When the Metro
franchise first appeared, it presented a harrowing view of a grim and desperate world, sparsely populated with stragglers and shell-shocked survivors huddling together in the dark claustrophobic tunnels of the Moscow Metro. The post-apocalyptic remnants of society, sheltering and hiding from the fallout above. They weren't the only survivors, the man-made labyrinth of concrete tunnels harbored other horrors and nightmares. There was little safety or comfort to be found in that subterranean world. You'd be forgiven for asking why would you want to go back, but as any veteran will tell you, the real question is why wouldn't you? It's time to charge up your travel card and get your ticket stamped; this is one Metro journey you don't want to miss.
The story behind Metro Redux
begins with a world where a nuclear war decimated the city of Moscow. Those fortunate to be riding the Metro at the time or already safely underground in the tunnels and stations became the immediate, if not unwitting, survivors of the nuclear holocaust. On surface, people faced a last scramble to reach the tunnel openings, desperate to get to safety before the special hermetically sealing doors closed, condemning those left outside to their fate, and incarcerating those inside with only the provisions they had with them on that last fateful journey. Society and humanity had to rebuild itself deep in the tunnels, scavenging what it could to survive. It was bleak and grim as it sounds.
The player takes on the role of Artyom, a citizen of the Metro who has been raised from childhood in the dark tunnels and is now living in Exhibition Station. In the years since the holocaust, the Metro has become a microcosm of society with each of the stations adopting various social, political, and religious views, with the most feared being the Communists and the Neo-Nazi Reich. Twenty years of neglect in the tunnels has left them in a bad state of repair and there have been collapses and breaches, and the savage, mutated creatures that roam the surface, including the mysterious 'Dark Ones', have now started to venture into the tunnels. Eventually when his own station is threatened, Artyom is tasked with traversing the tunnel network to seek help further up the line.
The grim story slowly unfolds over the course of the first game, leaving Artyom with a choice at the climactic end to the first title. Regardless of the choice, the second game starts by assuming that one particular course of action was taken and the story continues with Artyom now a fully fledged Ranger. In the Last Light
part of the game, we finally discover Artyom's unknown relationship with the Dark Ones. This story too, also reaches a dramatic climax which can also have two possible endings depending on the player's actions throughout the course of the game. Taking the story over both games, it reveals a dark, grim, and melancholic world, a despairing world living on the edge, salvaging what it can and just managing to survive.
In the early stages of the game, everything is made to feel that it has been salvaged and cobbled together. Some of the early weapons in the game are pneumatic requiring charging before they can be fired for any period. The ammunition is simple ball-bearings, usable against the smaller denizens of the Metro, but they become increasingly impotent as the game progresses and the enemies get tougher. Fortunately, more conventional weapons are also available at the start, but these too are reconditioned, salvaged and will not help the player survive too far into subterranean world. It's essential to upgrade weapons and equipment and this can be done at the various trading posts in the different stations on the Metro line.
It is here that the first of the trickier elements of the game comes into play as the currency of the subterranean markets is bullets. The player has to trade ammunition for any necessary items, with military grade bullets having a higher trade value than those that have been manufactured in the Metro. Initially this might not seem such a concern, but given that ammunition is generally scarce in the first place, the player is soon faced with the realization that every bullet fired represents money being spent. Whilst you may be able to battle your way past a number of enemies, blasting away like Rambo
, that same ammunition could have been used to buy extra air filters needed for the poisonous surface environment or perhaps armor improvements. The player is forced to start thinking about conservation strategies in their battle for survival.
This survival aspect becomes a main theme in the game. Resources are scarce and the player is often left scrabbling about in the semi-darkness or the heavily irradiated frozen surface trying to salvage items. On the surface, air filters are always needed and failure to carry enough or salvage enough is fatal. There are times of genuine panic as the clock ticks down and the filters start to fail; breathing becomes labored and the player is left gasping for clean air.
Due to this fact, early missions on the surface outside of the Metro are nerve-wracking journeys. The player is distinctly aware that there is only so much time available that lingering to admire the scenery is not an option. Furthermore, this time restriction also forces the player to engage surface enemies or airborne enemies a lot quicker than they may have ideally liked. Given that you might not know where, what, or how many enemies you might stumble into means that those ventures up on the surface feel incredibly tense and fraught with danger. In those moments, you feel vulnerable and horribly exposed. You start longing for relatively safety and security of the Metro tunnels.
