Game Picks

Game Picks: 'Metro: Last Light'

CorrespondentMay 16, 2013 

 

‘Metro: Last Light’

Wow, is “Metro: Last Light” (Xbox 360; Rated M; $59.99) ever grim.

That’s not meant as a slight against Deep Silver’s shooter. Really, it’s one of the most absorbing first-person shooters in some time, particularly for its insistence that the first-person shooter is good for more than multiplayer playground antics. The gunplay has that satisfying “Call of Duty” tension to it, but avoiding firing those guns in “Deus Ex”-style stealth stretches is at least as engaging. The visuals feel like “Fallout,” but the atmosphere is more “Silent Hill.” The story, for its part, is all “Metro.”

“Last Light” is actually the second game of the “Metro” franchise, a sequel to the well-received “Metro 203.” That game was widely praised for its atmosphere and story, but took a lot of criticism for its actual gameplay. “Last Light” is a far more well-rounded experience, with a shadow-focused game engine and well-realized stealth system to match its dark, dank story.

You play as a military “hero” haunted by the memories of the mass bombing of a race of “dark ones,” beings seen as a threat by the vast majority of humanity.

Captures, beatings

The news that one of these “dark ones” survived, and that he is sent out to find it, triggers all the conflicting emotions of that horrific day, not to mention an adventure that twists and turns through multiple captures, beatings, and horrible sights, not to mention encounters with humans sapped of humanity and beasts fortunate enough to never have had any.

The game makes a point of driving home the severity of the situation. The player constantly encounters corpses, sees the horrors of supposed civilization (including the rise of the “Fourth Reich”), and is forced to traverse crawlspaces and sewers on a near-constant basis, with the added irony of knowing that the more disgusting the environ, the less dangerous it tends to be. When making the occasional foray to the outside world, the player is made responsible for wiping gunk off the required gas mask foraging for mask filters to keep it from malfunctioning and choking the player in unbreathable outside air.

The slow process of choking to death is one of the more horrible things a video game player has ever been forced to “experience.” Does this sound fun to you?

“Fun” is the wrong word for a game like “Metro: Last Light.” It’s an experience. It’s a feat of storytelling that drowns its audience in a sea of grimy near-hopelessness. What keeps it engaging is that even amidst the oppressive mood, there is a sense of freedom that informs the best moments of gameplay. You can go in to most situations guns blazing, but that’s almost never the most effective way to get through a stretch. It’s typically better to unscrew lightbulbs and live in the shadows, quietly picking people off one at a time, never alerting the masses to your presence.

Scary satisfaction

There’s a scary sort of satisfaction to hitting a Nazi in the neck with a thrown knife he never saw coming. The only moments that don’t really work are the ones where action is forced; running around on the surface and getting into a firefight with beasts offers little more than a hollow sense of progression.

Those moments are spread out enough (and, generally, easy enough) to be mostly ignored. For the most part, “Metro: Last Light” is exactly what one hopes for when the phrase “narrative-driven shooter” starts getting waved around. It’s one of a rare breed of first-person shooters that offers so much more than mere shooting.

Also New This Week: Step into the shoes of Dom, Brian, and maybe even the long-lost Letty in the arcade street racer “Fast and Furious: Showdown” (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U), or get a look at a previously portable-exclusive chapter in the “Resident Evil” saga in glorious HD with “Resident Evil: Revelations” (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U).

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