Dealspwn Rating: 8/10
Developer: 4A Games
One question: aren’t games supposed to be fun? Metro 2033 is many things – well executed, atmospheric, psychopathically challenging – but fun isn’t a word that springs to mind.
It’s set – as you’ve probably guessed – in an underground system in 2033. The location this time is Moscow. The reason you’re living in the underground system? Chant it with me people: Nuclear war. Yes indeed, Metro 2033 is another – everybody! – post-apocalyptic first person shooter. What’s going on in games development world? Is it only Disney that’s allowed access to the colours? Enough of the greys and browns! Can’t we just once have a first-person shooter set in a meadow?
Sorry. I digress. You play Artyom, a 20-something man who was born in the last glory days of Moscow but raised underground, as one of the last band of survivors. You’ve never known life above ground and probably never will, since the apocalyptic event turned the surface poisonous. You’ve also never known life outside the station where you live, because of all the mutants and nasties and, indeed, Nazis that dwell there. As one of your colleagues says, if it is about survival of the fittest, then mankind has already lost.
Your station-bound status is about to change however, which is just as well, because otherwise this would be the most depressing game ever made AND the most tedious. With a new threat approaching, you’ve stumbled into the role of messenger and must get to another outpost of survivors and warn them. All together now, one more time - the fate of mankind is in your hands...
Underground life? The world under threat? You as potential saviour? Originality really isn’t Metro 2033’s strongpoint. However, within the conventions of the genre, there’s a lot here to recommend it, the biggest point of which is the challenge. While Gears of War, for example, pits you against a hard to kill enemy, it also gives you access to serious amounts of weaponry and state-of-the-art ammunition. Metro 2033 takes a different approach, and one that’s fitting of the scenario. The enemies are equally hard to kill but you’re also attempting to wipe them out with basic weapons – many of which have been cobbled together from assorted spares – and mostly homemade ammo. You live underground, you see. Society came to an end, and 20 years of survival isn’t long enough to have developed production lines, or even guns that don’t overheat. You will occasionally find “military grade” bullets which cause greater damage – but these also serve as currency in the world of Metro 2033. And you’re going to need a lot of that in order to upgrade your weapons at the outposts that are dotted across the map.
You’ll also find that the accuracy of the weapons that you have, their capacity (hmm, seven enemies, six in the clip...), the power of the ammunition, the speed of the enemy and the darkness of the scenario can leave you unarmed, but for a big knife, on a regular basis. Accordingly you have to pick your battles carefully, choose your shots and spend a lot of time lurking in the (plentiful) shadows.
If that wasn’t enough, you’re also going to spend a lot of time recovering from injury – you could use a Medkit but trust me, you generally won’t have enough – and balancing all of the above with a desperate need to get back to clean air. Yes, you have a gas mask but the filters have an alarmingly short life and, you guessed it, replacements are few and far between.
Oh, and I nearly forgot the head torch. This can be very useful but you need to keep it charged up. If you don’t, its power, and thus your visibility, diminishes and when that happens, you can generally expect to fall into traps and die. It’s not so much a combined stealth and first-person shooter then, as a combined stealth, first-person shooter and micro-management simulator.
It’s the atmosphere that really sets this apart from the pack though. Remember that first time you played Bioshock? How immersive your first visit to Rapture was? Think that only slightly scarier. While the game is quite linear, there’s no obvious path through – although your journal does feature a compass which provides some clue – encouraging exploration, and the puzzles are frequently tough. While this is regularly frustrating, the satisfaction of finally getting through that door or past that obstacle is immense.
- A truly immersive, frequently bloody terrifying experience
- A grimly realistic weaponry system
- Anything that generates this much adrenaline, stimulates the eyes AND the grey cells can’t be all bad
- You’ve generally seen it all before
- For gamers used to spoonfed, linear adventures, this will have you pulling your hair out
- It's as grey as they come
Short version: Metro 2033 is not then a game for everyone. If you prefer your heroics to come with, well, heroics, look elsewhere on the shelf and detractors will no doubt write it off as a Fallout / Bioshock / Half-Life 2 hybrid. If though you like your games genuinely disturbing, thoughtful and intensely creepy, this is brilliant stuff. And hell, if you’re going to make a medley of three games you could do a lot worse than those, right?