Metro: Last Light - Review



Metro: Last Light has had a rough start. With an interesting but ultimately quite forgettable predecessor, Metro 2033, it was a sequel that had to make a name for itself.
Early demos of the game showcased beautiful lighting effects in a great dystopian setting based on the novels of Dmitry Glukhovsky.
Curiosity for the game began to rise when the real problems occured with publisher THQ's bankruptcy. Facing the brink of cancellation, Last Light luckily found a new publisher - Deep Silver.
Now, after numerous delays and troubles, Last Light finally got released.
Is Metro: Last Light worth your attention or has its tough development ruined its potential?



Story
 

The plot:
Last Light takes place one year after the events of Metro 2033, proceeding from the ending where Artyom chose to call down the missile strike on the Dark Ones. The Rangers have since occupied the D6 military facility, with Artyom having become an official member of the group. Khan, the nomad mystic, arrives at D6 to inform Artyom and the Rangers that a single Dark One survived the missile strike. Khan believes the Dark One is the key to humanity's future, and wants to make peace with it, while Ranger leader Colonel Miller wants to kill the creature due its potential threat. Miller sends Artyom to the surface with a mission to kill the Dark One.

Beforehand, i have to say that i didn't play the first Metro 2033 game and therefore can't exactly compare this sequel to its predecessor. Yet still, i informed myself about the story and the events of the first game and some of the reviews it got.


Last Light's story picks up pretty much right after the events of the first Metro 2033 game.
Despite having a rough knowledge about the events of the first game, it is not really necessary to have played Last Light's predecessor to follow the story.
The game's story is actually surprisingly simple and bare bones. It has very little that will actually "wow" players. Neither the few twists and turns or storytelling ideas are anything new in the genre.
With that said, the real selling point of Artyom's adventure through this dystopian world is its journey-like structure.
What starts with a fairly simple plot, evolves into an odyssey through the fascinating and believable dystopian world of Metro 2033's Russia. Feeling the constant danger in eerie abandoned subway stations or at the apocalyptic surface with its monsters is effectively executed.
Curiosity about what awaits you at each new chapter almost never lets up during this odyssey.
Along with it, the great and very convincing atmosphere of the Metro world and its citizens make exploring the world and listening to what characters actually have to say quite interesting. It all blends very well into the theme of survival that is further enhanced through Last Light's gameplay. Regarding the storytelling, the decision to have Artyom be a mute protagonist (except during loading screens) and some unfittingly placed nudity just for the sake of being a mature game happen to be obvious goofy downsides here.

Sadly, some aspects about Last Light's story are hinted at or just shown to little of. While the story starts out interestingly enough introducing different rivaling fractions and groups in the Metro network like the Nazis and Communists, the game avoids going into further detail about them and rather focuses on fairly boring supernatural themes the entire second half of the campaign.
This leaves a bittersweet taste, because it's obvious that the game's great potential hasn't been used the proper way and that it instead focused on clichee supernatural ghost visions.
And while the ending more or less ties up all loose ends, it's extremely obvious that the final segment has been rushed beyond believe and forces a very abrupt conclusive ending.

A journey through a fascinating world.

Gameplay
 

Metro: Last Light might look like a standard shooter to most people, although it really wants to present itself as a STEALTH-shooter, which is more said than actually done.

On the linear 9-10 hour campaign, the player is able to take out groups of enemies stealthily. The game encourages the player to play this certain way to conserve ammo and to use darkness to his advantage. By shooting out lights or removing lightbulbs, darkness can be triggered to hide in or to attack out from the shadows. The stealth aspect gets further underlined by the excellent lighting work in the game.
And although killing enemies stealthily turns out to be surprisingly easy due to questionable and mostly stupid enemy A.I., it is far less engaging and far less effective than just flatout offensively attacking the foes guns-blazing. Without any logical tactic despite taking cover or rushing towards your position, enemies often start running around like headless chickens when alarmed, making fights sometimes ridiculously easy or just plain dumb. 
With this offensive attack strategy, even ammo isn't a problem anymore due to plenty of loot left from enemy corpses, diminishing much of the survival feel during battles.
Ultimately, Last Light's stealth gameplay is far too unpolished to make it that serious strong game mechanic that the game wants it to be.

"I wanna be a stealth game!"

