Metro Redux Review

Metro Redux comes to us from 4A Games and is the latest remastered game for current generation consoles and PC. Including Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light together in a bundle for $50 is a good deal(as compared to the Tomb Raider and The Last of Us remasters), or if you’d prefer, they can be bought individually for half the price. As far as re-releases for the new-gen systems are concerned, Metro Redux sports the biggest overhaul at least with regards to Metro 2033. It utilizes the game engine from its sequel, meaning user interface and stuff such as AI will be identical across both games. Both releases come with any dlc and can be played in any of two distinct modes. Survivor mode is akin the original Metro 2033 with resource management and ammo scarcity whereas Spartan mode skews toward Last Light‘s more action oriented ammo heaven, but what if you haven’t played either game and are jumping in for the first time now?

Metro 2033 Redux

Metro 2033 takes place in a post apocalyptic Moscow. Years after a nuclear war has occurred, radiation has transformed the land dramatically. Life is rare and the few living creatures are merely remnants of the familiar, instead having been mutated into horrifying beasts. The citizens in this world of death and disease reside underground away from the radiation through a series of  interconnected tunnels. Scattered throughout these tunnels are Metros, essentially states or cities.

Isn't that cute? The books the games are based on make guest appearances!

Isn’t that cute? The books the games are based on make guest appearances!

If there is one thing Metro 2033 does well, it would be its excellent use of atmosphere within the contained Metros and out on the contaminated surface. Dozens of citizens go about their day and have conversations. Children play with their parents. Groups of survivors huddle around a fire and share stories or play music. You hear civilians having arguments or even babies crying behind the confines of their rooms and even the minimalist soundtrack enhances the mood. Metro 2033 sets the stage for an engaging post apocalyptic tale that one could get lost in for hours. The story is nothing special, but the setting is. It’s unfortunate then that it’s also held back by technical limitations and bugs.

When it works, it works beautifully and you’ll wish your country was struck by nuclear fallout just so you can experience what these distraught people go through every day. You’ll find yourself wanting to be in constant fear of attack from mutants and using military grade ammo as currency. It all sounds very fascinating. The world 4A Games created is intriguing and has potential, but it isn’t fully realized. For a game that relies so heavily on atmosphere, if immersion is broken even once it becomes a major issue. The environments may look beautiful with all the geometry, debris, and lighting, but the character models are an entirely different story. Even with the massive visual improvements, all characters look like they’re a generation behind with especially dated animation. Everyone looks ugly and they move in an ugly manner too. It makes some of the more emotionally pivotal scenes a joke when you see a character’s death or intimate moment animate like a decade old game. Its especially jarring when the rest of the game looks so good.

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Don’t be caught reloading in the face of danger

I’ve also experienced a handful of bugs that aren’t game breaking, but occur often enough to warrant mention and slight caution. The most obvious came in the form of characters not finishing their lines. The first few times it happened, I assumed these instances were just dramatic pauses not meant to be finished, but upon turning on subtitles I usually found at least one npc per level cutting out before they finished their complete thoughts. It happens in some very dramatic moments too, making it difficult to follow the specifics of the events transpiring sometimes. Another glitch I found involved an escort mission. I came across a little kid who wanted me to take him to his mother. As soon as I was given control to escort the kid, his character model disappeared, but he still spoke through the entire trek. Then, once I reached the mother, he got off my shoulder(despite never jumping on my shoulder–instead teleporting onto it) and ran to her at which point they went on to have entirely separate conversations with each other and with me.

Thankfully, these occasional hiccups in the polishing department don’t do enough to muddle this methodical experience. Metro 2033 has a slow sense of pacing. A lot of time is spent soaking in the environments and scrounging around for resources to be better equipped for combat, one of the game’s strongest elements at play. Your gun feels appropriately weighty when turning or aiming and recoil is readily apparent. Couple this with the slow reload animations and you have a recipe for incredibly tense combat encounters. It is both a joy and a fright to miss a shot and reload as an enemy approaches on your position. Even the upgrades for each weapon bought using special ammo(which also can be used for more damage against enemies) improve them incrementally while still keeping the foreboding sense of survival and weakness that pervades the experience. The various effects like blood splatter, cracks, water, and flies on your gas mask visor make every environment and combat situation an engrossing affair.

