Product Type: THQ PC games
Newest Review: ... around you alive. Mutants and monsters infest the entire underworld, and regularly stage attacks on human encampments. The remnants o... more
As We Descended...
Metro 2033 (PC)
Member Name: PCLM
Metro 2033 (PC)
Date: 16/04/10, updated on 20/04/10 (50 review reads)
Advantages: Atmospheric, great graphics, innovative, many interesting characters, good game length
Disadvantages: Rare respite from the game's punishing "survival horror" aspects, becomes quite repetitive early on
Take S.T.A.L.K.E.R., remove the free-roam outdoors landscapes and leave only the nightmarish, mutant-infested tunnels, and what you're left with is the skeletal underpinnings of Metro 2033.
From 4A Games, whose membership is actually comprised of many of the crew who worked on the S.T.A.K.L.E.R series, comes an atmospheric, claustrophobic and frightening first person shooter sporting RPG elements and an enthralling storyline, not to mention gorgeous photo-realistic graphics and stellar voice acting.
When Metro 2033's release was imminent I consulted many of the online videos depicting actual gameplay footage and I knew this was a game I had to check out. I'm a huge fan of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, and am continuously engrossed by its dark, bleak and frightening atmosphere. Because Metro 2033 is much more linear I was expecting to have a much more watered down experience than I had enjoyed with S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but from the first few minutes of gameplay my cagey expectations were swiftly despatched.
~ [ Storyline/Writing/Acting ] ~
The year is 2033, and Moscow is just beginning to recover from the effects of nuclear apocalypse. The survivors have herded themselves into the underground subway system, escaping the lethal radiation and the creatures it has spawned in the world above. The survivors have divided themselves into factions, many of which are at war with each other, vying for control of what little resources there are.
You play as Artyom, a man who was born in the pre-apocalyptic world and descended into the bowels of the city as a child along with the rest of the survivors. Trekking into the depths of the largely unexplored areas of the Metro you team up with numerous characters along the way, travelling on the subway tracks, walking through cavernous mines and occasionally venturing up to the world above to gather supplies and to re-enter the Metro at other points.
Supplies are sparse and are in great demand. Ammunition is the currency of choice, spent in isolated communities of civilians and salesmen which offer brief respite from the dank and dangerous corridors of the underground. The children of an entire generation raised within this snaking labyrinth ask excitedly about the world above, bragging to their friends the minute they get even a glimpse of sunlight; the future of the underground population and therefore the world depends on the success of your mission to keep yourself and those around you alive.
Mutants and monsters infest the entire underworld, and regularly stage attacks on human encampments. The remnants of nuclear fallout, these beasts aren't your only enemy; your human cohorts are just as likely to draw blood as any gargoyle is if they suspect you're affiliated with a faction other than their own. There are Nazis, Communists and everyone else who is neither. These people mean business and propagandise their respective communities with promises of protection, utopia and survival.
The characters you meet during your travels all have a story to tell, and a reputation among the other survivors. Some will guide you through ghost-laden tunnels, others will help you fight off hoards of mutants and enemies, others still will take you above ground to explore.
Between chapters, while the game loads in the next portion of data, you are treated to a monologue from your character who gives a brief overview of what's happening, what has happened or what is about to happen. These little passages fatten up the narrative and afford a great deal of depth and humanity to the proceedings.
The dialogue rings true, for the most part. Save for the aforementioned post-chapter monologues the writing is pretty standard video game fare. The voice actor who breathes life into Artyom is a fascinating talent; his jaded, weary, depressed and soulful delivery of Artyom's lines is flawless and gives the game an enormous boost in the atmosphere department. The quality of the acting and the writing for Artyom is such that it wouldn't sound out of place in a theatrical production.
I get the impression that many of the voice artists who performed in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. have been brought in to work on Metro 2033, because quite a few of the peripheral characters sound awfully familiar!
~ [ Gameplay ] ~
Survival is the word of the day in Metro 2033. Much of your weaponry will be home-made, or modified using home-made techniques and equipment, and you'll be trading weapons and ammunition in lieu of more traditional currency. Ammunition is available to buy using weaker ammunition and it is awarded for completion of missions. It can also be pilfered from the corpses of your enemies or the stashes you stumble across as you travel through the game's world.