It's a nice trick, and along with other elements it's something that works on the player throughout the course of the game. Without realizing it the player starts to feel increasingly at home in the tunnels. The semi-darkness of the tunnels begins to envelop you. Despite the perils and terrors lurking in the darkness, the player is made to feel that he is part of the Metro, one of the true inhabitants, and there is genuine feeling of belonging.
This feeling is reinforced by the stunningly realized environments and the atmosphere that permeates through the game. The stations, substations, bunkers, and tunnels are all rendered superbly. Cynics might ask how visual enhancements can improve a game that is primarily staged in the dark, and yet it is still clear to see the difference, especially in the case of the older title, 2033
. Shadows and lighting look more realistic, and the textures have all been tweaked. Last Light
itself has also been given a visual makeover, although it is less apparent than in 2033
. For a game that already oozed atmosphere and had such a deep level of immersion, it just makes it all that more compelling and complete. There are some smaller details too, a glance at Artyom's wristwatch shows the correct time. It's a small thing, but a nice touch with regards to immersion.
The ambiance and soundscape throughout the game further enhances this feeling and brings the world to life brilliantly whether it is in the relative stillness of the tunnels, the human camps in the Metro stations, or even during the intense firefights with any of the Metro's less friendly inhabitants. The atmosphere contributes to the overall feeling of immersion in the game which can lead to some genuine terrifying moments. Traveling in the stillness of tunnels which is suddenly punctured by the howl or growl of one of many mutant inhabitants, regardless of its proximity, can cause the the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up.
Whilst all of this has been carried across from the original titles, there's the inevitable question about what has the Redux version brought to the franchise. In short, it's solved many of glitches and niggles that flawed the original. We recently covered Last Light
in one of our Easter Eggs
features, and what I wrote then still applies now. The improved menus, smarter AI, better stealth mechanics, weapon handling, and improved controls; all of those elements from Last Light
have been retro-fitted into the original title.
The new version also includes two new game modes, Spartan and Survival. Spartan reduces the scarcity of ammunition allowing the player to approach the game more like a standard shooter without worrying about exhausting supplies. Survival, tips the scales the other direction, makes things tougher, and allows the player to approach the game like a survival horror title, somewhat in keeping with the original 2033
. Both game modes can be applied to either game, and as we covered in our achievement spotlight
, both carry related game completion achievements. It's also worth noting that the game difficulties range from normal through to ranger hardcore. There's no easy setting anymore and that says something about the world of Metro
The other achievements for the title remain pretty standard, story completion, weapons, collectibles, and a few for carrying out special objectives. Achievement hunters will have to have a degree of patience, there are no achievements for the individual chapters of the game, so it might take some time before the achievements start popping. There is one word of warning though, some of the achievements seemed to pop at unusual moments, and despite having killed four of the Librarians, that particular achievement, Heavy Reader
, has still not registered. Maybe this is glitch that can be solved simply by revisiting that particular chapter. Metro
is in a class by itself in the shooter genre; a game that is more somber, darker and more cerebral than any others. There is no feeling of guns and glory, no over-the-top set pieces, and no squad mates acting as bullet sponges alongside you. This is grim journey that, for the most part, you face alone. Part shooter, part stealth and part survival horror, it's all wonderfully combined in an immersive and brilliantly realized atmospheric world.
If you're a fan of shooters and have not yet ventured into the tunnels of the Metro
system then there is simply no reason or excuse for not starting that journey now. If you're already a fan, then rediscovering Metro 2033
in it's new form is more than worth the price of admission on its own.
I've played and completed the campaigns both Metro 2033
and Metro: Last Light
on the Xbox 360. For the sake of the review, I also replayed some of the chapters from the titles in parallel with the new Redux version. It is clear to see just how far the new version has improved from the previous titles. Metro: Redux
is more than just a remake of the previous games. Whilst it is true that it contains two complete games, all the DLC content from the Season Pass, and 2000 Gamerscore, that's all just packaging. Redux
is the complete Metro
experience in a totally difference sense. Both titles have been reworked to various degrees providing an even deeper level of immersion. The marketing for a previous game mode once stated that "this was the way that Metro was meant to be played". They were wrong; regardless of any game mode, Redux
is the way Metro
was meant to be. Whether entering for the first time or heading back on a return ticket, this is the Metro
ride that you simply have to take.
The publisher provided a copy of the game for the Xbox One. The reviewer spent approximately 14 hours roaming the tunnels, fighting off mutants, and trying to absolve his conscience unlocking 17 achievements for 295G.