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quiet visual moments like these are emotionally evocative. It’s unfortunate then that the writing fails to incite the same level of emotion.

Metro 2033‘s combat helps reinforce the desolation and helplessness of the noncombat Metro sequences. Stealth is also an option and while it isn’t poorly executed, the environments don’t always seem to be well suited for a stealth run through. It takes more of the “use stealth until you get caught” approach. It doesn’t hurt to save some extra ammo, right?

Metro 2033 isn’t a terribly long game. It can be completed in six or seven hours, maybe eight if you take the time out to observe everything. The pacing worked within these confines and I never felt as though a section dragged on too long, though the ending felt a bit anticlimactic. If you want a slow burning shooter with a bit more intelligence than the regulars in the genre, Metro 2033 is a good choice, though you’ll be left wanting more polish and less aggravating bugs. They drag down the experience a considerable amount. It also wouldn’t have hurt to have better writing because the things people say aren’t as engaging as the things they’re doing.

Metro Last Light Redux

Metro Last Light takes place right after the ending of the first game provided you got the canonical ending. As soon as control is given to the player, the visuals are the most immediately striking element. Character models and your protagonist’s hands look a bit better. It’s not a massive leap by any means given 2033 was remade using the same engine as Last Light. You’ll still end up wishing more could have done to improve, at the very least, integral story characters, but that’s probably left for the third Metro game.

The most striking difference going into Last Light after having played 2033 is the more action focused direction. Sure, you’ll still have plenty of time to soak in the sights and interact within the cities scattered throughout the overarching Metro, though these sections are few and far between in comparison to its predecessor. Whereas 2033 was an extremely slow paced, but atmospheric affair with long stretches of environmental traversal and scrounging for supplies, Last Light has many more stretches of fast paced action against both the mutants and human enemies. It even has two mini boss fights which weren’t present at all in the original.

treks through the radiated surface keep the wonderful sense of atmosphere intact

treks through the radiated surface keep the wonderful sense of atmosphere intact

Guns have less recoil, making it easier to hit targets. The player is almost always pit against larger groups of enemies and reloading is significantly quicker in addition to the more generous supply of ammo and military grade ammo for buying things or customizing weapons in each city. While some die hard fans that enjoyed the survival aspect of Metro 2033 may be disappointed by the way gun fights play out, no one can take issues with the improved stealth. AI is identical to the first seeing as they run on the same game engine, though the environments have opened up dramatically allowing for a much more integrated free form stealth experience. Many of the environments can be approached in different ways with multiple open roots to take out enemies and even underground ducts to get the slip on the enemy. For the first time in the series, entire sequences of Metro Last Light can actually be played as a stealth game without the worry of eventually being caught in most scenarios as long as the player is good enough. Metro Last Light isn’t quite as buggy as its predecessor, though the audio bugs still remain. One glitch in particular halted my progress and forced me to reload the checkpoint to fight a mini boss all over again, at which point I could finally proceed.

The change in direction isn’t intrinsically a bad thing thanks to gratifying combat, better integrated stealth, and 4A Games’ ability to craft diverse, interesting environments within this world. The atmosphere in the slower paced moments still exists and it is better than ever. I rarely got bored of lighting my bullet shell casing to burn cobwebs in my way and searching off the beaten path for supplies(which granted, isn’t really necessary anymore if you’re playing it in its original Spartan setting) or pulling up the compass to find my way if I ever got lost, keeping it equipped as opposed to a weapon in case an enemy happened to be around. The thrill and subsequent melancholy of finishing an exciting combat encounter to then be treated to the more mundane, human elements of the experience kept finding a way to grip me in. Despite the more “triple A action” of Metro Last Light, the few cities and human refugees felt a bit more lively and one section in particular was able to evoke an emotion from me that the original never quite succeeded in reaching.

