E3 2011: Metro Last Light First Impressions

We head back under Moscow in our first look at the sequel to Metro 2033.

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Though it's not titled Metro 2034, as was originally rumoured, Metro Last Light is still a direct sequel to 2033, the grim, postapocalyptic, Russia-set shooter. In the wake of devastating nuclear war, Moscow's survivors still huddle belowground in the city's hardy metro network. The plot is original, rather than based on further works of Dmitry A. Glukhovsky, whose novel the first game was based on, but we're told Glukhovsky worked with 4A Games, the Ukrainian studio behind both games, to shape this story. The demo we saw is a vertical slice packaged to show off punchy, linear action rather than exploration or horror, and begins with a long cinematic pan across the ruined cityscape, taking in a crumbling cathedral, a rusted aeroplane, and winged mutants. "The ice has begun to melt," intones the narrator. "War still rages throughout the metro."

Then we're belowground with our protagonist, Artyom, the hero of the previous game, and a buddy. They are infiltrating the subterranean base of the Reich, one of the metro's fascist factions. As they slink through the outer guard posts, quietly putting down guards with bullets to the back of the head, twitchy, oversized spiders crawl about in webs covering the tunnel walls and casting eerie shadows.

The lighting is especially spiffy, powered again by the developer's 4A engine, with electric lamps throwing off pretty flare effects. To show off the interactive scenery and dynamic lighting, our demonstrator, concealed by shadows, pings a few bullets into a pot simmering over a nearby campfire. Water spills out and into the flames, which flicker and spread convincingly. And by disturbing the fire, he draws the attention of a guard, who comes over to investigate and gets shot for his trouble. The demo is designed to showcase player choice in approaching situations such as this Reich base infiltration--the choice here being to stealth through or charge in with all guns blazing.

All guns are blazing soon enough, though, as the duo's cover is blown. The demonstrator picks up a hulking Gatling gun--intricately modelled, like all the weapons we see, with a painstakingly detailed reload animation--and rips into the Reich's tatty shalters. As the Reich troops return fire, cover shatters and crumbles alarmingly fast, underlining Last Light's destructible cover, more extensively smashable than that of the first game. In this early version of the game's code, a pre-alpha build, there's no HUD at all, with necessary information, such as there is, indicated on the protagonist's wristwatch.

Having raised the alarm, our protagonist and his partner flee up an escalator, straight into a Reich rally. Here they do their best to blend in, wandering through the (underobservant) crowd towards the speaker's podium. This social stealth isn't effective for long, though, and soon the pair are running once more, sprinting through the civilian quarter, through alleys, and across scaffolding walkways.

The demo builds to a minecart-chase-style sequence--that is, a spot of on-rails shooting enlivened with a grenade launcher--and a corridor shooting sequence through a train carriage with a shotgun. Both look like explosive good fun, though we'd have liked to see some non-human baddies and exploration elements. It's a prepackaged demo, meant to show off linear action, and it does--but we're assured the action focus here doesn't mean survival horror has fallen by the wayside.

Huw Beynon, THQ head of communications, says 4A Games came to Last Light determined to "resist temptation to Westernise, simplify, to tap into the mass market" and said that this Metro 2034 follow-up is still "Eastern European in [its] every fibre." That meant, he said, a drive to preserve the mechanics that made the original something of a cult hit, while repairing the defects that kept it from winning wider popularity. So frosting masks and flickering flashlights are in, along with more station cities to visit and the return of a super hardcore mode, just for the masochists, but creaky core mechanics are out--meaning slicker shooting and no more underpowered weapons.

Hit animations are snazzier, too, as we see in the demo, with better visual feedback as to when and where hits land. A new armour plating system also means that you can shoot off individual elements of an enemy's armour (a helmet, for instance, or a plate of body armour). Shonky artificial intelligence is gone as well, claims Beynon, with more complex and consistent computer-controlled enemies to contend with. It all sounds promising; publisher THQ considers Metro 2034 a "flawed masterpiece" and is saying the right things about producing a slicker, flaw-free sequel. When it's ready to show us more, we'll be here and waiting.

