The lights are on
Metro 2033 was a game with flaws. It was also a game that I love unapologetically despite those flaws. Luckily, Ukrainian developer 4A Games is getting a second shot at the license with the newly re-titled Metro: Last Light. I got my first look at the sequel in action last month, and it’s already shaping up to be a major improvement.
Picking up shortly after the end of 2033, Last Light steps away from the series of books that the original was based on to forge its own story, though author Dmitry Glukhovsky is still heavily involved with creating the plot. THQ isn’t saying much about the story yet, but I’ve been told that protagonist Artyom is now a full-fledged member of the Rangers and is still traveling with Khan, one of his companions from the first game. In the levels I saw, the duo was sneaking into some underground territory held by the Reich, the neo-Nazi regime terrorizing certain regions of the Metro in 2033.
This objective provided a great opportunity for THQ to show off the improved stealth mechanics, a major complaint from the first game. Enemy AI is being improved in many ways, although human opponents will also follow more recognizable patterns, making stealth approaches less frustrating. According to Metro global brand manager Mark Madsen, 4A Games is not dumbing the game down at all, just "[communicating] the ideal path to players."
Stealth will also be improved with the addition of several new abilities for Artyom. If a lightbulb, candle, or other light source is close enough, players will be able to interact with it, causing Artyom to reach out and silently extinguish the light. On the other side of the spectrum, he will now carry a lighter that he can use to set flammable objects on fire. In the demo, some wooden boxes quickly picked up the flame, which spread naturally through the environment, distracting the panicked guards and allowing Artyom to sneak up behind them for some stealth kills.
After working through this introductory sequence, Artyom and Khan found themselves in the midst of a giant crowd of Reich soldiers in a huge, banner-filled hallway. On the opposite end, a Reich leader is giving a rousing speech that the crowd responds to with terrifying shouts. The duo does their best to blend in with the crowd and slowly push their way through, but it’s no use. They’re spotted and the tense, world-building moment bursts into a fast-paced chase through the fascist settlement.
As with the best moments of Metro 2033, one set piece bled directly into the next, as Artyom and Khan ended up on a mine cart, speeding alongside a Reich train. With Khan at the controls of the cart, he screamed at Artyom that he must jump. The prisoner they’re looking to rescue was apparently on board the train. As the cart pulled closer, Artyom made a death-defying leap, barely making it onto the speeding locomotive.
As he worked through each car of the train, taking out a slow stream of enemies, Artyom showed off another important new feature of Last Light: detailed environmental destruction. If you choose to go the route of running and gunning, as I did in the original game, you’ll be aided by the ability to blow holes in walls, floors, ceilings, and any cover standing between you and your opponents. Likewise, the armor that is equipped by certain enemies will now have individually modeled panels that can be shot off, exposing weak points to help you take them down.
If you’re like me and loved Metro 2033, Last Light looks like it will provide plenty more of that game’s style of memorable linear action. If you ignored 2033 or found yourself frustrated with its shortcomings, the sequel’s increased development time may help it live up to the franchise’s full potential. Check out the first teaser trailer below, and be sure to read the upcoming July issue of Game Informer for an expanded preview with new, exclusive details.
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