A Bright Light at the End of the Tunnel
I’m not exactly First-Person Shooter Guy. Sure, I’ve played a few, and have even enjoyed some. But in order for that to happen, it pretty much needs to be a FPS with a hell of a story – I’m willing to sink time into a good plot, and completely stay away from the online, COD-type arena as a rule.
Well, a good story is exactly what I got with 4A Games’ Metro: Last Light when it was given out to subscribers of the PlayStation Plus service some months ago.
Having never played the original Metro 2033 (or read the novel it’s based on), I came into this game completely blind to all the factions warring with each other in Moscow’s underground railway system. From what I gathered, there was some trouble with a race of alien creatures known as the Dark Ones, who were terrorizing the remnants of humanity that had fled underground following a nuclear holocaust. In addition to combating the Dark Ones, the surviving populace had split into several warring factions (as Man is wont to do). Eventually Artyom, the player character, locates and fires off several missiles and destroys the Dark Ones.
Aaaaand this is also where I had a hard time jumping into the machinations of the sequel. Not knowing who either Artyom or his cohorts were, and with the web of opposing factions being somewhat less than transparent, I wasn’t always able to keep pace with the plot as it jumped through various hoops of political intrigue and double-crossing – not unlike an episode of post-apocalyptic House of Cards!
While I wasn’t able to take full advantage of the complicated net of interrelationships the developers had obviously come up with for their characters, I still enjoyed the less daunting task to follow Artyom’s personal journey as he sets out to kill, then save and protect the last remaining Dark One. The change from hunter to protector touched something within me, particularly when you find out that the creature is merely a child, and you carry its limp body out of the wrecked, burning train carriage it had been imprisoned in. Probably not a moment I’ll soon forget.
The game had other highlights as well, in that there is much more to it than simple run ‘n’ gunning. In fact, several times an entire level will transpire without a single shot fired or an enemy in sight! Instead, these are times of simply taking in your squalid surroundings, stopping to listen to a storyteller entertain a group of young children, or watch on in horror at the poor contaminated souls penned up in cages as they wait to succumb to a deadly plague. It’s the FPS equivalent of stopping in a town in an RPG and speaking with all the villagers, or working diligently to exhaust all your dialog tree options in a point-and-click adventure. I loved these parts of the game with a passion; way to pull me into the world!
All this is not to diminish the actual gun-totin’ gameplay, which was also excellently implemented! Though for me, again, it literally paled in comparison to the added immersion I experienced due to the game’s graphics and attention to detail. Metro: Last Light has got to be one of the better-looking games I’ve played of late, and whether in crumbling subway tunnels or slogging through overgrown marshes on the surface, I was constantly compelled to stop and smell the irradiated roses. The graphics really worked in tandem with the focus on storytelling vs. body count that finally did it for me.
I declare Metro: Last Light an incredibly enjoyable success, and it has more than earned the distinction of being one of the two or three only games that have inspired me to go back and read the source material afterwards.