Metro: Last Light (Preview)

Now I’m not saying looks are everything, but after slumming it through the grey roughness of the original Metro 2033 game, it’s amazing to see the difference in Metro: Last Light. This game looks gorgeous. Yes, it still has a bit of a grey fetish, but like Killzone, it’s made pretty work of some of the colour palettes old-timers. And the game’s still only at pre-alpha code level, so it could get even better.

Those of you that played through the original game will find that the story of Last Light follows on from the (SPOLIER) ‘bad’ ending where you did launch the missiles to destroy the Dark Ones. So it would seem that your initial fight will be against human enemies, we’re sure there’ll be a few mutants along the way too. We’ve already seen those winged gargoyle-like arseholes (they pissed me off a lot last time) flying about in one of the trailers. Towards the end of the presentation, we also saw some large troll/gorilla-like creatures that featured some astonishingly slick animation and textured rocky skin that almost distracts from them trying to rip Artyom’s face off.

Some introduction footage shows off some brighter environments over the ruins of Moscow, the clouds even occasionally break to reveal a glimpse of blue sky. Don’t expect flowers and rainbows though, it’s not called Metro for nothing. The first descent into a tunnel shows off some great water effects on your visor along with the fine detail of rust bubbles on the ladder. Once down, Artyom uses a lighter to scare away a veil of webbing with large crab-like spiders, which again shows off some excellent lighting effects.

The story doesn’t follow that of the book Metro 2034 (Metro 2033’s sequel), as the book took a more experimental arty direction than the first one. This wouldn’t have been suitable for a game, so a new adventure has been penned with the blessing of the original author, Dmitry Glukhovsky. Players will resume control of Artyom and follow the new progression of his story. When asked if PS3 gamers would be ok starting with the second game –2033 was a 360 exclusive- developers 4A Games said that the story would be accommodating to newcomers. Fans of 2033 can expect a supply of insider-knowledge Easter eggs though.

4A Games admitted that the combat and stealth wasn’t up to scratch last time and they’ve been working hard to fix these elements. Stealth plays a key role as Artyom makes his way through an underground subway station. Shooting out light bulbs to remain in the shadows is old hat, but I was impressed at the way a pot of water, boiling above a campfire, could be shot at to get the water to leak out and douse the flames, fuelling the darkness and aiding your murderous intentions. Little innovations like that that makes a gamer and jaded journalist take note. Even the miner headlights can be unscrewed after you’ve taken out sentry guards.

Stealth melee kills are combined with your pressurised spear gun to take out enemies quietly in the darkness. Before long though the action heats up as Artyom is discovered, fortunately he manages to pick up a chain gun that makes mincemeat of the backup guards coming in through the blast doors. Smaller weapons like era-specific sub machine guns make a return and look to handle considerably better than before with some solid aiming on show. Low walls that you take cover behind are only safe for so long as bullets from both sides will eventually blast it to pieces, meaning the action will constantly keep you moving, rather than sticking to one spot until everyone on the other side is dead.

The demo concludes with a thrilling train chase where Artyom jumps from one track to another to board a speeding train. A progression up the train follows, weaving in-between crates while taking out enemies from cover. It’s not reinventing the wheel but again the attention to detail is highly promising with the flapping crate covers in the wind excellently portraying the speed the train is hurtling through the tunnel at. The assault rifle he’s using has a few modern features like the green disc on the iron sights and an underslung grenade launcher, but its visual design still has that unique cobbled together look with extra pieces of metal and wingnuts.

The action we’ve seen today is looking incredible and a massive improvement over the original. If the final game can deliver set-pieces like this in numbers that outweigh the sections where you plod around small camps interacting with miserable civilian settlers, then perhaps spending hours and hours underground will be more fun than ever before. Metro: Last Light is most definitely one to watch in 2012.

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