Metro 2033 Review

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I hate it when titles take me forever to get around to, and this one was hanging in the balance for about two months.  But after using an extended weekend to plow through this title that I would expect 5+ million people to own due to how it was $0.00 for a few days.  Still, I am insane and can’t go through something and not write about it unless my thoughts are totally indifferent, so here’s what I thought of the title, and two months before the sequel.

Metro 2033 Review
Release Date: 10/3/2010
Platforms: Xbox 360(reviewed) and PC
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: THQ

Note: I normally play through games on normal as I review them, but here I played on Ranger Easy, a $3 DLC mode that I interpreted as a more enjoyable one, and was more along with what the developers originally intended.

Despite being based on a novel of the same name, Metro 2033 keeps it fairly light in terms of plot.  There is not much other than in about 6 months from writing this, Moscow went boom with possibly the rest of the world, and people have been living in the Metro for 20 years.  While you’re just some schmuck that was told to stop strumming his guitar and go on a great big errand to help out your small community, as a lot of rubbish comes your way, but it is presented to be normal, with most travellers running into mutants, ghosts, and political factions that want you turned into a thick soup.

Under the guise of something I refer to as a tactical first person shooter, Metro 2033 provides a very interesting spin on the genre by making bullets also act as the primary currency, and making ammo something you’d need to be careful with anyway.  Built on top of such a system is a regular risk/reward system that balances one’s stealth skills with their accuracy hindered by an absent reticle.  WIth the compromise being a rechargeable flashlight, laser pointer, or just ramming everything but a shotgun up your nose to silently pop off a head, because video games.

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But on the subject of the weapons, there is actually a small armory’s worth of alternate firearms, all of which evoke a very fitting feeling of being chunks of metal that release other pieces of metal.  Something I find to give the game a fitting sense of empowerment when shooting, but regret afterwards.  Not that you have much of a choice, because most baddies can bring you down in two or three successive hits.  You have three weapon slots for the most likely of candidates, but despite the ability to pick up every firearm in the open, you’d probably stick with whatever you spent a small fortune for at one of the many vendors.  Especially when I realized that sometimes when picking up a new weapon, the old one falls into the floor, with the indicator for superior weapons being hard to follow, and ultimately making me not bother with new weapons during the second half, because I didn’t want to reload a checkpoint.  Something that sounds odd, considering how much it reminds me of first person shooters where you could save anywhere, like Half-Life 2 and Bioshock.

And even then, there are items that I could never find a use for, like the throwing knives which took three tries to hit a murder happy “Red” in the back of the neck.  And two types of grenades that I found only one use for when I attempted to blow up a room after I was assaulted by mutated moles.  Same thing with health packs, which I only saw the need to use during two ball bustingly aggravating and near identical sections where I had to flee from explosive amoebas as some schmuck shot at them and took their hits like a wall.  Which were oddly the second to last combat sections of the game, so maybe I should’ve used a few of my fifty-two shotgun shells, instead of a silenced sniping machine gun.  Not that I had any real way of knowing that there would be no battle before the ending that was based on an unmentioned moral choice system.  Seriously?  Can’t a character just murmur something about karmic balance, as the game frames around it?

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However, my favorite sections of the title have to be when it sends you out into the radiation filled city of Moscow.  Where you need to keep track of your oxygen, while running away from giant bat-dogs, and picking up any piece of scrap you can.  At least until I glitched myself into having very little oxygen, and needing to take off my mask 80% of the time to maintain enough air to live.  All while trying to rush and engage in this title’s sneaking elements.  Which manage to avoid any feeling of needing a radar due to a handy visibility tracking watch.  And lighting being implemented very well in terms of forming a strategy, if only for the few moments where I crouched in the corner, as monkey-dogs ran past me, and guards being, well, videogame guards, so they are half blind while I have night vision goggles.

But even after getting over the occasional rail shooter boost of oddly placed adrenaline, the gameplay hold second candle in terms of what I like most about the game, if only because it is often my favorite parts of games, being in a world.  While the game’s budget flashes simply in the face of things like facial animations, most human NPC movement, and invisible walls, it is up there in game worlds I genuinely enjoy being in.  Which is surprising when you actually look at it, because it theoretically represent everything I dislike about this generation’s art direction.

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The world is bleak, grey, and at first glance does not have a lot of care placed in the art direction.  However, that’s kinda the point of the setting.  The world as we are shown is a big fat steaming pile poop, why should we expect any massive spectacle, or the mutilated remains of surface life to be anything but monsters whose skin blends in with the polluted snow filled city?  Besides, they have nice animations, which are more important in my book.  Speaking of which, why is the book Metro 2033 in Metro 2033 several times?  It’s not even an easter egg, it’s the most prominent item during a section where you can only look at a crawl space

I’d also be lying if I said that I did not develop a sense of dread for the mutants, or to use the game’s term, Demons.  It is downright tense to hear one along the corner, with the body type that lets you know that if it hears you, your ass is going to be the first grass this city’s seen in two decades.  And perhaps it is due to how I barely touched the genre of Survival Horror, but that is a feeling I value more than that of taking down a dragon and using its soul and bones to take down another.

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Metro 2033 is not exactly what I expected it to be, a nonstop tense ride through a world that loathes your existence, and will mess your face up until it is compost.  But what I got was certainly a treat.  Despite a few hiccups I have with the game, it is a very nice mix between a more actiony experience, and one that made me feel like a bug in a room of anteaters.  And the worst thing I could say about it was how I felt it ended abruptly, as if development time and resources ran out before they could explain where the giant electric sphere of death came into play via a nuclear apocalypse… Did I forget to mention how there are ghosts?  Because they are pretty awesome.

Great! (17/20)
An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore.  Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.

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