More gripping stealth shooter action from the Ukraine
Metro 2033 was something of a surprise for most gamers at the time, bucking many first-person shooter conventions to become something unique; a first-person, post-apocalypic survival game, set in Russia.
The story behind all of this "trying to stay alive, whatever the cost" activity was that nuclear war broke out at the end of 2013 (if you've not been paying attention, that's this year, folks) and, after being bombarded with megatons of nuclear material, the above-ground area in Moscow became a no-go zone for those who liked being alive.
As often happens in nuclear-themed fiction, those that did survive above the surface (and against the odds), mutated into creatures known as Dark Ones. These powerful, hideous creatures weren't the only threat, of course, as protagonist Ayrtom had to negotiate tricky political fallout, too, as the Fourth Reich (a bunch of neo nazi scumbags) and even other Russian survivors made various plays for what little resources remain the post-apocalypse Russian underground system.
The game was well received, earning an impressive 81 on metacritic, as well as scores of 8.5 (Xbox 360) and 8.6 (PC) right here on NZGamer.com. Critics liked the duality of using super ammunition as both a powerful weapon and a form of currency, and the story - along with its presentation - was a highlight for most. A common downside brought up by many reviewers was the cumbersome controls, no doubt a result of developer 4A Game's relative inexperience (this was their first title).
That there's a new game in the series, then, should come as welcome news to many. Even if you missed the first game when it released in 2010, what we've seen of the game suggests that it's worthy of your attention. In a market saturated by me-too clones, something different deserve the reward of your interest. To find out more about the game, we sat down with the title's Creative Manager, Jeremy Greiner.
"We kick off in Last Light with you as Artyom," Jeremy explained by way of introduction. "You're now a ranger and you're dealing with the repercussions of the first game. The analogy we use is that if you went into 2033 kinda like that 17 year old kid going to Vietnam, completely unaware and naive (about the world around him and about warfare in general). He's now exited that, scarred internally and externally, a kind of grizzled veteran. The story's a path of understanding, redemption, atonement - those kinds of themes."
Fans of the fiction might know that there's a sequel to the book the first game was based on, too. Called Metro 2034, its story is, however, completely unrelated to the events of Last Light. "4A and Dimitry felt that an alternate story would make for a much better sequel, in a videogame," Jeremy explained. "So that's what they went with."
The story departure isn't the only change made for Last Light, either. There were numerous little issues with the first game that THQ and 4A wanted to address this time around. That said, fans of the original needn't fear wholesale change, as Jeremy explained.
"One thing we didn't want to do was to smooth out all of the rough edges to make it an experience for everyone. Typically what we do in software design is start smoothing out that edge, then that edge, that edge, etc - to make it consumable for everyone. The appeal of this game is those sharp edges; it's the fact that you have to find out where you're going - there's no minimap. It's the fact that you have to do all those different actions - wiping masks, pumping guns - that it doesn't tell you what to do all the time, you have to figure it out for yourself."
So what did they change? "One of the changes was improving what was great in it and fixing issues that make it frustrating. One would be the control mapping in the first game; it wasn't intuitive, and it wasn't communicated well to the player from the beginning. It's now much more intuitive - you can just dive in and go at it, and there's a lot of tooltips that pop up to let you know [how they work]"
"The other would be the AI. Probably one of the biggest gripes in the first game was that one AI bug where, if one person saw you, they all knew where you were. Now there's all different kinds of states in the AI, they all behave differently, and mutant AI is completely different again."
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