’t enough to warrant a paid DLC here, especially for non-Limited Edition owners who will be missing the Ranger Mode component. If the game included these items after beating the game on certain difficulty levels, then I wouldn't have such an issue with this. However, removing a game mode just making gamers pay for DLC content has clearly left some bad taste in my mouth that I’m still trying to wash out. Though “Ranger Mode” isn't exactly necessary at all, as thoroughly enjoy the game without it, it's still a feature that would compliment the game rather than hinder it.
If you can look past modern flaws of the video game industry, Metro: Last Light is a fantastic sequel that stays true to the original mechanics of the series, but also adds the right amount of new ones to keeps things fresh and engaging. I had a blast feeling like I was a real, post-apocalyptic Ranger, experiencing next chapter in Artyom’s dramatic story. I would highly recommend it to those looking for a break from the modern FPS model, or just enjoy stealth games that allow for multiple route taking, much like Dishonored. Finally, I’d recommend passing on the DLC until it definitely goes on sale in the future, as I don’t feel the full price is worth what is offered.
Final Verdict for Metro: Last Light