Metro 2033 Hands-On

A disused nuclear bunker was the venue for our first hands-on with THQ's postapocalyptic shooter.

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Metro 2033 was only unveiled for the first time last month, but now, just over a month later, publisher THQ has already allowed us to play the game. Based on the Russian novel of the same name, the game is set in a postapocalyptic future where a small group of survivors has stayed alive by taking refuge in the Moscow underground system. Given that setting, where better to let us play the game than in a disused nuclear bunker deep beneath the Russian capital? That's the event we were invited to recently, which allowed us to spend a few hours with the game and talk to the Ukranian developer 4A Games, as well as the author of the original book, Dmitry Glukhovsky.

We won't retread over old ground in this preview, so if you're unfamiliar with the setup for Metro 2033, make sure you read our original impressions piece. Our hands-on time with the game allowed us to experience the first few hours of it first hand, and while that included a lot of the areas we'd seen in our hands-off preview, we also got to see some new areas above ground. The leisurely pace of the preview allowed us to take our time exploring underground, witnessing the human interaction between non-player characters and the environmental details of the underground cities. It also unveiled new above-ground areas, which result in vivid flashbacks for the playable character of Artyom, who only experienced a short period of his life outside the metro system. But most of all, our hands-on time allowed us to get a better feel for the finer details of the gameplay--the intricate touches that developer 4A Games has lavished on the entire production.

Metro is a world where you have to be incredibly resourceful--you must manually charge your flashlight by pulling out a universal charger and squeezing the left trigger. You also have to check your watch regularly by pressing the control pads on the Xbox 360's left bumper, which reveals how much time you have before your gas mask becomes useless above ground. The navigation system is also ingenious--the map is a physical object that you have to pull out and view in conjunction with a lighter in your other hand. You'll notice that the lighter is formed in the shape of a bullet--another nice touch--but the main effect is in keeping you immersed in the world. Because your view is obscured by the map, and the game doesn't pause for you to view it, you have to pick the times to use it in the eerie darkness of the underground tunnels.

These underground tunnels are beautifully realised, with each underground station acting as an individual town that has its own political structure and economy. We got to spend the most time in Artyom's home station of Exhibition, which housed plenty of details from his past. When you first wake up in your room, you can walk around and see postcards of places above ground. There's also a radio you can turn on and a guitar that you can strum. As you walk around the underground cities, you find makeshift pig farms, drinking establishments, and people gathered around fires singing Russian songs. Exhibition is one of the more progressive and peaceful settlements, but there are also stations at the other end of the spectrum that have become fascist dictatorships, which you'll get to see further into the game.

One of the things that Metro really nails is the human interaction among the residents of the metro system. Children are a highlight--innocently playing with their toys, running around the tunnels, or escorting you to meet other people. One of the saddest moments was seeing a conversation between a father and son--the younger quizzing the elder about the absence of his mother--with the father making up a story about the mother's imminent return. You also spend a lot of time in bars after completing missions, drowning your sorrows with the help of vodka. There are some funny moments to be had--one character refers to the submachine gun as the "bastard gun." You also meet one character called Bourbon, who gives you an AK-47 rifle and asks you to accompany him because "the s*** in the tunnels don't work on you."

"The s*** in the tunnels," as Bourbon calls it, is just one of the many monstrous and supernatural aspects to Metro 2033. The main enemies are mutated humans, whom the disaster has transformed into "homo novus," or the next step in human evolution. There are also strange paranormal occurences whenever Artyom roams the tunnels in which you witness alien-like creatures approaching you. Above ground, Artyom suffers other flashbacks from his childhood, and in one sequence, his brief childhood memories present themselves when he sees familiar objects, such as park swings. Despite these hindrances, Artyom soon develops a reputation as being immune to the spiritual anomalies, which makes him a valuable commodity to a lot of people in the metro system.

Technically, Metro 2033 impresses, with a PC version that pushes current technology, such as DirectX10, and an Xbox 360 version that retains parity with the lead platform. The developer is keen to stress that there's never been a PlayStation 3 version of the game--this is an Xbox 360 exclusive on the console side, and speaking to the production team, it looks likely to remain so. We did have a few issues with the Xbox 360 version at this stage--the controls felt too sensitive, making the combat needlessly frustrating, while the AI on both sides was also problematic--allies have little concern to protect you, while enemies run headlong into your gunfire. Hopefully though, these issues will be ironed out in the final release.

Author Dmitry Glukhovsky joked, "You guys [the Westerners in attendance] are used to thinking of Russia as the bad guy." Thankfully, his hopes of telling a Russian story from a different perspective certainly look to be delivered upon. Though the postapocalyptic setting is nothing new for video games, the story, environments, and characters all feel fresh and interesting. The game is shaping up very nicely, and with the book being translated into English to coincide with the release, as well as sequel Metro 2034 already released in Russia, this could be a series that's hard to ignore early next year. Watch out for more intel on the game as we get it and check out our video interviews for even more information on this compelling new universe.

