This game has been sitting in my “games to review” queue for quite a while now, and I’m not really sure why. True, I was not the biggest fan of Metro: Last Light, but I do have fond memories of playing the original Metro 2033 years ago and a remastering like this would ideally improve whatever shortcomings that game had. Ideally, but in trying to fix a few things, it turned what I recalled as being a delightful little experience into a far more annoying one.
Metro 2033 Redux Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), OSX, Linux, PS4, XBO
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
The story of Metro 2033, based on a novel of the same name, centers around a post-apocalyptic world set two decades after a nuclear war left the entire world, or at least most of Russia and namely Moscow, in great disarray as a nuclear winter set in and humans were forced to live in the city’s various subways and underground institutions. More specifically, it is the story of Artyom, a young man who can only scantily remember a world where mutants did not viciously rule the surface, and spent the majority of his life in a little subway station before he is called to explore this brave new world and eventually rise to an astronomical importance, as is usually the case in these sorts of stories.
Though, I’d argue that the story itself is not much of a draw, as it really can be summarized as a series of small adventures where Artyom visits a place where things go wrong, and he is miraculously saved by a man with a beard who helps him out before either petering off, or more likely, dying for the sake of dramatic tension. In that respect, the proper story of Metro 2033 is a rather droll one, where characters come across as flat with little in way of either development or personality, and almost a bit convoluted in its set up. I mean, the crux of 80% of the story is that Artyom needs to give a necklace to some people because his bearded friend never came back from fighting mutants. Also there was something about nazis and communists that is dropped after an hour or two.
That being said, the more prevalent draw is the world building in play with this game, as it’s quite easy to look at any one of the hub environments of the game and determine how this world really works. It is a dull and saddening crap hole, but people are still alive, they are still going about their lives, and for all the depression and sorrow they experience, there is still hope. While it can be overt at times, there is some real emotional resonance in these areas, and in pretty much any environment Artyom goes through. It’s the little things that make this game what it is, like a father trying to maintain his son’s innocence as he doodles, afraid to tell him that his long absent mother actually perished.
For as much as I want to praise this though, the fact of the matter is that these smaller moments are pretty poorly presented. When navigating through the cramped and understandably claustrophobic areas, the player is bound to trigger multiple conversations at the same time, hurting these already easy to overlook moments because this game does not offer subtitles for idle banter such as this. How and why was something like this overlooked in a remastering, which should normally fix issues like this? I don’t know.
The more melancholy tone of the story and world is effectively encapsulated through the gameplay which, aside from a few of the more bombastic sections, is a slower and more methodical first person shooter that tasks the player to scavenge through the world while conserving valuable ammo, which doubles as in-game currency. It makes for an intense experience that doesn’t require the same fast reflexes that are used in a lot more modern and faster FPS, and when combined with horror elements that come with the main character’s vulnerability, it makes for tense balancing act of survival up against mutated horrors. At least in theory.
Most of my qualms with this remastering stem from the Ranger mode, a specialized difficulty setting that rebalances the game to be a more intense and methodical experience with higher stakes and fewer HUD elements. Or in other words, a mode that capsulizes the engrossing qualities of the atmosphere and the more intense elements of the gameplay… in the original anyways. For whatever reason, the mode was changed dramatically due to the removal of three elements that turn the game into a frustrating and unfair endeavor.
The HUD is too minimalistic, the weapon count was lowered, and regenerating health was removed from this mode. Because of the minimalistic HUD, the player is no longer directly informed of what items they picked up, or given any object interactive prompts aside for a scant few that feel more intrusive than necessary due to the amount of screen space they take up. If the player wants to know how much ammo they have, they need to check the in-game objectives menu, which otherwise never needs to be brought up, and breaks the engrossing nature a HUD-less game ideally provides.
Because of the weapon count being lowered from three to two, the player is far more limited in their play style options. In a game centered around careful use of ammunition, this a handicap that neither feels balanced or appropriate. Much like the non-regenerating health, even though Artyom has very little health, and can only withstand two or three hits before being reduced into mutant chow. One can argue that often present health kits remedy this, but it takes two seconds to use them, and one second for a well placed enemy to turn the protagonist into kotlety.
Due to these these limitations, and my ever growing ineptitude at first person shooters, I pretty much avoided combat whenever possible. By that, I don’t mean I simply played stealthily and abused the easily exploitable programming of human enemy troops, though I did do that quite often and with relative ease. I mean I had such difficulty getting through some mandatory combat sections that I began to exploit the game’s rules, scripting, and the programming of the AI controlled partner characters that regularly accompanied Artyom in his journey. When the game called for a wide open battle arena where I was constantly assaulted from behind, I reloaded, ran away from the battle area, hid in a corner, and let the AI do the combat for me while shooting any mutants who came my way in the face with my handy dandy shotgun.
Yes, I could have tried to learn the patterns of enemies to properly respond without wasting all of my medicines and ammunition, but this strategy proved to be far, far more effective. I saved more ammo, and was not subjected to needlessly difficult gameplay that would taint my already less than pleasant opinion of this game. From a mechanical standpoint, I find this mode to be effectively broken with its needless limitations that do little to the invigorating bits of combat that seemed so few and far between. I genuinely did not enjoy the act of playing it, and if I had not already decided to review Metro 2033 Redux, I would have dropped it and gone back to the original to receive what I remember to be a vastly superior experience.
Though, I suppose the game should be considered a visual upgrade at the very least due to the enhanced visual effects and the meticulously detailed environments of this bleak world that are littered with small objects, most of which bolster a high quality textures. Although, the level of detail placed in the textures, in environments and people alike, was genuinely impressive given how well the game ran for me. All of this runs strangely ajar to the invisible walls, enemy glitches, and general lack of interactivity in the world. It’s just a little strange to see such a detailed world be so static and sequential, with the player unable to make any non-predetermined impact on it.
I could go on about minor things like the stupidly simple stealth, the juxtaposition found in scenes that evoke a power fantasy, or the fact that I actually wound up with far more extra ammo than I knew what to do with about halfway throughout the game, but I believe I made my point. Metro 2033 Redux is an inferior version of a game that I wanted to revisit, and even when trying to judge it on its own, it still isn’t very good.