Nothing in this missive should suggest that either 4A or I would like to see any change in the way the game itself has been received or reviewed by press or fans. I know 4A well enough to know that they demand to contest on a level playing field. This isn't golf, and they don't need or want a handicap. Their pride and skill demand that Last Light go head to head with competition on even terms, and I am sure they are happy with the response.
Let's be honest: 4A was never playing on a level field. The budget of Last Light is less than some of its competitors spend on cut scenes, a mere 10 percent of the budget of its biggest competitors. Yet it is lauded for its story and atmosphere. It is built on a completely original and proprietary second-generation engine that competes with sequels that have stopped numbering themselves, with more engineers on their tech than 4A has on the entire project. Yet its tech chops are never in question.
I just started Metro today (it's real good!). I never would have guessed they were working with a much smaller budget. Stands against any other big-name game fine. Game still looks and plays fantastically. Makes you wonder how much could be saved by cutting back on the cutscene budget, or finding alternate means of storytelling for that matter.
Also of note: the studio worked under some horrid conditions. Crazy what they have to go through just to get dev-kits and PCs.
When 4A needed another dev kit, or high-end PC, or whatever, someone from 4A had to fly to the States and sneak it back to the Ukraine in a backpack lest it be "seized" at the border by thieving customs officials. After visiting the team I wanted to buy them Aeron office chairs, considered a fundamental human right in the west. There were no outlets in the Ukraine, and our only option was to pack a truck in Poland and try to find an "expediter" to help bribe its way down to Kiev. We gave up not because this tripled the cost, but because we realized that the wider Aeron chairs would require spreading out people and computers, which would lead to extra desks, and that ultimately would have required bigger offices. Yes, really.