Even amidst publisher THQ filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Metro: Last Light is still scheduled to come out this March. It’s being developed by 4A Games and is a sequel to the hit Metro 2033. Fans of the original are eager to return to the tunnels as Artyom once more.
For those who never played Metro 2033, the game was based on a novel by the same name written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The story takes place in post-nuclear war Moscow, where survivors live in the metro tunnels because of the radiation poisoning above ground. The fallout has created mutant creatures called Dark Ones, and underground there are burgeoning factions of neo-Soviets and Nazis. Gamers play as Artyom, a young man born in the tunnels who gets pulled into a mission to save what’s left of humanity.
The sequel is still a first-person shooter with elements of an RPG. Post-apocalyptic shooters seem to be a popular genre for games these days. Metro: Last Light manages to stand on its own with a unique story and continued attention to creating detailed environments. The game promises fully fleshed out underground cities. One great example of the detail in the game is in the new station called Venice.
According to Huw Beynon—the creative strategist for Last Light—Venice is a partially flooded station that players will be passing through in the storyline. It’s overcrowded and built on makeshift docks. Businesses operate out of rafts and small shacks. It also serves as a hideout for gangsters, giving the city a seedy presence with at least one strip club for players to visit. Gameplay footage reveals the immense amount of detail put into creating the station, and there’s a sense of atmosphere parallel to games like Bioshock and Fallout. Looking around the city, players can watch fishermen telling stories with their lines cast out in the murky water, a small child drawing a picture on the floor of the docks, old men gathered in the lamplight having a discussion and other scenes that enforce the game’s themes of darkness and displacement.
Overall, Last Light is not a huge departure from Metro 2033 but there are a few changes worth noting. For one, the new game completely does away with the HUD to create a more immersive experience. That means there’s no longer an ammo count on screen and players must now keep an eye on the guns themselves to monitor bullets. Primary and secondary weapons are also more customizable in the sequel. Gun slots are not exclusively restricted to equipping one pistol, one automatic weapon and one special weapon anymore.
Stealth has also been slightly tweaked in the new game. The light on Artyom’s wristwatch no longer cycles between red, yellow and green to indicate different levels of visibility to enemy AI. Instead, the developers have simplified it to just one color—blue—and it comes on whenever Artyom is detectable. There is also more focus on stealth for the sequel. Players can now silently assassinate targets from behind, which is a very welcome addition to the gameplay.
In addition, players will surprisingly spend more time above ground in Metro: Last Light. According to Beynon, about 40 percent of the game’s campaign will be outside in the ruins of Moscow, where players will encounter more color and vegetation this time around as spring approaches in the storyline. With players exploring above ground, they will experience a real-time day/night system complete with weather effects such as fog, smoke, rain and lightning. And, of course, gamers will encounter a few new mutant enemies along the way.
Although the fate of THQ is in limbo, there has been a substantial amount of marketing for Metro: Last Light. A live action short entitled “Enter the Metro” has netted more than 3 million views on YouTube. A couple of big names lend their voice acting talent to the game as well, including Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille, Young Adult) and Nolan North (Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed). Furthermore, there was a special promotion for the game when THQ gave away free PC copies of Metro 2033 to fans who liked their Facebook page. Whether all of this amounts to big sales is hard to predict, especially considering it could be published by a different company. However, the game is likely to outsell its predecessor, which sold 460,000 units without a version for PlayStation 3.
Metro: Last Light will be available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC in March. Those who pre-order the limited edition of the game receive two in-game items: a compact assault rifle and extra military grade bullets that can be used as ammo or currency. The limited edition also gives players access to the Ranger difficulty mode, a fan-favorite from the previous game.