“Humans had always been better at killing than any other living thing.” —Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro 2033
While it may come across as somewhat strange, I played Metro: Last Light back during 2013, well before I played Metro 2033. This was because of a promotion that granted me a free copy of Metro: Last Light with my then-new GPU. I completed Metro: Last Light twice, once as a blind run and the second time to collect screenshots for my review. Then, during the 2015 Steam Summer Sale, the entire Metro franchise went on sale, and I decided to pick up Metro 2033: Redux to experience a remastered version of the story that started everything. In 2013, a nuclear war devastated Russia, forcing survivors in Moscow underground into the metro stations. Twenty years later, Artyom is sent to seek help from the Rangers when the Dark Ones attack their station. Fighting his way across the surface, and the territories of different factions, Artyom succeeds in reaching Polis, where Ranger Miller agrees to help him defeat the Dark Ones. Together with the Rangers, they activate the D6 missile silo and install a laser-guidance system at the top of a radio tower, destroying the Dark Ones. I went through the story on Spartan mode, so Metro 2033: Redux played quite similarly to Metro: Last Light. I beat the campaign in roughly eight hours, focusing on completion rather than exploration, and during the course of the game, there were numerous environments to explore and fight through. Consequently, I unlocked the standard, rather than good ending, and at some point in the future, I will return and play through again to see if I can unlock the good ending.
The original Metro 2033 was billed for its horror environment, and Spartan mode in Metro 2033: Redux was intended to lessen this atmosphere with an increased availability of supplies. However, even armed with more ammunition and supplies, Metro 2033: Redux still manages to be unsettling in some places. Audio cues, such as the shrieks and roars of distant mutants, or the distant voices of Fourth Reich soldiers, add to the suspense as Artyom makes his way through different areas. The unpredictability of some enemies, such as the librarians and demons, also serve to elevate the surprise that players encounter moving through the game. Coupled with the level design and choice of lighting in the different environments, there’s the sense that one can never be too certain of what’s lurking around the corner. Despite a reasonably impressive arsenal of weapons, the weapons’ efficacy against the demons vary, further contributing to the players’ sense of vulnerability. Conversely, in the populated areas, players would feel completely at ease, taking the time to explore and listen to some of the stories that the metro’s inhabitants have to say. Taken together, Metro 2033: Redux is able to convey the environment’s atmosphere to the player, and this contributes substantially to sense of immersion in the game.
Screenshots and Commentary
- In keeping with the standards set by the Metro: Last Light review, this talk will also feature thirty screenshots. Metro 2033: Redux starts off in media res, giving Artyom a Kalash 2012 with a laser sight and reflex sight as the heads with Miller to the surface. A herd of watchers ambush them, and the game steps back eight days earlier, when Artyom was asked to travel to Polis to inform the Rangers of the Dark Ones’ presence.
- The word “redux” is to “bring back” or “revive”, which is exactly what this version of Metro 2033 does. While it might have not been the best justification for picking up this title, I admit that I did wish to play Metro 2033: Redux so I could lay claim to being a blog that used the terms “Otafest” and “Redux” at least somewhere. A friend of mine created a detailed summary of his Otafest experiences last year and named the updated incarnation as Otafest Debriefings Redux, which sparked my intrigue in using the word here at least once.
- The voice acting is similar to that of Metro: Last Light, and it is always a joy to explore well-populated areas, which are littered with signs of habitation. Details in the environment, whether it be merchants selling gun parts, vendors selling food and people conversing all around, it’s clear that people have adapted to life in the subway tunnels.
- Unlike Metro: Last Light, the ghosts of Metro 2033 are best seen by directly shining a flashlight at them, whereas in the former, they’re best seen in the peripheries, and like Metro: Last Light cannot cause direct harm to the player. They are quite unnerving to behold, and resemble the blast-shadows leftover following a nuclear explosion, during which the intense light burns a person’s outline into a surface.
- For the most part, the underground tunnels are quiet and disturbingly so, with faint growls from far-distant mutants. However, when they do make an appearance, the mutants themselves sometimes telegraph their presence, turning a suspenseful encounter into a firefight where a quick trigger finger and sharp wit will quickly decide the outcome of said encounter.
- Numerous weapons in Metro 2033 made a return in Metro: Last Light, and it’s comforting to learn that reliable weapons, like the Shambler, are present in the former. Still deadly at close ranges and still with a long reload time, I kept the Shambler throughout my run as my primary close-quarters weapon, meant to take out any mutants.
- The Bastard is an automatic weapon that fires assault rifle rounds, and despite being chambered for the same 5.45 x 39mm rounds of the Kalash, but I find it to be woefully under-powered compared to other rifles, even though it’s got a high rate of fire. Thus, as I did in Metro: Last Light, I traded in the Bastard on first opportunity and did not bother upgrading it.
- My favourite segments of the Metro games happen at the surface: even though there’s a constant need to find replacement filters, there is a strange beauty about the cityscape abandoned by man. The extent of structural decay following the migration into the metro is consistent with what is outlined in Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us: buildings crumble, and even in a place with Moscow’s climate vegetation begins reclaiming the pavement.
