Have you ever gotten on the subway and thought to yourself “this would be an amazing setting for a game”? Well the folks at 4A Games had the exact same thought. This game is loosely based on the book “Metro 2033” by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The premises of the game is that a nuclear war broke out and the outside world is uninhabitable so everyone has taken to the underground, which just happens to be an intricate network of subway tunnels running underneath Moscow. The outside world can be visited in certain parts with the aid of a mask and is a great way to have a change of scenery from the tunnels. Each station is an outpost, though not all are friendly, apart from the neutral people the reds (Russians) have control of a few stations and the Nazis (Germans) are back with a few stations of their own. Besides humans that may or may not want you dead, there are also creatures around the world that were born out of the radiation that want to eat you. The main currency is bullets, with old style bullets being worth more than “homemade” ones. The only bad part about using bullets as currency is that you can shoot them, they may do a bit more damage but it’s not fun accidentally shooting 100 good bullets when you have 300 homemade ones in your inventory. However this game does give you two options to play it, you can do guns blazing or stealth so there is plenty of variety to how each mission can be accomplished.
As for the graphics in Metro 2033, they are on par of what anyone would expect from a game released in 2010. They look shiny and everything is very detailed, reminding me of games like Call of Duty: Black ops but lacking the overall polish. There are moments that there is some awkward clipping happening and textures don’t line up properly but nothing game breaking. The one annoyance I did have was noticeable texture pop in, the game does a good job at loading a texture but once you get closer and a more detailed one takes over, the change is noticeable but the frame rate doesn’t drop so at least it plays smooth. The game really shines with the lighting. Almost all light sources can be extinguished or shot out, apart from camp fires and lights with protection over them. Even generators can be switched off and entire sections of tunnel can be cast into darkness. Night vision goggles do not like the light but they do work like they are supposed to, but you will lose some of the usable screen, as much as I hate losing screen space the effect made it realistic and made me choose between sneaking in the dark or just shouting the bad guys. When outside or around fumes the gas mask is a must, this one does not obscure the view, at least until the cartridge starts to run out, then you get the fogging on the sides as you breathe heavy. It definitely makes it worthwhile to have spare filters in hand. The gasses are not always poisonous but I did notice that sometimes they would disappear when looking a certain direction but when they worked, they did help create the atmosphere quite a bit.
The sound design in this game was probably the weakest point of the game. The music itself is not a problem because it sets the mood very well and makes some of the tunnels seem much creepier then they actually are. The voice acting is what really affects this game. There are a few characters that do a good job and are convincing but then there are those that are so bad. The accents are so forced in a few sequences that it does make you realize it’s just a game and takes away from the full immersion that other games seem to nail. Children are probably the guiltiest of bad voice acting but I am glad this game actually has children in it. Many games will not include children for fear of ratings and Internet backlash but this game has no fear of that happening. The enemy voices are pretty good and it’s nice to hear them yelling at you, and telling their friends where you are. The monsters on the other hand are hit or miss, I find them a bit too quiet for my liking.
The Gameplay is where this game shines above all. The atmosphere is there and there is plenty of variety. The guns jam and the HUD does go away when not needed. The enemy AI is fairly smart, even on easy difficulty setting they do give quite a challenge that normally I do not expect to get on easy. At times the enemies may be easy to kill but the volume of enemies does make it difficult causing you to run away and conserve precious bullets. There are booby traps too, so that is an added twist and these are not forgiving at all, sometimes you can run past it fast enough and the explosion will hurt a bit but usually it’s spikes and those are a one hit KO. This makes moving around while in a gun fight a tad trickier than most people are accustomed to, and you have to watch out for broken glass or cans that can give away your position. On top of looking out for all these obstacles every action you do has an animation, so using that health kit at the very last moment may not be good idea because bullets move faster than you. When you start the game you get a flashlight with a generator, this is a key item as well. The generator will make the flashlight brighter and let you see more and slowly deplete until you recharge using your hand generator, this generator also works for the night vision goggles. A few times I found myself running to a corner while in combat so I could recharge my night vision goggles, after that I made sure they were full before heading into combat. The game does give you a break now and then when you reach friendly stations, for the most part these can be explored thoroughly but there is a feeling of invisible walls. There may be something blocking the way but it seems like something that usually wouldn’t be a bother in another game like a turnstile, there is one instance where you can walk through the turnstile but not back even though moving beside it turns it, it occurs at a location that advances the story but seems a little odd.
Overall this is quite a fun game and at first has a Fallout feel but it definitely has a unique story and setting of its own. There are many encounters and scenarios in this game that I have not seen anywhere else which is good. The tutorials that are given throughout the game are well designed and do not feel like tutorials since they are in game and feel very natural. Once you are acquainted with the controls of the game, the rest is up to you, whether you sneak by and use very little ammo or go all out and shoot everything in sight, it is all up to you but don’t forget to pick up any ammo you find because you never know when you will be running low. Pick up this game if you want something creepy and post-apocalyptic and you are a fan of first person shooters but do not expect Black Ops because this is just not that type of game. Some of the action is spaced out and that’s what gives you that feeling of suspense, otherwise it would be just a cookie cutter shooter.