It’s exhilarating when a game can pull you entirely into its world. Sparking emotions, creating connections with the characters, and putting you into the shoes of life or death scenarios, is something that we crave as gamers. However, it seems that we seldom get that experience. If it isn’t some sort of mechanic or game play issue that pulls us out of it, there is a writing, story, or just a believability factor that we just can’t get past. I think that something has come out now that is worth being thrust into with your lights off and your headphones cranked up. The next installment in the Metro series is finally out. Metro: Last Light is here to guide you through the darkness and into the burning radioactive luminance of a radioactive sky.
Humanity has fallen upon itself in a wave of fiery death, wiping out those who couldn’t find safety in time. Moscow is in ruin. Skeletons, scraps of former lives, and memories haunt the Earth’s foundation, even as you live your life in the Metro bunkers. To say you’ve entered a post-apocalyptic world is beyond an understatement. While Fallout and Metro: Last Light might share a common theme, I’d rather cuddle with the fluffy world of Fallout before I ventured out into the wastelands of Metro. Be prepared to scrape by in every sense of the world. Monsters will try to eat you. Thieves will try to bait you. Rival factions will try to catch you. Even your mind will try to lose you. Metro: Last Light goes just that deep to throw you into the shoes of Order solider Arytom.
As much as it might surprise you, I wasn’t totally sold on Metro: Last Light’s younger sibling Metro 2033. To me it was always a glorified tech demo made for the sole purpose of trying to add another PC to its pile of the dead every three minutes. And there is many a PC that has been laid to waste by Metro 2033 due to its insane demands on hardware. That’s a testament to its power, and reason it is still used as a PC benchmark today. I felt the controls were plain, the shooting was labored, and the story was just scratching the surface. Some hidden, primal desire wanted to come out, but it just didn’t have the energy to run out and grab you.
Metro: Last Light found its purpose that its comrade didn’t have. It grabs you from behind a corner and drags you away into the darkness, gluing you to the screen the entire time it does it. The atmosphere, the music, the voice acting, the nuance in the details- all of the elements come together in a scene that you want to grab the nearest Russian and join them for a drink. It is incredibly rare for a FPS game to make you want to inspect every corner of a map or listen to every bit of dialogue just to absorb all of the information you can about the world. Haunting images of bunkers were groups of people went to die after being infected, ghosts playing with your mind as you catch a glimpse of a shadowy figure out of the corner of your eye, Metro: Last Light does everything it can to hold your emotions hostage to the horror and the awe going on around you.
But even for all of the elements that draw you into Metro: Last Light there are several that want to violently pull you away. First, the requirements to even attempt to play Metro are a little on the crazy side. It recommends at least a 2.6 GHz Intel i5 processor, 4Gbs of RAM, and an Nvidia GTX 580 or ATI Radeon 7870. That’s just to play the game. Keep in mind these graphics cards are about a year and a half and a year old respectively. For anyone that tries to build their PCs for a specific timeline, you’ll be pretty much screwed if your build is over two years old. Don’t let the “recommended” specs give you an injection of optimism either. They should have just said “required.” For those running an Nvidia card, it is probably in your best interest in downloading the newest beta drivers boasting up to a 10% gain in performance for Metro: Last Light as well.
I attempted to play Metro: Last Light with a Radeon 6870 at first (meeting all of the other “recommendations”), but eventually I had to give up in an area as I wasn’t getting more than six frames per second. Once I tossed in the Nvidia 660Ti I had sitting around, the problem went away. Funny thing is the 660Ti is another card on the recommended spec list. Think about that for a moment though, a card that is less than a year old. For optimum settings they suggest an Nvidia Titan. How many people actually own one of those? On that note, good luck trying to reduce settings within the game. For one, you cannot disable anti-aliasing within the menu. Turning the quality of the textures, shadows, and lighting all corresponds to internal tables instead of individual sliders. This leads to users being left to their graphics control panels to try and shoehorn settings into be able to play. Even dropping the resolution, something that often solves frame rate issues quickly, from 1920 to 1600 only bumped the frame rate to 11 frames per second. I guess that’s the 4A engine at work.
Glitches and bugs are something rather apparent as well as you progress through Metro: Last Light. I’ve been tossed and wedged into a wall by an explosion, caught on a grate vent with no way to escape, sucked under the floor, seen a Watchman trapped in a shambled car, and a flying demon be stuck momentarily in the roof of a bus when trying to swoop down to grab me. This is on top of texture glitches, light and shadow rendering problems, and models going haywire. These aren’t unheard of things, but it makes you wonder if it is a problem with the game, or if your PC just isn’t up to snuff for Metro: Last Light. If something terrible happens during a scripted event, be prepared to start over from your last checkpoint as many parts of the game depend on these actions. Be prepared to crash at least twice during the span of your game. Thankfully though, auto saves happen at fairly regular intervals.
Metro: Last Light’s A.I. improvements to the NPCs have to be praised as well. While you can spend the majority of the game sneaking around to dispatch your foes in a single blow, you can use subterfuge to pull enemies and monsters into different directions or to lead them into the path of their own demise. One of the most fun things I found to do was to shatter a light near a group of soldiers and watch them go into a slight panic to find out what was going on around them. While you may not need to kill them, you must weigh the pros and cons of giving up that source of ammunition and credits.
Even though the A.I. has been improved, it doesn’t do much for some of the mini-fights or boss battles you’ll encounter. Metro: Last Light’s A.I. system is thrown out the window in favor of brute force and deciding if you want to use your military grade rounds to take something down or apply explosives liberally. Many of the bigger bosses will require it if you don’t want it go running around the map searching for more bullets with something breathing down your neck. It is a waste to see such thought go into the mundane encounters of the game, only to see the progress points turn into something that should be expected from Serious Sam. For as short as a game that Metro is, one would figure the developers would have wanted it to last for as long as possible.
The sheer action of the game is something that is quite surprising though. Gone is the lag in shooting; the sort of awkwardness in drawing a quick bead on a target. Metro: Last Light has one of the smoothest shooting systems witnessed in some time, even without the use of the auto-aim that was clearly included for the benefit of console gamers. Turns are quick, crisp, and fluid. This is good as you’ll be spending a lot of time looking around to make sure something isn’t stalking you from the darkness or keeping watch from the train car ahead.
Metro: Last Light has its moments of unabated glory even with its little quirks. It is hard for me to think of a game outside of the Halo franchise that has reached into the pit of my mind to plant a seed of ravenous interest. I want to consume more of this world. I want to see more of humanities struggles. I want to see just how far we can fall as a civilization until we pick ourselves up again. This bleak world makes you want to root for it, even all the terrible things going on within it. Metro: Last Light possesses its fair share of glitches, glaringly ridiculous hardware requirements, and head tilting quirks, but they’ll quickly fade into the background as you focus on where to get your next mask filter or checking your ammunition stock. If Metro 2033 was to be the pinnacle of what humans can technically accomplish in a game, Metro: Last Light represents the next step forward into the future of interactive storytelling.
Game provided for review by PR.