Fighting the various monsters of the wasteland surface is a whole different story. Stealthily taking them out is as good as impossible, meaning that you have to shoot for your life when being attacked by monster groups. Making every shot count is absolutely necessary due to the monsters not leaving you any ammo or loot to pick up.
On the surface, the survival theme of Last Light is displayed in its full extent. Not only do you have to keep your gas mask vision clean, you also have to look out for any ammo you can find, new gas masks (in case yours is broken or the vision cracked), new air filters to keep breathing and don't forget to recharge your light battery. Those numerous factors are the major strength in Last Light's gameplay that make you really feel like you are fighting for your life in this world when the odds are against you. 
Furthermore, the variety in monster enemies is much bigger than with human enemies. Swamp monsters, spiders, various dog like mutants and even flying "demons" make a solid roster of monsters to fight, including some uninspired boss encounters. Yet still, the hit detection regarding the monsters turns out to be pretty random, when the same enemy type sometimes takes 20 shots and at other times somehow takes 5 shots with the same weapon at the same spot to kill.

There's plenty of where this came from.

With that said, while there actually is some room for exploration in the linear campaign, free-roaming space in the Metro underground itself is understandably limited, whereas areas on the surface are mostly fairly small too (comparable to free roaming areas from 2011's Rage).

On your journey you will also encounter some market places on some stations. Giving you the option to enhance your post-apocalyptic weapons might sound very useful at first, but this quickly gets redundant when you notice how rare shiny bullets (the currency in the Metro) are. Therefore i rarely actually bought anything other than some ammo on the market, whereas you can find customized weapons through looting enemies anyway.
Sure the survival aspect once again gets underlined through money rarity but on the other hand, why put so much stuff to buy at markets in the first place?

Last but not least, it has to be mentioned that publisher Deep Silver's choice to keep the very hard difficulty called "Ranger Mode" exclusively to gamers who pre-ordered the game or that additionally paid 5 dollars for it as DLC is just ridiculous. Everybody wants this mode that furthermore enhances the survival gaming experience of Metro: Last Light (removed HUD, less ammo, stronger enemies). Why cripple your own game with such a stupid marketing choice? Anyway, i think fellow reviewer Angry Joe says everything about it with his rant vlog:

  
Graphics
 

Last Light is a beautiful game. Not only does it absolutely nail the credible presentation of a post-apocalyptic Russian setting, but also light itself is key here.
The lighting effects are among the best in the business and really help establishing the great moody atmosphere. If only the stealth gameplay would be better to make more use of it.
Unfortunately, there are still some bugs to be encountered along the way. Some weird animations and sloppy lyp-syncing mildly hamper the fun and make a lack of polish obvious.
Still, considering how immensively buggier the console versions of the game supposedly are, really stick to the PC version if you can.  


Sound
 

Metro's sound design is a mixed bag. The general sound design of creepy noises echoing through the Metro and monster growls are executed pretty well. On the other hand, voice acting may be done by capable authentic Russian-american voice actors, but some of the performances go overboard with clichee overly Russian or German accents.
And by the way, why do the Russians in the game talk English with some Russian words mixed in? Either make it completely Russian with subtitles or make them talk completely in English! What the hell is it with those weird mixed languages?

Symphony of destruction.


The Verdict

All in all, regarding other reviews, Metro: Last Light is supposedly a big step above its predecessor, but as far as i can say, it's generally still a fun but unfortunately forgettable experience when compared to other shooters in the business.
With a fairly solid but also very simple bare-bones odyssey storyline, Last Light's main selling point is the impressive presentation of its atmosphere and credible setting. Few post-apocalyptic games nail its fictional world as effectively as Metro: Last Light.
Sadly, the game turns out to still be a generic shooter, whereas it wants to be a stealth shooter. However, a lack of competent enemy A.I. and too easy and clunky stealth mechanics make stealth approaches redundant and far less fun than actual gun-focused combat.
With that said, playing through the campaign as a generic shooter turns out to be far more satisfying considering that the game's survival theme is a big fun-factor. With several surprisingly realistic aspects like damage to your gas mask, air limitation etc. Last Light has just enough unique ideas to grant it its own personality and achieve a 7 out of 10.
Regarding the troubles this sequel to Metro 2033 faced during development, Deep Silver and 4A Games delivered a solid but flawed post-apocalyptic shooter experience that might be a mixed bag but still offers much to be loved. It's a perfect rental and a solid buy if the price goes down and if you can get your hands on the Ranger Mode.        
          
  

Final Verdict: 7 out of 10

 Status: Solid Rental


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