Metro 2033 may be a new IP for publisher THQ and developer 4A Games, but the game is actually based off a Russian best-selling novel of the same name by author Dmitry Glukhovsky. On the eve of Metro 2033’s release, GameSpot AU caught up with Huw Beynon of THQ/4A Games to find out about the challenges developers face when adapting a game from a book, the differences between the PC and Xbox 360 versions, and whether or not we’ll see a Mac version of the game arrive anytime soon on the recently announced Steam platform for the Mac OS.
GameSpot AU: There've been a few postapocalyptic shooters released recently with the likes of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series and Fallout 3. What is Metro 2033 doing to differentiate itself from those other games?
Huw Beynon: The thing first and foremost is that we have a very unique plot. As you know, it’s set on a novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky, which has been a best seller in Russia. That gives us a pasture of characters, storyline, and an underlying level of depth. There’s an element of social commentary on modern Russian politics. He uses existential query growing up as a young man trying to make the best decision with your life; a lot of personal stuff that Dmitry’s thrown in there. We’re going from a completely different source material from most other games.
In terms of a dark, Eastern European atmosphere, I think you’ll see a lot of similarities between us and S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which is no real coincidence given that a lot of the creative minds worked on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. before moving on this. Compared to something like a Fallout or a western version of the apocalypse, western visions seem to be quite cheesy, tongue-in-check, cyberpunk-style, Mad Max-style visions, or they’re very serious Terminator-style versions of the future. What you’ve got here in this Russian twist is a world where you have a kind of grim, plausible reality, but you also have a layer of...spirituality.
GS AU: Now you just mentioned that one thing it does to differentiate itself is the fact that it features commentary on Russian politics. Do you think that western gamers who don’t quite have an understanding of the Russian political climate will be able to appreciate that?
HB: No, it’s subtle. It’s probably less subtle in the book, but first and foremost, it’s a game and it’s got to be enjoyable to play. I think a lot of political commentary and critique can be amusing regardless of where you are and where you’re aimed at. Here in the UK, for example, we understand and enjoy political critiques of say, the American political system, so I don’t see why an intelligent gamer wouldn’t be able to pick up some of the references. It’s fairly universal themes; it’s not really specific to Russian’s modern-day system. I’d hate to make you think that this was a political polemic wrap-up of a game. It’s very much a game; it has a little bit of additional flavour to it.
GS AU: What challenges did you face when adapting the game from the book?
HB: Firstly, the studio...well they hadn’t even formed 4A games yet...had come across Dmitry’s book online and saw the potential in making a game. It’s a coming-of-age tale, a road movie, and a sci-fi thriller rolled into one. It’s very well suited to either film or a game, so what that really gave us was a fantastic setting, set of characters, and key plot moments. What we’ve done with the game is take these characters and the key highlights and work out how to build exciting gameplay scenarios around those. Other sections have to be completely invented from scratch to create exciting gameplay moments. Some of the things we’ve had to do for the game was in the approach to weapons. The improvised weapons and variety that are visualised in graphic detail within the game and the different properties will have a huge bearing on your gameplay experience, and that’s something that has come from the game, not the book.
GS AU: We see that you guys have teamed up with Nvidia for the PC version. Does that mean there will be a big graphical difference between the two platforms?
HB: Yes, the 360 is obviously very powerful, but compared to what’s cutting-edge on the PC these days, it’s not an i7 multi-core behemoth with the latest Nvidia card. We’re really proud of what they’ve done with the engine, which is a proprietary; this is its first outing. On the 360, we think Metro’s probably going to be one of the best games you’ll play, certainly in terms of lighting effects. It’s doing stuff you haven’t seen other games do on the platform. Most PC versions of console games these days tend to be slightly higher res ports. What you’ll see with Metro 2033 is a game that’s really taking advantage of the advanced recent technology out there, so it uses some DX11 features, makes real use of your more powerful processors, and supports Nvidia 3D vision. It’s got extensive PhysX support so if you are a real PC gaming enthusiast and you’ve got a real cutting-edge gaming machine, this will probably be one of the first games in a long time that’ll stretch the legs of your hardware.
GS AU: You just mentioned you’ll be supporting 3D for the PC version. How are you using it to help bring out the atmosphere in Metro 2033?
HB: 3D vision is really difficult to explain until you experience it. I don’t know if you’ve seen Avatar. Is that going to stop you going back and enjoying any other film that isn’t in 3D? Probably not because the real joy is in the experience. We’re really proud of the 3D implementation in Metro. Even with little things--the game is full of little things [like] particles effects, the smoke and particles that hang in the air--will look like they’re in your living room between you and the screen.
GS AU: Huw Beynon, thanks for your time.