“You humans killed all your people…cruel…foolish…evil.” —The Baby Dark One on human nature
Metro: Last Light is a first person shooter with stealth and survival horror elements. Produced by 4A studios, the game was released in May 2013. As the successor to Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light continues with Artyom’s story, a year after the events of Metro 2033. By this point in time, the Rangers have occupied D6, a massive bunker with uncharted tunnels. D6 draws the attention of the other factions, who are preparing for war in order to seize the contents for their own gain. As tensions mount, Khan, a mystic, informs the order that a Dark One had survived. The Dark Ones were previously thought to have been hostile until the final moments of Metro 2033, and at present, Artyom suffers from nightmares after launching the missiles that wiped out most of them. While Khan wishes to make peace with the Dark One, the order sends Artyom and their top sniper, Anna, to eliminate it. However, what was originally a simple mission eventually sees Artyom traversing the unexplored depths of the Moscow metro, learning more about the Dark Ones and eventually stopping the Red Line from taking D6. Metro: Last Light was originally bundled with my GPU a year ago, and despite hearing about installation difficulties, I was able to get the game running without much difficulty. The first element that impressed me were the atmospherics. The details in the environments, whether it be the underground barracks and cities, abandoned tunnels or stretches of the surface, add a sense of immersion to the game that throughly convinces the players that this is a post-apocalyptic world where the inhabitants have depended on their ingenuity to survive, and one where nature is slowly reclaiming what was once its domain. Once the initial awe at the atmospherics sets in, Metro: Last Light presents an intricate story that weaves forgiveness together with a reminder of both the best and worst sides of human civilisation.
- If memory serves, my last Metro: Last Light post was written after I first downloaded the game from Steam and got the game running without any issues. This was a one year, one month and one day ago, and it seems that, at long last, I’ve finally gotten around to talking about the game I got through a promotion. However, the first time I beat this, I was not taking screenshots, so I needed to play through a second time to get them, in the process recalling memories of this game from last year.
- Thus, on my second playthrough, I took some 170 images and trimmed that collection down to a more manageable 30 for use in this discussion. After capture by the Reich forces early on in the game, Artyom escapes with the assistance of Pavel, a Red Line soldier but loses all of his weapons from earlier. A silenced revolver is one of the first weapons reacquired, although I prefer sneaking around and avoiding confrontation where possible: having played through many shooters, stealth is nice every now and then.
- Pavel proves to be an indispensable ally early on in the game, providing plenty of friendly dialogue to brighten up the desolate surroundings. Here, I am wielding the Bastard, a gun compatible with the 5.45 mm ammunition. With a high rate of fire and poor accuracy, I found a version fitted with an IRV scope: the scope is quite useful for checking out darker areas without exposing one’s position and has unlimited battery life. It continues working even in areas where ghostly interference disrupts the flashlight and night vision goggles, but has a narrow field-of-view.
- The non-combat sections of the game feel particularly immersive, and I watched the entirety of the theater performance before moving on. There is a lot of conversation going on in populated areas, and despite looking grim, these areas do feel like home with all the clutter and elements found in homes, making it worthwhile to stop and listen, or explore around. Here, Pavel will betray Artyom to the Red Line, but quite personally, I see him as doing his job and, upon encountering him again later, I’ll choose to forgive him.
- Most of Metro: Last Light is set in dark areas, and although some gamers have tried to set the gamma values up so the game would appear brighter, but found that this actually reduces the image quality. The solution is to make good use of the flashlight, lighter, night vision goggles or IRV scope. The flashlight and night vision goggles need to be charged occasionally to ensure they’re bright enough to illuminate the tunnels.
- This is the obligatory on-the-rails mission, reminiscent of a similar mission in Half Life. There are a lot of branching passage ways to the side, leading to abandoned rooms with notebook pages (which explain more details to the story), supplies and ammunition, and military-grade rounds, which act as the currency in the Metro but can also be used as exceptionally powerful rounds. It’s possible to get through the game without using them for the most part, and saving them allows for better weapons and attachments to be purchased.
- Watchmen and Spiderbugs are the most common monsters encountered early on. The former are mutants with a mammalian form, characterised by their dark fur and organisation into packs, while the latter are gigantic hybrid between spiders and scorpions, whose weakness to light causes them to flip over and expose their weak undersides. I prefer taking on all monsters with a shotgun of some sort, since they tend to attack at close range, although in some sections, they come from a distance and can be picked off by a weapon with better range.
