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Top 50 Challenge – Metro: Last Light

by Matt Helgeson on Nov 29, 2013 at 10:00 AM

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I accepted Jeff Marchiafava's challenge to play Metro: Last Light, a game he decided to champion for our year-end Top 50 list. I went in blind. Though I'd heard good things about it, I'd never played Last Light or its predecessor Metro 2033.

I've been interested in the series, but for whatever reason I'd never actually jumped into the world of Metro. Last Light had unfortunate timing when it was released in May; it was sandwiched between some early-year high profile releases (like Tomb Raider and BioShock Infinite, for example) that I'd been anticipating for months and the next month's The Last of Us. By time I was done with those, the world had moved on and I – like many – had forgotten about Last Light.

After putting some hours into Metro: Last Light, I'm very happy that I accepted Jeff's challenge. It's a stylish, tense shooter that has an oppressive atmosphere and combat that balances explosive shootouts with deliberate stealth in a very interesting way.

As I said, I've never played Metro 2033, so I didn't know anything about the game's backstory. Thankfully, the game gives you a good idea of the catastrophic events that happened in the previous game and how they haunt protagonist Artyom. I don't want to give anything away, but rest assured that you should be able to glean enough to understand the motivations that drive Last Light's story.

I love the setting and the world that 4A Games created (based on the novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky). Post-apocalyptic Moscow is a grim and dangerous place, plagued by both horrific mutated creatures and human sects that have become twisted in their struggle to survive. It helps that the game is gorgeous, making great use of light and shadow to enhance the grey, dreary environments.

While there's not a lot of diversity to the environments, it's all so well-realized and grounded in a sense of place that I didn't mind. I loved the decayed old Russian buildings and the makeshift strongholds of groups like the Nazis and the Communists, filled with makeshift machinery and the things left over from the end of civilization.

The combat itself is equally focused, but the game does a great job of pacing and offering up different kinds of challenges. On your long journey, you'll face threats from both monsters and humans, which require very different tactics. Against human foes, you're better off using stealth as much as possible, sneaking around and extinguishing light sources until you can pick off your foes one by one. Of course, terrible at stealth as I am, this failed about 60 percent of the time, and I'm happy to say that the explosive combat that broke out after I blew my cover was just as satisfying.

Above ground, it's a mad rush for survival. The air is contaminated, so you have to use gas masks with air filters that only last for about five minutes. This is also where the more fearsome beasts reside, so you'll find yourself fighting for your life while struggling to replace your expired filter – adding tension to an already tense experience. While I agree with Jeff that the voice acting could use some work, the tale at hand does have some good twists and turns.

My Vote
In a year where a lot of the big-name FPS franchises fell flat, I think Metro: Last Light delivered a great, unique experience. It doesn't feel like any other shooter franchise on the market; the mix of the oppressive Russian setting, frantic combat, and stealth is very distinctive. This is one of the overlooked gems of 2013. I look forward to finishing it, and I'd say it has a shot at making my own personal top 10 year-end list.