The best linear shooter I've played since Half-Life 2.
Gameplay is brilliant, especially on the harder difficulties (Ranger Easy & Hardcore) where every bullet counts and every mutant is a threat. The gunplay is great: all the weapons sound and feel incredibly powerful, even the pneumatic air rifle! The actual weapon visuals are cool as well: shotguns and air guns made of scrap metal, proper AK's, badass revolvers and a lot more.
Outside the Metro, on the streets of Moscow, the gameplay is more focused on surviving a ridiculously hostile environment. Players will be looking for gas mask filters, medkits and small ammo caches, while being hunted down by a few different types of mutants. The gas mask mechanic makes the surface levels feel tense: wasting time is not an option, Moscow is an irradiated hellhole and the filters only last a few minutes each. Acting fast and decisively is key on the surface; sneaking around like in the underground levels is not really a viable tactic.
In the Metro, stealth is often the best way of making progress, though it is entirely possible to play through the game shooting every bad guy in the face. Stealth mechanics are a bit simple, but they work well enough: there's a visibility indicator on the wrist watch; when it goes yellow or red, you're going to get spotted if someone happens to look at your way. It's fun, feels fair and since the game is still a proper FPS, the punishment for failure is an awesome firefight! (ie. not really a punishment at all.)
It's not a perfect game, however. It does an especially poor job at making the player care about the NPC's. They are all, with two or three exceptions, entirely forgettable. Having read the book the game is based on, I know who most of the people are, but those who jump straight into the game may have trouble with that. The only characters the game actually tries to make the player care about are Bourbon, Khan and Colonel Miller. The various rangers that accompany
The story itself is, in my opinion, bloody amazing. Artyom, the main character, is from a remote Metro station under siege by mysterious creatures. He's been tasked with reaching the legendary station of Polis, in the center of the Metro, and ask for their help in the defense of his home station. Artyom's journey is full of obstacles: haunted Metro tunnels, mutant hordes, a war between the 'Nazis' and the 'Reds', and much more. In the end, the player's actions determine how Artyom resolves his home station's problem. The so-called "bad" ending is considered canon in the sequel, Last Light. This bad ending is also the default one, getting the other one takes quite a lot of effort throughout the entire game, and is clearly designed for repeat playthroughs.
Metro 2033 and its sequel are quite possibly the best-looking games I have ever played. It's incredible how good the game looks, considering it's already three years old and was made with an absolutely pathetic budget (Last Light, the more expensive sequel, was developed with less money than some companies spend on cut scenes only.) It's amazing how they managed to make simple metro tunnels look so cool with the ridiculously good-looking lighting and volumetric effects. The surface levels are even more impressive than the underground ones: frozen Moscow is full of detail, and the weather effects are pretty damn realistic (source: I'm a Finn, we have snow.)
Audio design is equally great. All guns sound powerful, voice acting is great (for extra immersion, play in Russian w/ subtitles). Empty Metro tunnels have eerie ambient noises: "singing" pipes, slight wind, rats (and mutants) running around, etc. The atmosphere is pretty close to what's found in the STALKER games: the frequent and relatively long quiet moments make the firefights and mutant fights feel so much more intense. There's an entire level where all you really do is follow an NPC through a cursed metro tunnel, looking at ghosts, listening to the sounds, learning about the Metro. The pacing is excellent: neither the calm parts where you explore a friendly station or the combat-heavy levels ever feel too long.
Great game, highly recommended to anyone.
Posted: December 1st, 2013