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sek929 Jun 1, 2013 03:21 PM
Metro: Last Light
Well the time has come, and my copy from Amazon is here. I was able to snag the "limited edition" which comes with the Ranger Mode DLC, which is the ultra-hard, no-HUD, bang-your-head-against-the-wall difficulty that was introduced later into the original game. I found Ranger Mode in 2033 completely fixed all the biggest gripes, enemies now dropped very quickly from fire, but you can also be killed at the dop of the hat. No HUD, no crosshair, super-hard....just what I want in survival horror.

The game has overall gotten more positive reviews than the original, which I loved despite its flaws, so I have fairly high hopes for this one. No-one does atmosphere like these guys and I have been dying for a good loner single player experience.

I'll have some impressions tonight, but I plan on drinking in all the details so a full review won't happen soon.
sek929 Jun 2, 2013 12:04 PM
Probably about 1/3 through the game.

First off the stealth mechanic is completely overhauled and implemented a hell of a lot better. Now there is a definitive visible/invisible threshold and unless you engage in all-out war a small skirmish can be hid from successfully without every guard in a mile radius knowing where you are. Interesting moment where I alerted a guard and everyone threw on their gas-masks then a haylon-type gas system ended up killing me since I had no spare air filters.

Secondly I started at the hardest difficulty, Ranger Hardcore, and I'm glad I did. Makes the sneaky parts more tense and the actual fire-fights quite frantic. The only "cheating" I have done is looking up the controller mapping for more complex tasks like charging the flashlight and switching between grenades and throwing knives. The game has no HUD, Inventory, or any "press X for..." prompts. My only gripe is the difficulty of seeing which ammo you have loaded in your weapon, the best way seems to be wait in one spot for a few and he'll inspect the gun, but that's hardly something you can do when your oxygen is running out.

The first journey to the surface was the highlight thus far. I found myself running out of air filters and dying about 30 seconds from the exit, after several attempts I found a hidden filter replacement that only had about 40 seconds left in it. As I was fighting off the last wave of enemies before my exit would open I again ran out of filters, gasping for air I was finally able to make it deep enough underground to stave off death. In another area underground that required the mask, I would take too much damage and my mask completely broke, forcing me to reload the last checkpoint.

One of my buddies came by and in an attempt to show him some action I started to play more boldly. This was not a strategy that bore any fruit, as engaging multiple targets without extreme cover always resulted in a very quick death. Punctuated nicely when I came upon two soldiers with their backs to me. Figuring I had the upper hand I opened fire at the first guy but the second guy reacted instantly. He turned around and let loose a blast from his shotgun, killing me immediately.

The impression so far. They've kept everything that made the first game great and tightened up the things that weren't implemented well the first time around.
mattyb Jun 2, 2013 03:33 PM
1/3 through and how many hours played?
sek929 Jun 2, 2013 03:47 PM
Between 5-6 hours.

Playing on Easy and engaging all enemies instead of sneaking would probably make the game alot shorter, but IMO Ranger Mode is the only way to go.
mattyb Jun 2, 2013 04:22 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by sek929 (Post 4233007)
Between 5-6 hours.

Playing on Easy and engaging all enemies instead of sneaking would probably make the game alot shorter, but IMO Ranger Mode is the only way to go.
I don't have your patience.
lpkmckenna Jun 3, 2013 07:03 PM
Are you playing in English or in Russian with subtitles? I'm to understand the atmosphere of the game is quite different in Russian.

Does it still have the "bullets as currency" mechanic?
sek929 Jun 3, 2013 07:20 PM
Since I am playing Hardcore there aren't any subtitles. I played M2033 in Russian with subtitles only after beating in english first. There were a couple instances where your NPC buddy says important stuff to you and there were no subtitles to tell you what he said. The english voice acting isn't perfect, but it's better than most games I encounter.

Pre-war military rounds are indeed still used as currency.
lpkmckenna Jun 3, 2013 08:36 PM
I'm interesting in this series. Should I just get Last Light or do I have to slog thru the mistakes of 2033 just to appreciate the series as a whole?

(People have asked me this question about BioShock Infinite. I tell them just to play Infinite, it doesn't matter if you played the original. I'd say the same thing about Batman Arkham City.)
sek929 Jun 3, 2013 09:29 PM
Mistakes is a harsh word, I prefer rough edges.

I think the first game was a wonderful experience, and like I said, if you play on the optional Ranger difficulty the game really works a lot better in many respects. Last Light draws on the events and of the first game quite a bit, I think it wouldn't make as much sense or have the same gravity.
sek929 Jun 3, 2013 09:30 PM
Also, as a side note, the visuals in Last Light are downright amazing. Every environment is dripping with detail, I can only imagine what it would look like on a beefy PC.
sek929 Jun 5, 2013 05:53 PM
Well I wrapped Last Light up about an hour ago and after letting it percolate through my brain for a bit I feel confident in my outright vote of sheer awesomeness from 4A this time around. They had the chance to silence critics of M2033 with an utterly brilliant sequel and they did just that. At no point did anything feel broken or glitchy. Transitions between hellish firefights and guided sightseeing tours are seamless. This is what a "linear" game done perfect plays like. I feel linear gets thrown around as a negative aspect in gaming, but when done correctly a properly paced and planned experience can win out against any large open-world RPG.