- En route to Venice, an underground city set in the Metro’s waterways, the player will fight Shrimps for the first time. These large crustaceans are said to taste great with a beer, and come in several forms: the first ones encountered can be dismissed with shotgun rounds, but later on, the amphibious ones have heavily armoured claws that can stop shotgun rounds, but stagger when it, allowing them to be finished quite quickly.
- I’ll do a longer talk (with roughly ten images) on the Swamp mission later because it holds a special place in my heart: after I purchased a new GPU last year and obtaining this game, I decided to watch some trailers and see what the game was about. I ended up seeing the 10 minutes in the Swamp trailer, which convinced me that Metro: Last Light was looking to be a game I would enjoy. While we’re on the topic of future blog posts, up next is a talk on Love Lab (which will be written once I get the screenshots for it), AudioSurf (long deserving of a short talk), and when their respective series close off, the final reflections for Is the Order a Rabbit? and Knights of Sidonia. This brings us to early July: I will do initial impressions, mid-season and final impressions posts for each of Glasslip, Aldnoah Zero, Sword Art Online II, Sabagebu! and Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita as the summer wears on into August, plus a talk on Wolfire Overgrowth (I am looking to buy that during the Steam Summer 2014 Sale), and another Battlefield 3/Upotte! talk somewhere in August.
- Besides the aforementioned games and four summer anime, Girls und Panzer, Non Non Biyori, and Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ are getting OVAs. I’ll try to get those out as soon as possible. This should cover everything I plan on writing about for the remainder of the summer. Every FPS gamer knows that, if supplies are generously present and while waiting for a ride to appear, chances are, there will be an onslaught of monsters to fight. My preferred strategy for this part is to lay down some claymores and equip the shotgun. The first few shrimps will rush the player, triggering the claymores and wiping them out quickly. There’s a small resupply box nearby, so there’s no fear of running short of claymores or lacking them for the fight to follow.
- A bog shrimp will occasionally engage Artyom as the latter makes his way closer to the church. Night has fallen now, and the swamps are somewhat difficult to navigate under the cover of darkness. Moreover, there are pockets of radiation here: besides the flags, which mark the trail, radiation pockets help guide the way. One of the more subtle things I enjoyed about Metro: Last Light was the accumulation of mud and blood on the visor while the gas mask is equipped, which can be wiped off, as well as the ever-present water droplets. Gas masks do need to be replaced if they sustain too much damage, and every five minutes, filters need replacing.
- Even at present day, there are a lot of abandoned places in Russia, such as disused heavy industrial complexes, deserted military installations and derelict mines. Like the haikyo of Japan, there’s a strange attraction to these sites, which bear testament to the ebb and flow of human settlement and activity. Two locations stand out: Pripyat, a city abandoned soon after the Chernobyl disaster, and Kadykchan, a desolate mining town where winter conditions reigned for ten months of the year. After coal mining no longer proved profitable in the latter, a mass exodus ensued, leaving some 200 residents behind with no power or running water in one of the most desolate regions in the world.
- Paired with the Shambler, liberal use of Claymores and incendiary grenades make short work of the bog shrimp that has been dogging Artyom throughout this mission. The Shambler is a relatively common shotgun in Metro: Last Light and is highly effective at close quarters. With a six-round capacity, it is more useful than the Duplet (a double-barreled shotgun), but it’s also hampered by a long reload time.
- After Anna is captured by Lesnitsky, Artyom makes his way through the Moscow catacombs. With numerous areas where the flashlight stops working, and large caverns dating back to before the war, this is said to be the most unnerving section in the game. It is recommended that one carries the Saiga-12 and Kalash-2012 into the catacombs to provide some heavy firepower against the Nosalis mutants that inhabit these tunnels. Later on, the Nosalis Rhino appears and must be defeated: despite its vast strength, claymores are quite useful against it during the second encounter.
- The Helsing is one of two stealth weapons in the game, firing arrows that can be retrieved after they fulfill their role. An exceptionally powerful stealth weapon at close range, the Helsing is less effective at longer ranges, given that the arrows travel in an arc, but in the tunnels, it is unmatched in performance should one opt to shoot their way through sticky situations.
