Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Metro Redux

"You reap what you sow, Artyom: force answers force, war breeds war, and death only brings death. To break this vicious circle one must do more than act without any thought or doubt."

The Gist
From the creators of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl comes S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but in a subway!

The Story
In 2013, the unspeakable has occurred: a nuclear war has left the world in ruins. With severe radiation poisoning the land, the last survivors of Moscow hid themselves away in the underground metro stations and locked themselves against the terrors that now haunt the world both above and below.

Artyom is one of these unfortunate survivors. Born shortly before the nuclear war, he has little memory of the surface world and has spent most of his life living with his adopted father in VDNKh Station. Life in the Metro is brutal and often miserable, with the survivors having to defend themselves from both men and beasts alike. As their home station is threatened by mysterious sentient creatures called the Dark Ones, Artyom must go on a journey through the Metro's dark tunnels and seek help from the self-appointed guardians of the Metro, The Rangers of the Spartan Order.

Over the course of his journey, his actions will put him in a precarious position: will Artyom be the Metro's savior, or the herald of its extinction?

Gameplay Impressions
Metro Redux is a collection of two games, Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. The former game has been remastered and rendered using the latter's engine, bringing it forward in terms of graphics and gameplay mechanics.

In terms of gameplay, Metro is a first-person shooter that focuses on survival elements. The Metro's tunnels are a dark and mysterious place, and Artyom's frequent excursions to the ravaged surface world are even more so.

Sporting a minimal HUD (which is even more stripped down on higher difficulties), the player has to make use of visual cues to ensure that they don't run out of important resources such as ammo and more importantly, air filters (which is essential in traversing the more dangerous areas of the game world without getting killed by the environment).

The game's strongest point, in my opinion, is the sense of immersion that it provides. The game's story is an overly grim one, and the concepts it tries to pursue are just the right amount of darkness and maturity, without resorting to cheap scares and over-the-top set pieces to get its points across.

Personally, there are a couple of sections in the game which stood out pretty strongly for me.

From a world-building standpoint, the levels featuring Khan as the companion lent a sense of mystique to an already fascinating world. Mixing action with thought-provoking sequences about the nature of a world that humanity has brought into ruin, I think Khan's sections were the most well-written chapters from a game in recent memory. I appreciated that they managed to pass a nod to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series (and in turn, to the classic novel Roadside Picnic) by featuring anomalies - strange natural phenomena that have been created or released into the world as a result of the war. Khan's levels gives players a sense that the Metro has a life of its own, and that life will continue in some form even if humanity has passed on due to its own hubris.

From a gameplay standpoint, the Librarian levels were nothing short of amazing. It's probably one of the most creative ways I've seen on how to effectively integrate lore into gameplay. Librarians are massive beasts, easily larger than a gorilla, and probably the most powerful in the game. Some time before the chapter, Artyom is told not to engage them directly in combat and was offered advice on what to do should he be spotted by one. That level was one of the most intense ones that I've ever played - and knowing that it could be completed without shooting a single bullet was pretty satisfying.

Campaign is very lengthy, engaging and surprisingly well varied. With the complete set of DLC included on the disc, the game offers so much more than what is advertised. The development team's efforts on focusing on a single-player game clearly shows how Metro Redux is a hidden gem in a world dominated by multiplayer-focused AAA shooters.

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