You are equipped with a gas mask, the wearing of which becomes mandatory when you go above ground or enter into a toxic area of the Metro. The lifespan of your mask's filter is brief, and your wrist watch provides you with a visual cue as to when it's likely to become ineffective. The mask can be damaged by the claws of mutants or the bullets of your foes, at which point you'll have to snatch one from a dead man or escape as quickly as possible.
You have a "to-do list" of sorts which is basically a clipboard with a compass on it. Your current objectives are printed on the board, with your left hand holding a lighter which will let you see it when it's dark. The compass points at your current objective, which is vital given the navigation difficulties inherent in the confusing and dark catacombs that make up the Metro.
You have a torch which runs on a battery that needs to be recharged using a universal charger. The charger works by clicking the left mouse button repeatedly, which causes Artyom to pump the charger's handle, thus generating power. The torchlight starts to dim and will eventually run out if you don't recharge it.
The available weapons are, for want of a better word, junk. The most effective weapon I've used in the game is a silenced pistol, which should tell you something. Machine guns will overheat quickly, bolt guns require you to pump them like a Super Soaker before you can fire and pipe bombs are largely useless when the enemy AI is given plenty of time to get up and run away from them before they explode.
Much of the game involves navigating through narrow, claustrophobic tunnels and corridors, and you invariably find yourself locked in a bitter battle with the mutants which reside there. There are dozens of instances in which you and several other NPCs have to hold off a seemingly never-ending hoard of bloodthirsty animals. Your weapons really begin to show their worth, or lack thereof, during these moments.
Occasionally you will find yourself face to face with the ghosts of fallen survivors. Their silhouettes re-enact the moments before, during and after their deaths, and if you get in their way whilst they go through their respective routines you'll die instantly. It makes for some very creepy gaming, to say the least.
Running and gunning is rarely effective or advisable; instead, working alongside your comrades and taking out enemies stealthily when possible is usually the best course of action. You can use a silenced weapon to take out lights, and then pick off your enemies from the darkness. Whittling down their numbers is always better than announcing your presence and hoping to take them all on at once. However, announcing your presence isn't always your own fault; there are trip wires and tin cans on strings which act as early warning signs for your enemies when activated or bumped into.
The gameplay starts to get a little repetitive after the first hour or so, although this isn't necessarily a bad thing; the game's core ingredients work well together and while you do start to notice repetition it rarely if ever becomes boring. You never quite get used to hearing the guttural, growling roar of mutants in the distant darkness; there's a certain panic which grips you every time you hear it. Likewise, filling enemy NPCs with lead is always a treat no matter what the circumstances!
~ [ Graphics/Performance ] ~
The game supports DirectX 9, 10 and 11 (if you have the requisite hardware installed). Even on DirectX 9 the graphics are stunning, and outshine those of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. without question. The NPCs look almost real, the game's physical world looks convincing and is rendered beautifully and the mutants are disgusting, horrific creatures which are an impressive feat of imagination. The violence in the game is relatively understated (in that you can't lop off limbs or heads) but the bullet holes left behind by gunfire and the realistic rag-doll physics of corpses might be a little unsettling for casual gamers!
The game runs incredibly well even when the graphics options are set as high as they'll go. The style of the game's world adds to the overall atmosphere, which is one of a bleak, despairing nightmare spiked with that good ol' fashioned blind optimism we humans are renowned for during periods of hardship.
The minimum system requirements are as follows:
[Operating System]: Windows XP or later
[CPU]: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz or better/equivalent
[Graphics Card]: 512MB of on-board RAM, compatible with Shader Model 3.0 and at least DirectX 9.0
[Hard Drive Space]: 8GB
[RAM]: 1GB (Windows XP), 2GB (Windows Vista/Windows 7)
~ [ Conclusion ] ~
Metro 2033 delivers a polished, enthralling and atmospheric experience which fans of survival horror/first person shooter games need to have in their collection. The game is currently being shipped with a free copy of Red Faction: Guerrilla [sic], another fine game by any measure. The RRP is usually less than £25, and for two games of such great quality this is an absolute bargain.
Summary: A haunting, frightening and bleak experience. Metro 2033 has a lot of heart, and is a solid FPS.