- Khan is introduced in the Ghosts level (that’s not a typographical mistake: there is a level called “Ghosts” in Metro 2033!) as a philosopher who occasionally associates with the Rangers. His knowledge about the paranormal phenomenon in the tunnels of the metro, enough to convince the ghosts to part and avoid anomalies. Consequently, even though Artyom might be traversing some of the spookier sections in Metro 2033: Redux, having Khan’s reassuring presence around eases tensions.
- I recall spending a fair bit of time trapped in this area after detonating the explosives to seal an open tunnel that was allowing watchmen to enter. It turns out that there are stairwells off to the sides that lead to the next objective. The lack of a minimap, coupled with only a compass for guidance and dark maps means that a fair bit of time in Metro 2033: Redux is spent exploring, trying to figure out where to go.
- Perhaps because of my innate familiarity with shooters, or perhaps because I’m uncommonly lucky, I was able to find my way about without too much difficulty. Here, I’ve acquired the Kalash (AK-74M), the mainstay assault rifle of both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. Highly versatile, it has a lower firing rate and high damage, making it an excellent mid-to-long range weapon. I’ve equipped mine with an IRNV scope and laser sight here, making it useful for combat in the tunnels against the Fourth Reich.
- Though I tried my absolute best to maintain a stealthy profile and sneak through the area, I was eventually detected and forced to engage the few enemies that were left. I’ve always found that the weapons in Metro were superbly against human opponents, even though they’re inferior in quality to pre-war weapons; against most mutants, it would take an inordinate amount of ammunition to put them down for good.
- Here, I help a small child return to his mother and politely decline her reward to earn a moral point. Despite my efforts to earn moral points where possible, it is likely that I did not earn enough to offset the fact that I frequently resorted to the Rambo-approach for extricating myself out of difficult situations.
- The moon (or maybe a really faint sun) in this screenshot reminds me of the blood moon eclipse that I was fortunate enough to glimpse yesterday evening, which coincided with the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. After a dinner of roast duck, chicken and prawns, I savoured a slice of mooncake as cloud cover rolled in to cover the moon. While my area missed totality, I was able to see the partial eclipse, as the clouds covering the moon finally moved on, illuminating the landscape in moonlight. As an added bonus, the weather this year has been very nice, and we were fortunate in that, unlike last year, there was no snowvember-type event.
- Consequently, I still saw enough of the eclipse to avoid missing out on an event that won’t occur again until…wait for it…2033. The weather remained pleasantly cool during the evening, so I could stand outside without discomfort. Demons are amongst the toughest enemies in Metro and require up to three entire magazines from the Kalash to down. Consequently, it makes more sense to make use of cover and avoid them.
- I typically don’t equip a 4x scope on my weapons, given that Metro has always felt more to be a close-quarters shooter. However, for segments of the game set outdoors, sometimes, it is useful to hold onto a good ranged weapon. I’ve picked up a Kalash with the 4x sight here, but previously, I was rocking an IRNV-equipped Tihar pneumatic rifle as a stealth weapon, and decided to accept the suppressed VSV VSK-94 for subsequent sections of the game.
- The abandoned streets of Moscow remind me of images of Pripyat by winter following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. From the documentation I’ve read, citizens of Pripyat were hastily evacuated and told they would be allowed to return in a few days, hence the presence of possessions in the apartment blocks. However, documentation for the various haikyo in Japan is virtually nonexistent, leading the inquisitive mind to wonder what circumstances led the buildings’ inhabitants to desert them with such haste.
- Returning from Metro: Last Light is the awesome ability to torch spider webs using Artyom’s lighter. The spiders inhabiting the webs are harmless, but the webs do slow Artyom down: burning them will remove them as impediments and also yields a cool, realistic looking fire effect.
- After meeting up with the Rangers, Artyom follows a small task force assigned with finding a folder containing the location of D6. Given this cryptonymn (Д-6) by the KGB, D6 is allegedly a secret subway system with a depth of between 50 and 200 meters. Its exact function is not known, but it’s been speculated to be for emergency use by government officials. Finding this one folder in the massive library complex feels like finding a needle in a haystack, since no one knows where the folder itself is.
- After one of his party becomes injured, Artyom must continue the trek into the library alone. Here, I stare down a librarian, one of Metro 2033‘s toughest opponents. The best way to deal with them is to remain still, around one to three meters away, and stare them down, after which the librarian will treat Artyom as non-hostile. This is quite effective, except for the rare black librarians in the library’s basement and is the preferred way of handling them. The first time I encountered a librarian, I expended half my ammunition fighting it owing to its remarkable resilience.
- Radioactive mushrooms illuminate a forgotten corridor at a point in the game I cannot quite remember. While not dangerous per se, these mushrooms do indicate regions where there is poisonous gas, making it prudent to reequip the gas mash. At some point earlier in the game, I found a pair of night vision goggles, which made it much easier to move through the darker sections of the game without being spotted. Their usage is balanced by the fact that lights will overwhelm the player, forcing them to remove the goggles.
