Metro 2033 is a post apocalyptic first person shooter that’s based on the novel of the same name by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. A story about one man’s journey through the last standing pieces of civilization to seek help for his home, defending humanity from being swept away by an evolutionary menace and being lost forever. The main character, Artyom, is a man born before the nuclear conflict that destroyed the world and left the surface uninhabitable, but too young to remember anything of the old world. All he can recall is the cold underground of the deep Metro subway systems. One day he simple life defending his family is interrupted by his unit being slaughtered by an unknown evil. Forced to leave his home to seek assistance from a far and unfamiliar station, he must battle through the horde of the new species that survive the wilderness of the cold frozen surface, the surviving forces of long dead political parties, and mysterious paranormal forces to save the last of humanity.
The story tries to tackle subjects like survival, battling ideologies during severe times, horror themes, and containing one’s humanity but never quite delivers on any subject. Right when they begin to set a tone, the narrative moves Atyom before diving anymore in the thought. The tenseness of the firefights and the broken, humble, but lively towns gave greater hints at an atmosphere and tone than the narrative. Near the end, the story starts going off the paranormal deep end. This is done in a fine enough ramp up, but the small foreshadowing moments early on never quite fully flesh out the plot. There’s a underlying morality mechanic in play. Not a simple good or bad meter, like other game that tackle the mechanic, but instead some acts like giving strangers some cash, or avoiding killing everything in sight will give you a hidden morality token. It’s something so underlined that I was never aware of it until after I had completed the game and dug around some extra sources after being unsatisfied with the ending I had earned.
One thing I noticed when I started was the button layout. While not being so off that it will force you pause and search for the right action constantly, it does mess with you while trying to reload or switch weapons suddenly during a fight. It was something I battled with the first half of the game, but eventually got used too. There are quite a lot of texture pop in when loading each new area, also. Nothing new, but if your a stickler for graphics it’ll begin to bug you to wait for each section to completely load. The wait is quite worth it, the graphics are pretty good, light effects are decent if not pretty good.
There were a few glitches here and there. During some of the mutant sections, where many mutant rats duck in holes, appearing randomly to lunge at you. Multiple times in different sections, I would be damaged without an enemy being visible. The lesser but more frequent problem would be mutants running through walls, and while being a visual anomaly, it usually doesn’t effect the gameplay too much.
Gunplay is fun, and thought out in spots. When forced to deal with unfriendly human forces there’s usually two ways to pass; guns blazing killing all the hostiles, or try a stealth approach, quietly taking each foe out. Battling survivors tends to be tense quiet fights, with sudden bursts of fire, and silently search for your remaining foes. On many situations, my enemies would try to flank me, only to be thwarted by a sudden choice of mine to fall back, try another angle and have a sudden perfect shot. The A.I. is hit or miss, sometimes tactful and coordinated, while one a few occasions some soldiers would run for cover A to cover B unaware I was standing in there path in plain sight. These moments lessen the joy of outsmarting your foes.
Stealth sections can prove difficult, since without a silenced weapon your restricted to knife, unless you want to go guns blazing. Adding to the difficulty, later levels have enemies that are more heavily guarded and armored, making shooting through open gaps, like eye slots, tip the scale against your favor. A nice addition to the stealth mechanic is you have to watch your footing, since stepping on broken glass or bumping in to hanging cans could give away your position. With a lot of nuclear waste bins being left underground, it leaves some areas completely filled with toxic gas. Fighting in these gas fill chambers can be tense, since you must wear a gas mask, which brings in its own challenges to fire fights but also just survival. I found myself checking the oxygen gauge for the gas mask filter constantly, just to make sure I wouldn’t starve from oxygen. The gas mask makes gunplay a little more nerve-racking, since getting your mask shot means its broken and rendered useless, dooming yourself to suffocation. The bulk of the firefights are against giant mole like mutants called nosalises, which boils down to shooting the closet thing since they mostly just charge at you. While not the most exciting, these moments can be tense, mainly due to the amount of enemies that emerge once you grab the creatures attention. More could be desired of these sections, but are hard to notice unless keeping an eye for such nitpicks.
Originally thinking Metro 2033 was a back shelf cult favorite worthy of silent praise, I was quite surprised by the end. While never actually delivering on all it’s themes, the story was really enjoyable, plus the gameplay and atmosphere made up for any missed step. All and all, I really enjoyed Metro 2033, not exactly the best game that blows away the competition, but at its roots it’s solid first person shooter, with interesting gameplay mechanics and a contemplating story.