I find that Metro: Last Light is best played through as a visual novel with shooter elements: there is so much happening around Artyom that enhances the sense of realism in their world. Besides the mandatory conversations that explain the main story, it is possible to stop and listen to the Metro’s other inhabitants talk about their lives and experiences, and even sit through a theatre performance. Listening to these stories and experiencing performances (or buying a few drinks in Venice) adds a sense of depth to their world; the conversations and high level of detail in the environment interact with one another to give the impressions of a society that has adapted well to life in the tunnels. Besides listening to conversations, there are also subtle points in the game that allow for additional interaction, whether it be playing instruments randomly scattered through the map, or partaking in a carnival-style shooting game to receive a prize that winds up being a toy a local boy lost. While Artyom is not walking through populated areas and taking in the sights, the combat aspect is solid for the most part, barring the occasional faults in AI. In addition to a respectable arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, sniper rifles and stealth weapons, players can also access Claymores, throwing knifes and grenades. Those who feel inclined to sneak around the dark corners of the map and knock out enemy guards are free to do so, although it is equally as fun to rush into a firefight with guns blazing. Different play-styles and actions in the game ultimately lead to different endings, though, and now, having played through the game twice, I wound up twice with the ‘bad end’, despite having more insight as to how the morality system worked the second time around.
- For the remainder of the game, I’ll be carrying the Kalash-2012, Saiga-12 and Valve: this loadout sacrifices ranged stealth weapons for weapons diversity, allowing for maximum effectiveness at all ranges. The Saiga-12 is the best shotgun available in Metro: Last Light, wrecking enemies at close quarters. With a high rate of fire and a short reload time, it is the ultimate weapon for most encounters, and I typically field it with the laser sight and a red dot sight.
- I will later upgrade the red dot sight to the 4x scope on the Valve, turning it into a true sniper rifle. For most of the game, the Valve isn’t particularly useful because most enemies will be encountered at short to medium ranges. There are short sections of the game where the Valve is useful, though, and it is worth keeping the weapon around for picking off distant targets outdoors. At closer ranges, the sniper rifle’s slow rate of fire makes it a liability, especially when there are numerous opponents.
- Besides The Swamp, The Bridge is one of my favourite missions, featuring the Luzhniki Metro Bridge during the spring thaw. Artyom must carefully make his way across the ice and enter the bridge. By this point in time, the Dark One will be accompanying Artyom, learning more about humans and occasionally offering assistance.
- I prefer the the Kalash-2012 over the standard Kalash owing to its higher rate of fire and increased default magazine size compared to the other assault rifles, making it useful for close quarters engagements. Adding a sight extends its versatility further. The Kalash-2012 is actually inspired by the FN P90, a bullpup submachine gun that fires FN 5.7 x 28 mm rounds and, in Battlefield 3, has become one of my most used personal defense weapons.
- The first time I played through this mission, a flood advisory was in place for the city, and the University was closed. I had left the laptop on campus and had no way of recovering it, so I spent most of the day writing the review to Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words. Even though the rainfall in the city wasn’t so bad, heavy rain in the mountains, coupled with vast quantities of snowmelt, led rivers to overflow their banks. A large portion of the city center was flooded, and I thus shelved my plans to go downtown on Friday for poutine, being immensely thankful that I am quite far from any river.
- I arrive in a railyard here: under moody, rainy skies, this is yet another instance of the incredible atmospherics in Metro: Last Light. The game has been compared to Half-Life 2, being more about the moods the environments evoke rather than the shooting and combat. Coupled with a compelling story, I personally felt that, even if it’s not the most innovative shooter, Metro: Last Light is something story-driven shooters should strive towards in terms of design, featuring more spoken dialogue and making use of the environment to aid the story.
- While the Dark One may say that these soldiers are rather quick to fire, it is possible to sneak past all of them without firing a single shot. By this point in the game, most soldiers will drop filters, as well as some military grade rounds and additional supplies. I do not believe that sneaking up on a straggler and knocking him out will cost any moral points, making this a viable way to resupply if needed.
- For some reason, this scene reminds me of Portal 2. Metro: Last Light has some steeper requirements, and according to NVIDIA, a GTX 690 or GTX Titan is suggested to enjoy the game in its full glory. However, my current GPU handles the game reasonably well, so there’s really no need to run an insanely expensive GPU to enjoy this game.
- I have decided to equip all of my weapons with the laser sight simply because of my propensity to engage people at close ranges. As such, bringing my weapon up to aim down the sights is not always practical compared to firing from the hip. I recall an older day in gaming, before Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came along, when aiming down the sights was the default mode of firing. Only certain weapons (usually those with optics) could zoom in, and firing from the hip was accurate.
- I am outside the Kremlin here, having fought my way through tunnels underneath a residential block; the whole area is quite unnerving, and on occasion, Artyom will experience visions of the families who lived their prior to the nuclear war that wiped out a large portion of the world. The information surrounding the war is scarce, but according to the source materials, some twenty thousand warheads were fired. The first missiles were fired by Middle Eastern countries, and the American retaliation subsequently brought Russia into the war. While some areas were spared, large portions of the planet were rendered uninhabitable.