Discussion

209 comments
Mist17
Mist17

i hope we get more info on the game soon

Redraider8493
Redraider8493

im afraid its gonna be too short of a game since its coming from a book which takes a week or more to read but in real time 3 hours to play it out u know

Sgt_P3pper
Sgt_P3pper

Suck PS3 owners. lol. Gonna be an awesome game, cant wait to play it, going to go down to EB and get my Collectors Edition.

smoman5000
smoman5000

looks good, i love THQ but i wish this was being released on ps3

SerbWarrior
SerbWarrior

Yes,it is Fallout 3 + Stalker,that was the first thing i thought when i saw the trailer...My question is,so what?Is that a bad thing? This is a post apocalyptic game,and i love myself some zombie/mutant shooting.Also,this game maybe better than Fallout 3 or Stalker :D Looks like it has a lot of promise,we will see what it looks like on release!

Jock9
Jock9

Looks great hope its like Fallout 3 or indeed better, I love post-apocalypse games. Always have, Metro 2033 better give us our end of the world fix.

deadfishAUS
deadfishAUS

omg the monsters look dam creepy, i hate creepy s*** i hope u can spend most of the time above ground

FahlazadDelOra
FahlazadDelOra

Fallout 3+Stalker= Metro 2033. Looks a bit like Borderlands.

tonyhawksP8
tonyhawksP8

Oh and unlike Fallout 3 you need a gas mask to survive which is more realistic as for Stalker never played it so that doesn't matter.

tonyhawksP8
tonyhawksP8

I can't wait this sounds better than Fallout 3.

AZZAMAN100
AZZAMAN100

reminds me of fallout 3.....thats why i like it:)

gladin09
gladin09

If you want to see some of the enemies google it in images they look evil :s

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Im really looking forward to this, i love the attention to detail they have pumped into it, i only hope they release a demo. Cant wait. Regarding the enemies in this game, the impression i get is that there is a mixture of human and human/mutants ala Fallout 3. Oh yeah, @aliasghar96 Before posting ignorant, mis-guided and pathetic comments, please at least have the common sense to do a little investigation beforehand: http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-09-metal-gear/50036 Just to clarify MGS:Rising is being released on the 360 (not that i give a s**t). So you can take your pet troll and crawl back under the rock from which you came.

aliasghar96
aliasghar96

looks amazing to me. to bad its not on the ps3 but i dont care becuase metal gear solid rising is coming out and guess what, its only on the ps3

shmony1
shmony1

yeah who are u supose to shoot in this game

blackie8
blackie8

I personally want to read the book as I play the game. That will be cool

Will1590
Will1590

i'm anxious to see what the enemies are

LT-Voltaire
LT-Voltaire

This game seems cool, but I hope this isn't just a rip off of Fallout 3. I mean it sounds just like Fallout 3 but with much better graphics. I'm still confused is this a RPG or FPS or a mix of both. I will look forward to hearing more about this game latter it looks quite impressive and I don't what country a game comes from as long as it fun to play and keep me away from the wife for a few hours a night.

Kurtizz
Kurtizz

European developers have made very good games. What about Crytek(Germany), Rock Star North (Edinburgh, Scotland), Guerilla games(Killzone 1 &2), ... You, Warghost2k, act like America and Japan are the only good game developers. How stupid is it to think that. I have to admit they make great games, but don't generalize Europe because there are some bad games made and look at Europe as a continent! If I made a list of "shoddy quality and broken games" made by America and Japan, man that would be a long list. So think before you type things like this dumbass.

Warghost2k
Warghost2k

Well, I got about one paragraph into this article before I realized this game will suck. A Ukraine developer? 4A Games? If STALKER, X2-X3, and Gothic taught me anything, it's to avoid European games at all costs. Sorry, I've been disappointed one too many times to buy their crap anymore. Leave the game-making to Americans and Japanese, your shoddy quality and broken games aren't worth the $50 price tag!

moxyz1
moxyz1

thanks for the quicklook im def interested in this & will follow it to see if it ends up being what it has the potential to be, as a stalker fan also any simmilarities can only be a good thing imo. Guy cocker, bet hes heard all the jokes about his name before so grow up kiddies ur not in the playground now ok ur hanging with the adults now. :)

G1-TailsOwn
G1-TailsOwn

dee dee i laughed hard and woke up my mom and dad that the gayest name ever! a guy u like the cock ur name is guy cocker. lol

deedee_1
deedee_1

his name is GUY COCKER....hehe....guy...cocker...heh

takreem95
takreem95

Good Morning, Gentlemen. Is this game going to have alien enemies or human enemies?

