Review by Darren Thackeray, 20th September 2014
As you leave the warmth of the camp behind and the remnants of filckering light get swallowed by the meandering tunnel, your footsteps echo ever louder and you grip your torch ever tighter. Your breathing is deep and slow, until a shadowy scuttle in the distance snatches it from you, and you reach quietly to check what little equipment you have left. The surface looms above but provides little respite; the city is alien. A radioactive urban wasteland, its unfathomable sun battling through the fog and snow to light your way. You know you won’t last more than 30 seconds without your gas mask, cracked and worn as it is. You take out your charger, pump your torch back to life, and you breathe in deep as you prepare to exit the tunnels…
Metro 2033, if you ever had the pleasure of playing the original back in 2010, was a game changer for the FPS genre. It didn’t hold your hand, it assumed much of the player, and it was notoriously difficult. This remaster from Deep Silver breathes new life into the game, but they’ve done more than simply touch up the graphics. Many of the reviews I read prior to purchasing my copy of Metro 2033 Redux were heavily focused on the graphical improvements – and that’s okay, because they’re utterly stunning, and a huge selling point of Redux – but I like to think the success of a game pivots on more than pixels and rendering, I’m old fashioned like that.
Metro 2033 is a melancholic game throbbing with atmosphere and terror. But it isn’t the same kind of terror you’d expect from other games in the survival horror genre such as Silent Hill or Dead Space, the environment is too real, and the impending sense of doom is palpable. It’s well balanced though. Surprisingly, when I reached the end of Metro 2033, I realised I hadn’t encountered many jump-out-of-your-skin moments; the real terror lies in how the story eerily unfolds, and the sheer scarcity of resources as you move from level to level. A lot of thought has gone into the level design of Metro 2033 and it really does pay off. Some levels will carry with them a sense of urgency, and will have you constantly checking how much breathable air you have left for your gas mask, or backed into a corner with a double-barrel shotgun emptying cartridges into enemies in a desperate bid for survival. Others though, and they are far more frequent, will guide you through wonderful set pieces with excellently written characters and might require a far more stealthy approach. Truly, if you come at Metro with a stealth mentality you’ll really get the most it has to offer. The way the levels are laid out makes you want to search every nook and cranny for extra filters, ammo and medkits in preparation for what might come next.
When I first started playing Metro 2033 I did a lot of forum-hopping to see what people were saying about it, and to try and learn a thing or two myself. Metro 2033, if it’s your first time playing, has a steep learning curve. Many posts I read in the forums were confused about gas mask filters in particular, and some were finding that they’d run out of air while on the surface and have to reload to an earlier save or level to resupply. That’s just the way it goes in Metro 2033. I had a similar struggle early in the game during my first real length of time on the surface, and realised I had been far to liberal with my filter usage. I opted to start the entire game again with the ‘knowledge’ I’d acquired and I must say, it was incredibly rewarding. I found extra filters and was a lot more careful in my preparation, and never had another issue. I was playing in Survival Mode of course.
There are two modes to Metro 2033 and four difficulty levels. Spartan Mode litters the levels with extra ammo and filters, so you never have to worry and can virtually run and gun your way through the game Call of Duty style. Survival Mode is how the game is meant to be played, and will see you adopting a far more careful approach, knocking out unsuspecting guards and creeping past sleeping beasts. You can approach situations in a number of different ways, and even in areas where you might think that gunning your way through a guard outpost is your only way through, you’ll learn guard patterns and hide in the shadows, picking them off one by one with a silenced revolver or throwing knife. Redux has even thrown in Last Light’s take-down ability which almost gives the game a completely new lease of life, and it’ll tempt you to look at each situation from a stealth perspective. Doing so will also make your life easier, picking up more ammo from downed guards and avoiding the sounding of alarms and yet more enemies as your press on.
Metro 2033 Redux won’t hold your hand and it will completely subvert your expectation, as it did mine. You’ll find yourself caught up in an apocalyptic and uncertain battle for mankind, against forces which are mysterious and unknown. The metro will echo with the long forgotten laughter of once happy children, the creaking of ghostly trains will interrupt the eerie silence, and you’ll come to love the dark, damp confines of the tunnels as you push ever onward, hoping to uncover what little truth you can. I’ll leave you with a quote from Dmitry Glukhovsky’s eponymous novel on which the game is based, when Artyom, our central character, sees the sky for the first time as a daring child…
“Could anyone who had never seen stars possibly image what infinity is, when, most likely, the very concept of infinity first appeared among humans inspired by the nocturnal vault of the heavens? Million of shining lights, silver nails driven into a dome of dark blue velvet…”
Metro 2033 Redux Rating: 4.5/5. “A bold, post apocalyptic journey into the unknown which deserves your time and demands your attention.”
Below is a trailer for Metro 2033. Excuse me while I now go and play Metro Last Light.