By Daniel Lipscombe
Metro 2033 is an ambitious game, not because it really tries to do things differently but because it is a title venturing into a crowded market. Post apocalyptic games or those containing mutants of some kind are becoming a frequent “go to” when creating a game world and Metro 2033 is attempting to wow an audience that has seen it all before.
This is a problem. In this generation of games we’ve been treated to such rich and involving worlds and environments that it would be hard to compete. Metro 2033 has a ‘hook’ of sorts as the game is played in the underground train system, or Metro of Russia. Whilst initially appealing, the game suffers from a lack of inspiration as you trudge down hundreds of deep and dark tunnels carrying out missions.
When first venturing out into the tunnels, the game impresses with great lighting and atmospheric sound but this soon becomes tiresome and loses its spark. Monsters lurking in the shadows or spying on you from unseen corners are a dime a dozen in current gaming worlds and nothing ever really stands out as being different.
When the game does push you above ground, things become a little more interesting as your eyes scan the ruins of Moscow and new dangers present themselves. A constant threat is the lack of breathable air, forcing you to rely on a gas mask and monitoring its filter usage. It is a great mechanic that adds a sense of fear that your air may run out and leave you as carrion for the creatures that await you.
The story is intriguing and genuinely interesting. As we follow the story of our protagonist, Artyom and his interactions with “the dark ones” an enemy that attacks your mind rather than your body. There are several great sequences that feed off of your fears and disorientate you as you play, each of these moments pull you further into the plot and leave you wanting to know more.
Metro 2033 has strong leanings on the horror side of gaming and is always making you think twice about venturing into sections and causing a genuine fear. Although the enemies are a bit bland and cliché Metro goes to great lengths to create a sense of doubt in your abilities by throwing several of these beasts at you at once and heightening the panic.
To add to this is the distinct lack of ammo. In fact ammo is actually used as currency in this game, you can use military grade ammo to buy or trade weapons at metro stations or if things become really tight and you run out of regular ammo, these bullets can be used dealing slightly more damage than usual. There are many small touches that try to pull Metro out of the crowd such as a mobile generator that is used to recharge your flashlight and cracks appearing on your gas mask to indicate that it is taking damage and you could be left without one.
All the positive nuances in the world can’t help you though if your basic shooting mechanics are clunky and poorly implemented, something that Metro also brings to its audience. None of the guns feel as if they carry any power, when faced with five or six enemies at once only precise shots will drop your foe in only a couple of bullets whilst at other times you’ll pump 30 shots into them before they expire. It doesn’t help that the hit detection isn’t always on target, when aiming for a headshot and seeing the bullet hit home only for the enemy soldier to spam you with grenades.
Oh yes, there are human enemies too most of whom cower behind cover and relentlessly spawn soaking up more and more of your ammo as you tirelessly try to kill them. It’s another aspect of Metro 2033 that soon wears down the player and makes you rethink your stance on the game itself. It’s only in the final quarter of the game when you’ve become accustomed to the weaponry, that you can begin to have real fun with them.
It would’ve been nice for Metro 2033 to deliver more on the fear of its world and concentrate on scaring the player, during my time with the game I often felt that my time would be better spent in the Capitol Wasteland or on Pandora, rather than in the darkened tunnels of Moscow. Therein lies one of Metros biggest issues, aside from minimal moments of imagination the game is already quite stagnant due to how many post apocalyptic games on the market.
There are only so many times that we can venture through poisonous gas clouds, take on mutants and deal with disgruntled NPCs, Metro 2033 shines with its story and original game mechanics but falls short on gunplay that leaves a lot to be desired and a game world that we’ve seen a dozen times before.