djmillard2
djmillard2

will definitely pick the book up

RDA315
RDA315

The longer the game's enemies are kept under wraps, the more I want to play this game. It adds to the mystery that makes it so intriguing. It really bothers me when developers shell out so much information on a game before it's release because it ruins the experience for me in a way. For example I was watching a preview of Bioshock 2, and it was said that every big daddy has a connection to one and only one little sister to protect by any means. I can tell you right now that Big Sister is your character's little sister... plot twist ruined. I guess I'm not watching any more previews, but some of it you just can't avoid hearing about... oh well

chainsawgamer
chainsawgamer

I will give this game props because it is trying something new with the "radioactive"genre as some people call it,kinda like fallout 3 did.Also,we don't always think of russia as bad guys,cause in MW2,the russians are just trying to defend there countrys people,not slaughter the USA,they did not know wat was going on

bumbum1991
bumbum1991

Nah, I'm waiting for STALKER: Call of Pripyat. Hope in this version, allies will be always by my side. They should add the feature: "call for back up": if we have troubles with enemy or mutants, we can call for help from the nearby allies. (Do you guys remember in Clear sky, allies always call us whenever they're under attack? So why can't we? Another thing, at least going with allies make me feel safe (no longer scare surprise from bloodsuckers or snorks, the darkness ^^). Or we can call allies go with us before leaving the camp or depots. About the grenades, they should add "throw potatoes back before they explode" to avoid dying (I died not less than 200 times by them). Metro 2033 should have these features, too. Next year is for STALKER, Metro 2033 and maybe MW3 and Crysis 2. Gonna rock hard!

SabredinHalf
SabredinHalf

Can't wait, i'm completely into the postapocalyptic game thing....

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Im really intuiged by this, and look forward to more info

Realmjumper
Realmjumper

I hope this game is successful like Stakler and I hope it's better too.

Tali_Man
Tali_Man

Why cry about similarities. If these other publishers of these games felt threatened by this game I am pretty sure they would be in court already. They don't need you pointing out the obvious. People are drawn to these titles because of genre and story.

SpacePirate6
SpacePirate6

@JimmyJumpy: "I feel that not wanting to play a game because of 'rumors' the team misbehaved with the content of a game you 'cherish' (I'm being cautious here), is, well, stupid..." What are you talking about? I said that if the rumors were true I would pass Metro by... ...then I said that if they turn out to be false I would definitely buy it... So I'm not deciding not to play it based on 'rumors' as you put it. I'm speculating on rumors and I'll choose to buy the game or not based on facts, once I learn the undisputed truth (I'll before the game's release). And what would I 'turn the tables on' anyway? I do feel some indignity though @~@ Go figure. It's okay though, don't worry about replying unless you want to, which is fine. I probably wont follow up though, but thanks, you game long and prosper too ^-^

JimmyJumpy
JimmyJumpy

@SpacePirate6: well, by coincidence, I *am* cute and clever... and I also know that things aren't as simple as I put them, because there's non-disclosure agreements and some such. I wasn't trying to aggravate you, just teasing you because of the way you reacted. You may find my reactions 'stupid', I feel that not wanting to play a game because of 'rumors' the team misbehaved with the content of a game you 'cherish' (I'm being cautious here), is, well, stupid... And you don't have to justify things. It's just that you did justify your decision by mentioning the reason why you don't want to play Metro2033... So don't turn the tables and act all indiginified. Now, game long and prosperous, Pirate...

SpacePirate6
SpacePirate6

@JimmyJumpy: "I wonder what tune you would sing when you would be in a situation where you helped develop something, but disagreed with the management halfway through and in consequence took off with what you already developed and put it to use at another company..? Would you be angry when the former management would deny you the right to use what you worked on and helped develop yourself?" It's actually more complicated that that, depending on what kind of paperwork and agreements are settled on. It's not always "I helped develop it so it's mine as much as it is yours". And yeah, people "steal" from one another's ideas all the time. What's your point? People do lots of things all the time. Since when do I have to justify my own decision to not play a computer game? I didn't say they should be locked up, for pete's sake. Anyways, it seems that what they've used, they had rights to. And by the way, I don't have a basement. And what kind of stupid little remark as that? A stalker shrine... Ok, so because I'm a big fan of the STALKER games, I have to be a worshiper of them? Stupid stupid things people say to try and be cute and clever... And if I "miss out" it'll be because I decided not to play this game by my own will. I wouldn't give a hoot what some random internet user named "JimmyJumpy" thought of a computer game I decided not to play. But I hope you do enjoy it when it comes out.

SpacePirate6
SpacePirate6

@ lindallison: "How exactly does this threaten STALKER - Newsflash for ya, STALKER and GSC is doing just fine. Call of Pripyat much?" Yeah... congratulations, you've got common knowledge. When did I say it put GSC in jeopardy? I just don't want to buy from and in turn fund a studio that uses dirty tactics.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

This looks fantastic. Can't go wrong with more stalker.

BDL91
BDL91

Most anticipated game of 2010??? So far looks Fantastic

fatpumba3
fatpumba3

I might try and read the book before buying this game.

JimmyJumpy
JimmyJumpy

@emanwell: Guy Cocker is the cousin of Joe Cocker and he (Guy) will burst out in a sweetvoiced "You Are So Beautiful, To Me" whenever he mows down subway thugs...

Vaultboy-101
Vaultboy-101

This game has the potential to be better than fallout 3.

zbiggie
zbiggie

Seems very 'STALKER' like game, which is a really good thing. Hopefully this ends up being one of the great games.