side activities such as this performing arts show bring the world of the Metro to life

side activities such as this show bring the world of the Metro to life

4A Games has a careful handling on pacing. Last Light offers up just enough shooting while also knowing when to let up and slow down. The states offer a nice reprieve from the action. Take a walk and try out a shooting range in exchange for special ammo. Perhaps you’d rather go to a strip club and get a lap dance to escape from all the mutiny and disease. The game even offers up a chance to enjoy a performing arts show with different music and talent acts. Once you’re sitting down in the safety of a strip club as fellow males shout sexual obscenities or listening to a music act, it can be easy to lose yourself in the world and forget that right out on the surface nothing but bombed out buildings, mutated creatures, and extreme amounts of radiation exist anymore.

Metro Last Light clocks in at a reasonable ten hours or so, making it slightly longer than its predecessor, but this Redux also includes all DLC which all together adds quite a few extra hours to the experience. The DLC  mostly consists of extra single player missions from different characters’ perspectives and sets of challenges with online leader boards. Two of the most standout pieces of extra content are the Developer Pack and a level known as Kshatriya. The Developer Pack is what you might expect. It includes a shooting range with the ability to try out any weapon in the game and an in-game museum with a model viewer for each enemy type and character model. The most interesting thing worth tinkering with in this piece of content is an AI arena.

The player is given free reign to decide what enemies to pit against what enemies and whether or not a day/night cycle should be included and you are given the option to either observe from above and inspect the score counter or suit up and become a part of it. The Developer Pack was a neat little surprise that fans of this type of content should definitely check out.

The Kshatriya level on the other hand, puts you in the shoes of a man part of a five man squad. There is no real narrative to speak of. The player simply has a list of items and supplies that he needs to bring back underground from the surface for currency to then be used to buy better weapons and armor. The Kshatriya level is exciting in the sense that it takes the same excellent Metro 2033 mechanics with limited resources and thrusts you out into a semi-open world.

In-game museum

The in-game museum is a must for people that enjoy this sort of content

The surface can be explored at your leisure and items can be brought back at any time or until the backpack is full. Mask filters can not be found on the surface so the player must be careful to stock up on enough to explore the surface and come back without dying in the radiation. Resource management plays a big role here in spite of Last Light‘s traditional single player experience. It makes for an extremely engaging experience, hoping you don’t venture out too far without suitable equipment or praying you can put the slip on enemies to conserve ammo. The management of supplies and ammunition has more of an impact in this less linear setting. 4A Games have stated their hopes to make the next Metro installment more open world and this Kshatriya level seems to be their first foray into that style of play for the franchise.

Metro Last Light Redux is a worthy successor to Metro 2033 Redux. The improved stealth, well realized locations, side activities, and additional downloadable content make it difficult to be disappointed even if loads of straight up action isn’t your cup of tea.

Metro Redux Bottom Line

Metro Redux is a worthy addition to any next gen collection. If you want two games for $10 less than the price of one new game, then you can’t go wrong here. It’s worth a purchase for any people that have only played one or neither of the games. The stark contrast between both games provides more variety than the typical collection. The survival-esque nature of Metro 2033 and the high octane action of Metro Last Light complement each other well. Keep in mind either game can be played in either Spartan or Survivor mode, though having an enjoyable experience with Last Light in Survivor mode is difficult as it wasn’t designed to accommodate it. Simply decreasing ammo and item counts isn’t enough to make Last Light a true survival game. It needs to be designed with a survival focus. Both games are great experiences, though the numerous bugs have a big impact on the product. Hopefully, Metro Redux gets patched up. Until then, it’ll be difficult to become immersed in the world 4A Games created with such rampant audio and other minor glitches.