Metro 2033 is an odd title. Itâs both a novel and a shooter; a game, and a narrative. As a title it has more twists, turns and depth than a subway system. But to say itâs a rollicking romp of a first person shooter wouldnât be right. Itâs not that Metro 2033 isnât enjoyable; it is. Metro 2033 is well put together and a welcome addition to the roster of next-generation first person shooters. There's just something disturbingly different about Metro 2033. This is a game that refuses to be pigeonholed.
Lots of titles do the shooter-shtick well, and all are great, fun games. But âfunâ isnât a word Iâd used to describe Metro 2033. There is definitely a worthwhile experience to be had here. But itâs not âfunâ. Not âfunâ at all.
And thankfully, for Metro 2033, thatâs not a problem.
4A Games didnât design this title to be a fairytale frolic through Moscow. They designed it to be a nightmare, a horrible dream that would scare the pants off you while simultaneously screwing with your head.
Stealth shooters like Metro 2033 are well at home on the PC and 4A Games is no stranger to the platform. In its previous incarnation as one limb of the Ukrainian developers GSC Game World, 4A Games has been involved with the development of psychologically gripping, Eastern European, shooters before. As we pointed out in our preview and review, there are shades of 2007âs ambitious title S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl, all through Metro 2033.
So, we were interested to see how the title would fare when it was played on the PC â the undisputed Mount Olympus of the first person shooter. Would this fatalistic title give up its secrets, when teased by the benefit of a mouse and a keyboard and some seriously grunty graphics technology?
One thing that hasnât changed is the story. Itâs still bleak, and itâs still gripping. You play as Artyom, a native Moskovich who was raised from an early age in the Metro Tunnels of Russiaâs capital city. The outside world has been razed by nuclear war, and a perpetual winter has set in, making the surface uninhabitable.
That alone, is a bit of a bummer. But 4A Games didnât stop there. In an obvious attempt to ramp up the angst and fatalistic drama, they introduced mutant creatures and mysterious beings with psychological powers. Getting attacked by mutant creatures is scary enough, but things get bed wettingly angsty when the horror is both in front of your face, and inside your head.
And what better place to situate a game that banks on its claustrophobic psychological feel than in a dilapidated subway system. The Moscow Metro is a bit of a national treasure for Russians. Famed for both its architecture and its design, the Metro is one of the worldâs busiest and most complex underground rail systems. So for the gameâs home crowd, the familiarity of the setting immediately ranks the tension up a notch. Imagine if a first person shooter was set in a bombed out Beehive, or a scorched Sky Tower. Kiwi gamers would sit up and take notice.
And it's on the PC that the shadowy tunnels of the Metro really take on a new persona. There is no competition here between the console version and what a decent computer can pump out. The environments look amazing â the lighting is fantastic, but not over the top, and the art direction â which borrows heavily from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series â is fastidious. Life in the subways is supposed to nasty, brutish and short. And 4A Games has made sure that this is reflected in everyoneâs faces.
For a stealth shooter like Metro 2033, it was crucial that 4A Games came through on the graphics. In a game that relies on you not knowing whatâs around the next bend, or even in the corner of a room, great graphical immersion is a definite requirement. Making the dead of the gloom seem threateningly alive is no small feat. Itâs obvious that when viewed on the PC, 4A Games has earned their chops.
But all of this comes at a price. This game has recommended system requirements for a reason. With its settings maxed out, only the best of the best rigs can achieve playable frame rates. Some of this gameâs misanthropic beauty is going to need to be reduced by the majority of PC gamers if they ever want this title to run smoothly.
The second important difference between the console and PC versions is the different approach to combat. The mechanic is still the same between the two, but on the PC, the first person shooter style is easier to manage. This is especially useful when youâre up against hordes of mutants you ganked by walking into a curtain of tin cans on strings. This makes the game substantially easier than its console equivalent. But itâs not that much easier; even on Normal, Metro 2033 on the PC provides a decent challenge.
Fortunately, my major objections to the gameâs combat are not unique to the world of keyboards and mice. The shooting mechanic is a bit clumsy, and while this isnât too much of a problem if you try your damndest to keep things stealthy, when fire fights do erupt, it does get a bit hairy. This is mitigated in part by having left and right mouse buttons â but being continually over-run by hordes of half-dead dogs with human faces does become a little frustrating.
But I can forgive 4A Games for the sluggish combat. At the end of the day, Metro 2033 isnât really a first person shooter at all. Itâs thankfully much more than that. For Metro 2033, combat is the relief you get in between the real action. By making the decision to do away with sandbox style gaming that theyâve tried before, 4A Games has enabled the linear story of Metroâs source material to shine through. This is not a shooter interspersed with story. Itâs a story interspersed with shooting.
If youâre a gamer who is looking for the ultimate first person experience â a world that gives you the opportunity to pull of the sickest flick shots or a perfectly timed headshot â then Metro 2033 probably isnât going to give it to you. But if youâre looking for a narrative driven experience that is going to shock, scare, perplex and amaze you, then Metro 2033 might just be your next stop on the line.