Friday, 9 April 2010

Review | Metro 2033

In one way or another, we all have seen a vision of a post-nuclear apocalyptic future. Whether in games like Fallout or Borderlands, films like Mad Max or The Road, or in your own dark prophetic dreams, the image of a world transformed by a nuclear war is a familiar one. Metro 2033 tells a similar tale, but from the soviet side of the cold war: A bleak tale of human resilience in the face of overwhelming odds, of despair, doubt and ultimately hope.

Based on a book by Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro 2033 is seen through the eyes of Artyom, a young man living in the underground metro system of a destroyed Moscow. The game starts with Artyom emerging out of the dark and dank tunnels onto the surface. However, this is not the emancipating experience of escaping Vault 101 for the first time. A bright and expansive world full of quirky characters and colourful locations does not await you. Post-nuclear Moscow is a bleak and unforgiving place where you scurry from place to place, foraging for supplies and eventually retreat underground.

As you can sense from the tone of this review, Metro 2033 is not a happy game. It is a game of confinement, both in terms of environment (you spend a large majority of the game underground) as well as supplies and equipment. The feeling of claustrophobia is palpable as you creep down an unlit metro tunnel, checking your air supply and stopping now and then to manually recharge your flashlight. This game's trump card is the way it immerses you in its atmosphere. Not only are the environments incredibly detailed and gorgeously lit, but other effects are in play to fully put you in Artyom's shoes. You have to constantly recharge your torch, lest it dim to a pathetic glow. You must manually reload each shotgun shell. You must maintain your gas mask in case it breaks or runs out of filters. Life ain't easy in the Soviet Union!

Atmosphere aside, Metro 2033 plays out as a linear but solid FPS. While there seems to be some problems with the event scripting design (often I found important events happening off-screen) and some dodgy animation, for the most part it is a great game, if not in the strictest sense of the word fun. If you've enjoyed games like Fallout or Bioshock, I would definitely give Metro 2033 a look.

CeX Rathbone Place, London

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