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Fight For The Top 50 – Metro: Last Light

by Jeff Marchiafava on Nov 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM

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Despite the fact that Metro: Last Light garnered record-breaking sales for the series, most fans have moved on to other shooters (not surprising, considering the game came out back in May). While it may no longer be at the forefront of gamers' minds, I think Metro: Last List has earned a spot on our Top 50 list.

I wasn't a big fan of Metro 2033; I felt the gameplay was punitively difficult and that many of the survival mechanics – while certainly unique – made the game less fun to play than it should have been. Metro: Last Light not only fixed those problems, it also improved upon the series' main strengths: its story and atmosphere.

4A Games really tightened up the series' shooting mechanics, putting the gunplay on par with most modern shooters. For some fans of the original game, that's a backhanded compliment – but improving the controls and balancing the difficulty doesn't transform Last Light into a run-and-gun shooter by any stretch of the imagination.

Last Light deftly accommodates both action and stealth play styles, a feat that even the most popular series and acclaimed developers struggle with. Much of the stealth and strategy revolves around light; individual light bulbs can be shot out or unscrewed, shrouding areas in darkness (and showing off 4A Games' custom graphics engine, which goes above and beyond most engines in how it handles real-time shadows).

While I found Last Light's gameplay a lot more engaging than its predecessor, the setting and story are still what stick with me the most. Metro is based on a series of Russian novels, and it shows; the plot contains more interesting themes and introspection than your average shooter. These themes play out in the various underground metro stations that you visit, each of which has adopted a different political system. You also meet plenty of interesting characters along the way, who defy the common stereotypes we expect from shooters. The result is a more nuanced post-apocalyptic story, where the real threat isn't the monsters lurking in the shadows (although they're certainly a problem), but rather the desperate human tribes that ascribe to conflicting ideologies. There are some obvious twists along the way, but also some well-handled moments.

Last Light sticks out in my mind as one of the most atmospheric games of the year, and any shooter that can shake up the conventions of the genre and present players with a more intellectually stimulating story deserves a spot on our Top 50 list.

The Top 50 Challenge
Most of the FPS fans in the office seemed to enjoy Metro: Last Light to some degree, but it's still unclear whether that will be enough to make the Top 50 list. When I brought the game up at our feature meeting, Matt Helgeson expressed interest in playing it, and I think he's a great choice. Matt isn't the biggest FPS fan in the office, but he has an appreciation for games that try to do something different, and he enjoys a good story. I'm interested in hearing if Last Light's gameplay clicks with him, and if he finds the atmosphere and story as compelling as I remember them to be.

Matt was given one day to play Metro: Last Light. Come back tomorrow at 4 PM CT to read his impressions and see if it'll get his support for Game Informer's Top 50 Games of the Year.