Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Metro Is Still The Jumpinest Joint In The World

I reviewed Metro 2033 early in May, as it was the precursor to Metro: Last Light. Well since then, I started Last Light and finished that late last week. If you're waiting to buy the game, and you don't want plot spoilers, come back when that's no longer an issue for you. There's gonna be plot spoilers.

It's the same universe as the earlier game, about a year further on. The game's plot is predicated on Artyom choosing to wipe out the Dark Ones at the end of Metro 2033. Which is the ending I got when I played through. I wasn't aiming for that one, but it worked out that way, and the Dark Ones tried to kill me often enough and in sufficiently annoying ways that I didn't feel bad about it.. So we're a year on from that, Artyom is a full-fledged Ranger, but is troubled by nightmares about the Dark Ones. On cue, spiritual fellow Khan, reports that he has seen a Dark One moving about. He believes it can save humanity, but Artyom is ordered out to kill it. That doesn't go well, and he soon learns there's much more to concerned about. The Reds in the Metro have built a massive army, and gotten their hands on a biological weapon. The rest of the factions are too divided to really do much, and while they may be badasses, there are only about 100 Rangers, so they're a little out-gunned.

The gameplay is still much the same, but I think they made the game a little easier. Sneaking around is certainly easier, because Artyom carries a watch that lights up when you aren't hidden in shadows. You'd still have to be wary of guys with headlamps, but at least you can tell if you're in a safe place to start. The game also gives you the option to knock someone out if you can sneak up on them, rather than having to either avoid them or kill them.The upshot to these alterations is that I didn't run low on ammo as often, because things didn't devolve to gun battles as much. So I never dipped into my supply of military grade ammo for shooting purposes, which left me free to buy stuff with it.

They're also added customization of weapons, though you have to reach a settlement where there's someone who can do that for you. I ended up grabbing three different guns early, and just holding on to them, upgrading and modifying as I saw fit.

The story was, not terribly engaging to me. Or maybe I wasn't interested in the things they wanted me to be. There's a romantic subplot weakly shoehorned in there I didn't care about. Artyom eventually finds the Dark One and starts looking after it, which really cramped my style. It's not an escort mission - the kid's better at staying out of trouble than Artyom is - but I felt myself making different decisions in order to make a good example. Well, one different decision.  I really didn't care about the impending war, or about Artyom trying to make up for how the first game ended. Like I said, I didn't feel terribly bad about my decision. There's a traitor in the Rangers that we eventually confront, but I didn't much care about him either.

If I'd spent more time with specific Rangers, to the point I cared about them, that might have been different, but I spent most of the early part of the game with Pavel. Through those levels, Pavel saves my life a few times, and I save his. He talks about us being like Musketeers. Then it turns out he's a loyal Communist, and he helped me so we could get to the Red's settlement, where I could be drugged and interrogated. From that point on, all I wanted was to catch Pavel and. . . well, I wasn't sure whether I'd kill him or not, but I wanted the opportunity to make the decision. In much the same way that trying to reach Polis took of over half of Metro 2033, trying to force that final confrontation with Pavel took a good 60% of Metro: Last Light. But when I finally had him, the little Dark One was there, so I was merciful. And as it turned out, for no good reason. I still didn't get the nicer ending. I'm gonna have to replay that level just to watch Pavel die.

What? I hate characters who betray friends more than I hate characters who cheat on their significant others, and I hate philanderers a lot.

The little Dark One does bring a different perspective to things. He can apparently see emotional states, and transmit that to Artyom, so you can sometimes see when the beings around you are going to be hostile. Which is handy because it means if you leave them alone, they'll do the same for you. It sheds some light on a few occasions from the first game that I remember being puzzled about.

The game adds a few new monsters to contend with, mostly large arthropods of various types. Yeesh, giant bugs. Why does it always have to be giant bugs? They continue to play with the idea that this world has some strange new things in it now, ones that people really don't understand. Well, except Khan. He seems to understand a lot. Kind of annoying actually, but heck, I like Khan. He's a good fellow, watches your back when he's around. The surface world is still the most terrifying, in large part because it's killing you even when nothing's happening. You need a gas mask every moment, but the filters don't seem to last long, so there's a constant tension of whether you can get off the surface before you run out. This does make me less-inclined to snoop around, though, and I prefer to switch back and forth more frequently. The claustrophobia of the tunnels is kind of a relief compared to the surface. At least in the tunnels, the enemies can only come from so many directions, and if you find a safe place, you can stay there as long as you like, without having to worry about a slow death by asphyxiation.

I'm not a big fan of the spots in the game where you have to wait for a boat or lift, and hold off wave after wave of enemies in the meantime. Those are just frustrating because it feels very contrived. Especially in a world where you know these creatures are attracted to sound, why make conveyances that make a buttload of noise when you try to use them? All I can figure is the people responsible are less concerned about endangering people by alerting monsters, and more concerned with making sure they know if someone's coming, in case they're hostile. Which sounds pretty accurate for people.

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