First off, the stealth (as I said before) is exactly as it should be. You have a clearly defined way to stay hidden, and the process from being spotted to all-out war happens quickly without feeling like you've simply triggered the "all enemies alert" alarm. Once spotted an enemy will break off from the group to fall back and warn others. Kill this man and deal with his group and you will remain unknown by the full force. Enemy pathfinding is extremely varied, especially when they are on alert. Of course when stealth-ing through a dozen men there will be patterns, but enemies will engage in all sorts of small tasks while patrolling. Carrying boxes, fiddling with radios, dipping their heads and generally not being a static target. If you alert the horde there is almost always a way to flank or distract, even within the fairly claustrophobic environments. Even so, flanking an enemy does not guarantee that he will not turn around to check his surroundings and spot you. Fighting even three enemies without proper cover is very challenging and the AI will not hesitate to rush you as opposed to holding back and keeping the tops of their heads in view. The AI in general is very well done. They are very difficult without being cheap.

Secondly, the gas-mask element is really front and center for large portions of the game. Some of the most memorable sections occur on the surface. Despite the gorgeous scenery you won't have much time for sightseeing, because the most frantic fights also happen on the surface. Sneaking through 20 armed guards is a different animal than running around on the surface watching your air filters tick away while being ambushed by nasties at every turn. Filters were more plentiful than I had expected for Ranger Hardcore, but I was thankful for the spare masks, as mine took quite a beating and would need to be swapped fairly regularly. Another extremely intense section was in a burning Metro station underground. Here I did not have many spare filters and at this point in the game I was up against very well armed enemies. The first half of the level played fairly stealth, but as I grew more anxious about my filters the all-out firefight happened very organically. Pepper in some horrifying burning corpses clinging to life with thick dark smoke everywhere and it was among one of my favorite levels in any shooter I've ever played.

Gunplay is more or less what you'd expect. I ended up significantly turning down the auto-aim snap sensitivity since it was ridiculous to start with. Guns kick around and fill the air with smoke and bright flashes, chunks fly from every impact, lighter forms of cover chip and break away, and bright sparks flash as you hit armor and impenetrable cover. Ammo was a constant struggle throughout the game. I found myself weighing every encounter against my inevitable shortage of bullets. I sold bits off my guns and all non-essentials items in order to maintain a full clip. I eventually faced my hardest challenge when I would begin a muant boss encounter with extremely low ammo. 4 or 5 shotgun shells and about 3/4s of a clip of AR ammo. A large mutant that used a powerful charge attack in a room with flimsy pillars. I figured to not fire a single shot and see if I was supposed to collapse the ceiling on him or something. I would have him destroy every last pillar without firing a bullet and it frustrated him enough that he burst through a door into what I would discover was the actual battle. Another large room with a ton of destructible cover. He was joined by two weaker, but much more agile, mutants. I was forced to expend 3 shotgun shells to get rid of them and focused on the task at hand. Eventually all the cover was destroyed and the room was empty. I picked a few opportune moments to unleash my pitiful arsenal on him. Out of bullets I throw my only weapons left, a couple of fire grenades. We dance for a bit as I test the waters with trying to melee him to death (I was never sure if this worked or not) and in a moment of clarity remembered that I must have a couple throwing knives, indeed I did....just one. I did the ol-dodge move and he opened up his soft underbelly, I threw my knife right into its quivering tummy and it let out a thunderous groan as it died. I, quite literally, threw my hands in the air and let out a loud holy @#$. After dying several times I was beginning to think I'd have to revert back to a previous chapter, but my persistance payed off. In fact on several occasions dring large fights I would run out of ammo and scrape by on what I would assume was skill and luck.

That's about it for the core gameplay elements, which on their own would be meaningless. Where 4A shines is mixing everything together into a pea soup atmosphere that inundates your senses. A post-apocalyptic shooter, set in a dull and monotonous environment, is what Metro appears to be on the surface. However, everything is so lovingly crafted you can taste it. The visuals are absolutely amazing, from the interiors of Metro tunnels to the ruined surface. The way your gas mask ices up around the edges gradually the more time you are outside, how the air seems thick and full of particles, the way your charged flashlight flickers and pulses. Nothing was left to chance and every detail was scrutinized. When you have a game take place in such tight confines yet have no two rooms looks alike then your level designers deserve a medal. The "sightseeing tours" around inhabited stations don't feel forced, the conversations don't seem triggered by your proximity, people would appear to be going about their business, unaware that the only non-NPC has showed up. From full control, to partial control, to cutscene and back again is flawless. Despite a couple sharp loading screens that appear to have been afterthoughts, there is very little in the way that takes you out of the experience. The only sections that feel out-of-place are the few Boss Mutant battles, but they were a freaking hoot to play so I can call that even. In true fashion to the original the supernatural climax of the game is amazing. This isn't a game that jumps out to scare you, but builds horror and tension gradually until you have no choice to be on the edge of your seat. The final battle and final ending are intense without being drawn out and in retrospect the game is neither to short nor outliving its welcome.

I have waited for nearly 3 years to dive back into the world of the Metro, and I thank the gods THQ got the game far enough before falling apart at the seams. If M2033 was enough of a success to warrant 4A a sequel, then Last Light should cement them as a proper game developer. I eagerly await their next experience.
Stogieman Jun 6, 2013 01:10 AM
lpkmckenna Jun 6, 2013 06:33 AM
Awesome review, sek!
Quote, Originally Posted by Stogieman (Post 4233568)
Damn, that was epic.
P Jun 7, 2013 05:27 AM
This sounds interesting. I've read the book, so I know the story of the first game (sidenote: the book Metro 2033 is great, but its sequel Metro 2034 doesn't hold up at all. Different characters, unrelated story in the same universe, bad plot). Would have to overclock the CPU in my newly restored gaming PC to make it work, but that's easy enough. I already know that I can get it over 3.2 without even overvolting it.
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