Discussion

32 comments
sam85_
sam85_

w_a_i_t_i_n_g !!

svenjl
svenjl

Metro 2033 and Half-Life 2 are currently my favourite FPSs. Great stories, atmosphere and interesting environments. The gameplay certainly wasn't as slick in Metro as a Halo or COD game, but I found the game as a whole far more engrossing. The pacing was intriguing and unique in this genre. It was a real journey that felt as though it had meaning. I am looking forward to Last Light as much as Skyrim or ME3.

heilrawk
heilrawk

oh my god , i've been waiting for this since metro 2033

tonet666
tonet666

can't freaking wait. Looks awesome.

lzfilipe
lzfilipe

Wow a sequence, Tanx to the Gods of Nuke Strike. For play with the Last Light on. Baita jogo. 2033, 2034, 2035, 2036..... a lot of happiness.

ppg4all
ppg4all

@Jaxifer34- they said u cant put steam on offline mode and that you have to be connected

Jaxifer34
Jaxifer34

I got this Metro 2033 after reading a review about it, wasn't even aware of it. I was surprised that with the good reviews from mags and readers that it wasn't a lot more popular. An very good underrated game IMHO. Glad they have a sequel, I hope it get a lot more buzz this time. @ppg4all. Steam supposedly has a way to let you play offline if you google it, unless you just can't with this game.

esba160
esba160

I really enjoyed the first game, the trailer was perfectly synced with music and this is the best track on that portishead album. So far they got everything right :)

taxonomic
taxonomic

@ppg4all You do realize you can still do those things right? Once you DL and update the game, you can set it offline and play it without any network connection at all.

Pete5506
Pete5506

Sounds pretty neat, definitely be following this game

RonTorque
RonTorque

The game looks great, graphics looks cool as well from the glimpses we saw in the trailer. Reminded me with the first Resistance game.

ppg4all
ppg4all

i wanted metro 2033 but i dont want to connect to steam all the time i want to play the game on a airplane or somewhere in a cave damn steam

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is also coming out next year, supposed to be a very good series with amazing atmosphere. i will keep a close eye on both games.

GamerLegend10
GamerLegend10

Metro 2033 is a really good book, i wish i could find an English version of Metro 2034 :( anyway it sounds interesting i hope this game will be good

everson_rm
everson_rm

@sensesfail99 Stalker is in Ukrania! BTW loved the first game. Now we only need S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2

biagio55
biagio55

the firast had the potential to be an amazing game but fell short due to the bugs present. it lacked finishing touches. if they do that it will be a brilliant game, moving forward the stagnant FPS genre

sensesfail99
sensesfail99

I wish my pc could handle metro 2033 and this! i want to play them so bad. Ive played all 3 stalkers and i couldnt get enough of them. Good use of Portishead - Machine gun :)

sensesfail99
sensesfail99

@Attack_Dog I dont know if you played S.T.A.L.K.E.R. but it was obivously set in russia...... Metro 2033 is set in the future of russia obviously.....

Raxyman
Raxyman

Interesting, might buy, depends on the reviews and on the price, after all, the 20$ on the steam version seems like the correct price for that game. @Attack_Dog I think metro it's a good game, but you aren't seriously comparing metro with STALKER are you? STALKER it's different from the pack of FPS and horror we have there (at least the SHoC and Clear Sky were) and metro it's a bit derivative...

fkbwii
fkbwii

This is gonna be awesome!

mrbrainheart
mrbrainheart

Despite some flaws (mainly to do with the shooting & monsters) I still loved Metro 2033. It's just such an atmospheric game, I was completely immersed in the game. It sounds like the shooting is pretty good, so I have good hope that this will be an even better game. The fps genre needs good singleplayer shooters like these in my opinion.

Attack_Dog
Attack_Dog

It's like S.T.A.L.K.E.R but in Russia. I love it!

zoeyleft
zoeyleft

i played the first game metro 2033, it got THE BEST atmosphere i ever witnessed. the smoke and lighting is crazy beautiful. i played it through again JUST to experience the sweet graphics atmosphere. and i always wanted to experience it again and again, but couldnt be arsed to play it a third time... now finally my dreams!

Blackychan922
Blackychan922

If teasers were the sole basis for judging a game...well this would have to be one of the best games.

psycho75
psycho75

Love the first one,this gen need more survivals like this

aeklagonisi
aeklagonisi

@Gamespot I was hoping that after Amnesia , people would realise that survival horror is not being a badass guy with a big gun blazing around. Metro has always been (as a series) a paranormal FPS-RPG.