- The flamethrower is a highly effective weapon that easily makes short work of the mutants. I regret not carrying one into the last level, since ammunition for it is relatively common in comparison to shotgun and assault rifle ammunition. Users must be mindful of the air pressure and fuel remaining, and is most useful at close quarters. On any subsequent play-throughs, I’ll definitely carry a flamethrower with me into D6 to deal with the hordes of mutants.
- I suddenly realise that I’ve no pictures of the Abzats, an automatic shotgun that is quite possibly one of the best weapons in Metro 2033: Redux at close quarters. Belt fed, it has a 20 round capacity and high rate of fire, allowing it to tear through opponents, but is hampered by a long reload time. Here, I’m wielding the Kalash 2012, an assault rifle that has a slightly higher rate of fire and lower damage than the Kalash. Its larger magazine is an asset for medium range combat.
- One of the coolest weapons of Metro 2033: Redux is the Hellbreath, a weapon that makes use of an electromagnetic accelerator to fire metal projectiles at extremely high velocities, like a railgun. It is extremely powerful and has better endurance than the Tihar, but is not as accurate or stealthy. Owing to the sheer number of mutants encountered, by the time I reached the train station, I was out of ammunition for my Abzats and Kalash 2012, forcing me to use the Hellbreath in close quarters.
- Consequently, Metro 2033: Redux‘s final sections were quite intimidating, as I felt ill-equipped to take on the giant amoeba, gelatinous balls of sludge that rush the player and miller. These balls can be destroyed using a single shot. The pores they spawn from do not need to be killed, since they only only produce one amoeba. In Metro 2033, the amoeba were much more frustrating as enemies, since the pores could produce multiple amoeba until they are killed.
- One of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in Metro has to be the biomass, a pustulating mass of flesh that covers the reactor. It cannot be killed by conventional means and assaults victims with psychokinetic attacks, compelling them to walk into the biomass and become consumed. The entire area under the biomass is dripping with slimy organic substances and filled with amoeba, and when making use of the crane to open the valves, the biomass will try to destroy the crane, suggesting that it may have a limited degree of awareness.
- It feels good to be back out in the open air, and back to where Metro 2033 first began: with D6 located, the time has come to climb the Ostankino Radio Tower. With a height of 540 metres, it was completed in 1967, and was the tallest building in the world until the CN Tower was completed in 1976. The tower suffered a fire in 2000 and knocked out television broadcasts to the Moscow area, but this was repaired.
- A demon attempts to consume Miller before Artyom intervenes. The only weapon with any ammunition left, I emptied the Hellbreath’s entire magazine into it to kill the demon. There are several demons at this point in the game, and the documentation suggests that some of them are invincible, meant to be part of scripted sequences.
- The view from the top of the Ostankino Radio Tower is phenomenal, and the effect is brought out to the fullest in Metro 2033: Redux. The developers used satellite images to generate the textures, resulting in reasonably accurate layout of Moscow. The extent of the nuclear war’s devastation can be seen: although the tower itself appears to have survived the detonation, a crater can be seen below.
- The last portion of Metro 2033 after placing down the SOFLAM is to experience a trance of some sort. It’s one of the more surreal sections in the game, and once the end of this space is reached, the ending begins to play. This time, there was no flood as I progressed through the different levels, and with Metro 2033: Redux finished, I’m going to divide my time between Sakura Angels and Call of Duty: Black Ops (the former is from the 2015 Summer Sale latter and the latter, I picked up on a sale out of a desire to experience a story that could have occurred concurrently with the events of Higurashi).With my posting quota for September reached, I’ll return in October to blog about Gochuumon wa Usage Desu ka?? and some other topics as they come to mind.
Having completed Metro 2033: Redux, I can say that this was a highly entertaining title, and now, I’m inclined to read the novel for myself. Whereas Metro: Last Light dealt with Artyom’s experiences a year after Metro 2033, the Ranger’s occupation of D6 and the different factions coveting D6; the story in Metro 2033 is simpler, following Artyom’s journey to Polis and discovery of D6. As such, it might be seen as a coming-of-age story for Artyom. Consequently, Metro: Last Light really allows for Metro 2033 to shine, as it depicts Artyom’s fate following the events of Metro 2033, and now that this is done, I’ve fully experienced the story of Metro. As far as replay value goes, I’ll definitely go back and try the game out for the good ending, perhaps even capitalising on the fact that Metro 2033: Redux comes with Ranger mode, which completely dispenses with the HUD for a truly immersive experience. While this was not included in the standard edition of Metro: Last Light (much to the chagrin of many), it is nice that Metro 2033: Redux comes with all the bells and whistles. Those who’ve played both Metro 2033 and Metro 2033: Redux have varying opinions about whether or not the graphics update was worthwhile, but there are new features that make Metro 2033: Redux handle and play more smoothly, and ultimately, the improvement to the visuals means that the game’s strongest point (its atmospherics) succeed in conveying the mood in and around a post-apocalyptic Moscow even more effectively than the original.