Goin’ Off The Rails On A Whole New Crazy Train – A Metro: Last Light (Review) XBox 360

Goin’ Off The Rails On A Whole New Crazy Train – A Metro: Last Light (Review) XBox 360
Review Score:

Here’s a riddle for you, gamers:  What game first comes to mind if you were to, say, take Metal Gear Solid and give it a post-apocalyptic twist, and have Solid Snake as a Russian, fighting for survival and all mankind in Moscow’s subway system?  Go ahead, I’ll give you a second or two — give up yet?  Well if you had guessed Metro Last Light by Deep Silver and 4A Games, then you’d certainly be most correct.

In MLL, you assume the role of Artyom (aka “Rabbit”), mankind’s last hope, last beacon, last light.  It’s now 2034 and Moscow is nothing more than a post-apocalyptic ruin after World War III. The catacombs of the Metro serve as a new home for the city’s former inhabitants, as they fight off mutants from above ground.

But mutants aren’t the only problems for these folks, as they also have to contend with other factions that have every intention of seizing the ultimate power — a doomsday device that could mean victory — as a civil war is looming on the horizon. The game’s plot is heavily inspired by the best-selling novel, “Metro 2033″, written by Dmitry Glukhovsky, who also provided much of the dialogue content for MLL.

As you begin your adventure, you’re treated to an intro (which you actually get to participate in, but doesn’t affect the intro’s outcome) which has you thinking you’re being thrown into combat with towering mutants right away, only to discover that you were playing in a nightmare. Thus, your story now begins and right away you find yourself getting totally immersed in it.

There’s plenty of NPC interaction here and your comrades’ A.I. is almost spot on when you approach them to chat or to get information. But if you think you’re just going to be killing anything that moves with guns blazing, guess again — you’ll also have to hone your stealth skills to get through this game. In fact, the game more or less alternates between action-packed missions and careful stealth missions that force you to pay close attention to all of MLL’s intricate details. Just don’t forget to explore.

And if you’re worried about firepower, MLL comes equipped with a decent array of weaponry at your disposal (there’s at least 20-25 of them to be found or purchased, two of which you acquire through DLC), which includes knives and a modest variety of guns. The ammo that you use against the humans and mutants can also be used to purchase other weapons, explosives, and even attachments to upgrade your weapons with (most notably crosshairs and silencers); you make such purchases by visiting merchants.

The graphics in MLL definitely provide the proper dismal, gritty backdrop to go along nicely with the story, whether you’re navigating through the dank tunnels or wandering the hazy, barren landscape of post-nuked Moscow. The humans are well detailed and the surface-dwelling mutants are, well – just gross.  Of course there are some nice visual touches too, like wiping the visor of your gas mask if it gets water, mud, etc. splattered on it, and seeing how incredibly life-like the various tunnel dwellers are.

And yes, there is blood, but this game is by no means a bloodbath of a shooter anyway. The sounds I thought were outstanding. The background soundtrack complements the game’s overall tone and there is almost constant chatter going on around you, which you’ll find yourself spending lots of time listening to conversations. These folks definitely have plenty to say, complete with plenty of swearing and some adult humor.

While MLL is a “shoot ‘n stealth” kind of game, you still have to know ALL of your buttons on the controller. Luckily you’re able to have on-screen hints if you wish, plus go through some training in the beginning, but that’s about it.The hints are very helpful though, so it would be wise to pay attention. But even with the aforementioned hints, you’re still on your own as far as learning the rest of your controller’s functions, which makes things a bit more difficult for gamers who don’t play FPS often.

Naturally you can customize your controller settings, but I found it best to just stick with the default setting instead. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the control scheme, it will help make things easier, especially during combat. Combat is very straightforward, but if you don’t know which button does what, you may end up taking off your gas mask when you really meant to fire your gun.

What would a game be without some kind of DLC, right?  Well, apparently 4A Games plans on providing some extra goodies throughout the summer, but right now all that’s available is the “Limited Edition DLC”, which is only included with the limited edition copies of MLL and it comes with “Ranger Mode” (for the real hardcore) where there’s no HUD, less bullets, more brutality, and an exclusive in-game rifle that’s strictly for “Ranger Mode” purposes only. One Hundred military grade bullets are also included, which are to be used however you wish.

The “Season Pass” is also available now, which guarantees pre-purchase of several future DLC packs — the “Factions Pack”, the “Tower Pack”, the “Chronicles Pack”, and the “Developers Pack”.  It also grants immediate access to a mighty powerful gun — the oh-so-deadly Abzats (a semi-automatic shotgun that can unleash six shells in one blast).

With all that I’ve mentioned about this game so far, unfortunately there are some unforgettable issues that I feel are worth mentioning. For starters, remember what I said earlier about having to know your buttons on your controller?  I can’t stress that part enough. For instance, you can switch weapons with ease with a single button press, whereas to switch gas masks, you need to remember to hold down one button and then press another button while the first button is still pressed.

It may not sound like a big deal, but you try remembering that so easily when you’re on the ground flat on your back, trying to wrestle your gun away from one of those mutant abominations. Another issue would be the unbalanced A.I. The monsters are almost too aggressive (even on “Easy” mode) and yet the humans can seem to be not all that bright.

And finally, the tendencies of game freezes/system crashes. The first time I had this happen to me, I was actually in the midst of that weapon-wrestling battle that I just described and was forced to do a hard-reset on my console. As it turns out, both the 360 and PS3 consoles share this same fate, for reasons unknown.

Issues aside, Metro Last Light is still a very likable game, and is truly meant for the patient gamer. If you’re new to the “Metro” series (like I am), it’s still a very enjoyable title. And if you’re new to FPS-type games, you’ll get plenty of target practice here and this game is actually a nice introduction to the FPS genre before you feel brave enough for the more trigger-happy games.

So grab your gear, your guns, and your gas masks, comrade. You’re fighting to save your ass, your country and most importantly, mankind.

Sean Boley
Platform: XBox 360
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
ESRB: M (Mature)
Price: $59.99

Review Score
Graphics
The various dark, dreary backgrounds help make this game even spookier; very nice job.
Sound
Beautiful soundtrack, excellent sound effects, and superb job with the voice-overs.
Gameplay
A very interesting mix of shooting, stealth, suspense, and survival.
Overall
A gripping post-apocalyptic tale that you can't help but easily get sucked into.
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