by 1 Communicator 1
© 2010 Declan S
Metro 2033, based on the novel of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky, is a survival horror first person shooter that sees you as Artyom, the young protagonist gallivanting about post-apocalyptic Moscow trying to save his city from a dangerous new threat – The dark ones.
The people of Moscow have been pushed underground into the Metro (subway) system, due to the fact that the air on the surface is now unbreathable without a gas mask, and to make things worse, it is also populated by a plethora of mutants of various species, each of which has its own set of abilities.
Artyom, a strapping young lad, is given the small responsibility of saving the metro systems; luckily for him, the task comes with on the job training.
• The Metro 2033 Underground
What Metro 2033 has going for it most is its atmosphere, and its storytelling. Like any good survival horror game should, Metro 2033 creates a dynamic and chilling atmosphere. From the very first scenes in the game, Metro 2033 provides an authentic representation of what it may be like to live in the aftermath of a disaster.
Families line up hopelessly behind barriers trying to be processed, with makeshift shanties a plenty and lost children crying for their mother. Each stop along the Metro system really has its own personality, and it is great just to walk around each station, immersing yourself in the melancholy world of the metros.
Unfortunately, this lasts all of 45 seconds, as most stations seem to have about 4 bedrooms which accommodate hundreds of people. It would have been nice to make the stations a little bigger at some points.
It is also a major disappointment that 90% of people are too stroppy to speak to you in stations, and instead of a game such as Fallout 3 where almost everyone is willing to tell you their life stories, most of the metro dwellers seem to simply ignore you.
The atmosphere on the surface of Moscow is fantastic as well. A feeling of lingering death is certainly present, and you quickly learn that if it moves, you kill it. Any humans you do find on the surface will most likely be raiders looting old buildings.
You have to constantly be on your toes; around the corner there will always be a Nosalis ready to pounce or an anomaly ready to destroy all in its way. The surface missions get even eerier later on in the game when you have to make your way through the skeletons of old Soviet buildings, clearing out its new mutated inhabitants.
Flashback scenarios, most reminiscent of the television series Cold Case, are also present. One such example is when Artyom comes across a derelict playground, and suddenly the screen becomes vibrant with colors, complete with little children playing on all the equipment, before reverting back to the arctic winter of a deserted Moscow.
These flashbacks are most definitely under-utilised, and although I am sure there were more, the playground example is the only one that comes to mind once completing the game.
Another fantastic feature which adds to the atmosphere is the inclusion of the whole gas mask system, which you will need whenever you are above the metros.
Not only will you have to continually check your watch to see how much air you have left, not unlike a system which a scuba diver may have, but you will also have to continually replace your mask to replace the cracks that appear after getting into scraps with enemies – when your mask finally smashes, you have a precious few seconds before watching Artyom slowly choke to death.
While both the idea of the watch/monitoring your air and having your mask crack may seem like a cool idea, they are rarely used, and to see both results I had to sit there and force my character to choke to death.
•The Last Russian
Even on hard there are so many gas masks and filters around it never gave me any trouble. It definitely would have added to the game if you were in a constant struggle to find your next breath of fresh air, although at the same time if that was the case I would probably be complaining about how scarce the filters/breathing masks were, so go figure.
Possibly the greatest draw to Metro 2033 is the storyline. It is nice to play a game where I don’t have to decide what happens; it is all done for me. At the start of every chapter an excerpt of the novel is read and foreshadows what is to come in the chapter ahead.
The story also has a nice variety to it, ranging from sneaking through a war between Communist Reds and Nazis, to recovering an old Soviet missile, to running handcuffed through a station trying to evade soldiers. Unfortunately Metro could probably be beaten in less than 5 hours on easy, and doesn’t really have the replay value of games such as Fallout 3. Nevertheless it does have one of the best stories of any game on the 360.
Unfortunately, Metro 2033 certainly does fall down in quite a few areas. Firstly, the developers thought a great idea would be to make a flashlight that you have to charge yourself, to add realism or something.
However a full charge, which takes about 15 seconds of you tediously pressing the trigger button, only lasts for about a minute worth of flashlight anyway, so you end up walking around most of the time with a 10% strength flashlight reminiscent of something you may buy at a $2 shop.
The game is fairly glitchy in some areas, and at times I found myself stuck behind something I had just jumped into, having to reload a checkpoint which was quite annoying. A real disappointment was that despite having such an intricate and intriguing world, there were about 5 different types of mutant enemies, and of the 5 you will spend the majority of your time fighting just one, the Nosalis.
To compliment the generic enemies, Metro 2033 loads out with a bunch of generic guns as well. You can have a pistol with a silencer, a long barrel and a scope, a machine gun (with a silencer or a scope), or a ‘generous’ range of two different shotguns.
As well as this there is also a (butter) knife, throwing knives or grenades. Generally in shooting games having a silencer makes bullets weaker, yet in Metro 2033 guns with a silencer seem to shoot rubber bullets, which makes for a very annoying experience.
However Metro’s biggest fault which almost outshadows all of its great features is its terrible stealth system. Many sections in the game give you the option to sneak around with silenced weapons and throwing knives, night vision stealth suits, the ability to turn off lights etc, one would think this would be a good experience. It isn’t.
As soon as one enemy catches a glimpse of you everyone within a 5 mile radius knows exactly what dark hole you are hiding in. Run up behind an enemy and stab him with your (butter) knife? Nice try – He will call for help and you will have 30 screaming Russians down your throat.
As someone who has played many games such as Splinter Cell and Hitman, and likes to take a stealthy approach, I was horrified at just how badly the stealth sections were implemented into Metro, and this nearly ruined the game for me.
One final flaw worth mentioning is its highly flawed ammo trading system. The general gist of it is that in the world of the metros, currency is now void, and instead goods are priced in amounts of High Grade ammunition. Its shiny, they look like coins so this starts off alright.
Where it gets tricky is that your machine gun can actually shoot these bullets for extra damage, so you literally fire away your money. However the way they implemented this is fairly dismal. Firstly, your regular “Dirty” ammo doesn’t really look that different from precious currency to begin with, so it is hard to distinguish between the two when you are first starting out in the game.
Secondly, instead of having a clear toggle between shooting your “currency” and “dirty bullets”; tapping the reload button while your cartridge is full triggers the other types of bullets to be loaded. The problem with this is in the heat of the moment whilst fighting, it is extremely easy to accidentally switch to your money and shoot away all the currency you have been collecting for the last 3 chapters.
I was sorely disappointed when trying to purchase a mean looking sniper rifle only to realize I had about 6 high quality ammo and some breadcrumbs left in my pocket, despite knowing I had hundreds only a level or two earlier.
The only saving grace is throughout the game you won’t ever need money as for one there are so little guns in the game that buying bigger and better isn’t that important, and secondly by the time the better guns are available in stores you have usually already been given them at some point in the story anyway.
In short Metro 2033 has the makings of a great game, but there are a few major things that let it down. It is by far still worth playing, yet it is just disappointing that it could have been so much better. I would be surprised if a sequel doesn’t pop up in a year or so.