- This is one of the few moments in the game where the Valve is useful: Red Line soldiers, and Pavel himself, hide amongst the ruins with sniper rifles. While the Dark One will occasionally help locate them, the soldiers are also equipped with green laser sights. They project a highly visible beam that allows them to be located easily, and although some soldiers will enter the courtyard, most of them will remain in the windows and openings above. After taking down everyone, Pavel will appear and taunt Artyom, before being wounded. Here, Artyom may either save Pavel or leave him to die; recall that Pavel was quite friendly and is merely doing is job, so saving him feels like it’s the right decision.
- The Gardens is where the forest guardian, a gargantuan bear, makes its home. Despite its massive size and fearsome appearance, the bear has a weak spot on its back that can be fired upon. During the fight with the bear, watchmens also attack. Here, the Saiga-12, grenades and the Kalash-2012 are the best bet. Once enough damage is done to the forest guardian, it will flee, and be assaulted by a pack of watchmen. As with real bears, the forest guardian is merely protecting its cubs, and has no malevolence towards Artyom. Shooting the watchmen off the bear will save it and earn an achievement, as well as a moral point.
- I’ve now fast-forwarded past the part where Maxim Moskvin reveals that Korbut is planning to storm D6 and take over the Metro while peace talks are being held. While Moskvin appears to be in charge early on, he was manipulated by Korbut and lives with regret for his past actions. With this news, the Rangers gear up for a final battle against the Red Line soldiers. The onslaught of Red Line soldiers means that here, shooting to kill is the only option. This is the one level where killing people will not result in a loss of moral points: the ending is decided by the time Artyom reaches Polis.
- If one has not already done so, there will be a fine opportunity to pick up and use the Preved, the best sniper rifle in Metro: Last Light. The Preved is first seen in Anna’s hands, and while this anti-materiel rifle is unmatched in terms of damage, it has a limited magazine capacity and slow firing rate. Its use is limited throughout most of the game, but in the Battle for D6, its extreme power makes it the only weapon capable of destroying the tank, and it is highly useful against the heavily-armoured, flamethrower-wielding behemoth. A few well-placed shots will wreck the tank’s transmission and weapons, as well as rupture the flamethrower soldier’s fuel tanks.
- The Gatling gun is only available in the final level and fires 12.7x108mm rounds, the same ammunition fielded by the Preved. With its overwhelming firepower and high fire rate, even a single bullet will take down the Red Line soldiers. Despite having a belt consisting of 500 rounds, it’s advisable to fire in short bursts to reduce recoil and prevent the weapon from running out of ammunition too quickly. In the end, it turns out that D6 only contained bioweapons of the sort seen in the earlier levels, lacking the supplies and medicine needed to sustain the Metro. In light of this, D6 was rigged with explosives to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, and after the final moments, I was treated to the conventional ending, in spite of having knowledge of how the morality system works. This is a subtle callback to reality, where having better preparedness and prior experience is not sufficient for success. Of course, this isn’t meant to be discouraging: I remark that attempting again or finding another way are both appropriate actions.
On my first play-through, I stuck to a more traditional FPS approach, blasting everything beneath the sights. Conversely, I decided to play with more stealth, sneaking past guards rather than killing them. I took the time to explore, give money to beggars, and preferred forgiving Lesnitsky and Pavel, as opposed to taking them down. When I was taking on the infamous Bear in the gardens, I saved it from the Watchmen. I also paid more heed to the Dark One’s words, holding my fire to avoid unnecessary conflict with the wildlife. Soon, I reached the game’s end, and following the onslaught against the Red Line, I watched as the other Rangers were overwhelmed. In the game’s final moments, Artyom picks up the detonator, and destroys D6, along with much of the Red Line forces. In spite choosing the path of forgiveness and making an effort to reach an understanding with the Dark Ones, Artyom wound up sacrificing his life anyways. From a technical standpoint, this means I did not try hard enough to accumulate moral points and unlock the good ending. However, this also reflects on the nature of reality: Metro: Last Light illustrates that even for all the good people do, sometimes, things simply take a bad turn. This may come across as being harsh: why shouldn’t those who work hard for the world be rewarded? Reality is, of course, even more unyielding, but taking a step back reveals that the good was not accomplished for nothing; although Artyom makes his sacrifice, it sows the seeds for a future where the Dark Ones and humanity begin to cooperate. This sort of emotional depth is one of the main joys in Metro: Last Light; coupled with solid world-building and darker themes compared to most of the shooters I’ve experienced (save BioShock Infinite), Metro: Last Light proves itself to be more than a conventional first-person shooter.