I think Metro: Last Light may be locked in an attempt beat Bioshock Infinite for most trailers released this year. It won't work: as many as there have been so far, to usurp Irrational's ridiculous throne 4A would still need to drop a new video every day, right up to the game's May 17th release. Not that it'll stop them from trying. This time: Will protagonist Artyom lead humanity to salvation? Will he stab hundreds of people in murky post-apocalyptic tunnels? Are the two mutually exclusive? Probably not.
More specifically, we meet Anna - crack sniper for Artyom's Spartan Order of Rangers. She's a bit of a pessimist. But then, if you're constantly defending against mutants, fascists, cultists and heavily armed militia, you'd probably struggle to see the lighter side too.
If you've had your fill of moving pictures, read our comfortingly static Last Light preview here.
4A have posted the last of their Metro: Last Light survival guides, this time focusing on the tools you'll need to thrive in the post-apocalyptic hellscape they've created. There are gas masks, letting you breathe the suffocating toxic air of the surface; weapons, with which to defend against mutants and bandits; and a lighter, used to... er, burn down cobwebs. Bothering spiders doesn't sound like the most pressing survival tactic, but I guess everyone needs a hobby.
For players of Metro 2033, much of what's seen here will be familiar. Pumping the dynamo of a flickering torch, checking your watch to ascertain your visibility, and balancing military rounds between high-damage fire and trade. It suggests the sequel will deliver a similarly claustrophobic experience - although that's hardly a problem given the quality of the first game.
Metro: Last Light is due out May 17th. Preview here.
The apocalypse was never going to be easy. It's meant to be a desperate and wretched struggle for survival against exhaustion, the decaying world, and probably mutants. But humans aren't the only ones that have to suffer. PCs do too, if these Metro: Last Light system specs are anything to go by. While there's a broad scale of requirements - the minimum being admirably inclusive of older systems - the optimal rendering of the murky, oppressive underground is going to need a seriously robust rig.
Windows: XP (32-Bit), Vista, 7 or 8 CPU: 2.2 GHz Dual Core e.g. Intel Core 2 Duo RAM: 2GB Direct X: 9.0c Graphics Card: DirectX 9, Shader Model 3 compliant e.g. NVIDIA GTS 250 (or AMD equivalent e.g. HD Radeon 4000 series) or higher
For 3D Vision Support:
NVIDIA GTX 275 or higher 120Hz Monitor NVIDIA 3D Vision kit for Windows Vista, 7 or 8
Windows: Vista, 7 or 8 CPU: 2.6 GHz Quad Core e.g. Intel Core i5 RAM: 4GB Direct X: 11 Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX 580/660 Ti (or AMD equivalent e.g. 7870) or higher
For 3D Vision Support:
NVIDIA GTX 580/660Ti or higher 120Hz Monitor NVIDIA 3D Vision kit for Windows Vista, 7 or 8
Windows: Vista, 7 or 8 CPU: 3.4 GHz Multi-Core e.g. Intel Core i7 RAM: 8GB Direct X: 11 Graphics Card: NVIDIA GTX 690 / NVIDIA Titan
For 3D Vision Support:
NVIDIA GTX 690 120Hz Monitor NVIDIA 3D Vision kit for Windows Vista, 7 or 8
4A continue to provide helpful survival tips, aimed at guiding you through the post-apocalyptic underground hell at the heart of Metro: Last Light. Today's lesson: shoot everybody. Shoot mutants and capitalists, shoot communists and fascists. Shoot them with the lights on, shoot them with the lights off. While running or crouching, while they're on fire or slouching... it doesn't matter as long as you Never. Stop. Shooting.
Reading between the lines, it's an introduction to the factions that you'll meet (and shoot) along the way, and a look at the stealth system, which seems to prioritise finding and extinguishing light sources in order to make your way more easily past enemy patrols. Who you will then shoot.
It's the second of the three-part survival series. The first, less homicidal guide is below.
The mutants in Metro 2033 were objectionable enough, but the guys that really took the biscuit were those underground Nazis, who appear to have returned in full force for Metro: Last Light. The following trailer shows a terrifyingly well-equipped subterranean army training for war - presumably a war against returning hero Artyom, and his plucky chums from the Metro 2033 station. Last Light, you'll remember, is out this May, so old Arty doesn't have much time to prepare.
Here's the trailer. After you're done, be sure to check out our recent preview.
4A's Metro: Last Light escaped being lost forever in the murky tunnels of development limbo after Dead Island publisher Deep Silver picked up the game when THQ's light sputtered out. Its original March release date took a bump into May after the sale, but in an interview with VG247, Deep Silver Global Brand Manager Huw Beynon says the delay is purely because of administrative busywork and not a snag in the game's actual formation.
"Obviously the release date has been pushed back a little bit as the studio re-engages with a new publisher and tries to figure out QA, submissions and all the stuff you have to do behind the scenes," he explains. "But we’ve not lost too much time on the development of the game, and it’s essentially going to be the same product we planned to release in March. We’re just really excited it’s not been too traumatic for the studio, and I am confident that when the game comes out it’s going to be great."
That's a relief to hear, especially when Last Light looks poised to bring more of the bleak, atmospheric scurryings and shootings of a ruined Moscow's surviving populace first seen in Metro 2033. Metro: Last Light launches May 14th in America and May 17th through Europe. We'll have more to share soon—a new demo of the game is being brought by the PC Gamer Tower tomorrow.
And sigh of relief. While the various new owners of THQ's properties were always going to forge ahead with those games already close to completion, there's something about seeing a firm, solid release plan that takes the edge off the uncertainty that's plagued the period. Today, Deep Silver announce that Metro: Last Light will launch May 14th in America and May 17th through Europe.
While any release date is great news, it's still a delay from the original planned March launch. Koch Media CEO Dr. Klemens Kundratitz explains the delay: "The new release date is the ideal way to strike the balance between bringing the best out of Metro: Last Light and not keep the fans waiting longer than necessary. We won’t leave that time unexploited and will work closely together with 4A Games to make the game even better. It will receive all the attention it deserves."
I've got big hopes for this. Despite some rough edges, it was an excellently bleak and atmospheric shooter - a sort of linear S.T.A.L.K.E.R. with some great pacing and enough variety to keep it consistently engaging. Judging from the game footage 4A dropped back in December, Last Light should be a faithful follow-up.
This preview originally appeared in issue 248 of PC Gamer UK shortly before THQ's implosion. 4A Games has since been acquired by Koch Media, and though the game's release is still anticipated, no definitive release date has been announced since.
In the tunnels beneath post-nuclear Moscow, there is a town called Theater. Like much of what passes for civilisation in Russian sci-fi author Dmitry Glukhovsky’s apocalypse, it’s built into the old subway – the metro system for which 4A Games’ shooter series is named.
Theater’s curving tilework makes it look like it might have had a bit of class, back in the day. The walls could be marble, and although they’re streaked with grime they’re dazzlingly white by the standards of this rust-and-blood dystopia.
I’m watching one of Metro: Last Light’s non-combat sections. The campaign will lead protagonist Artyom through four waystations of this kind, places where the player can trade top-grade ammo for weapons and upgrades, scout out additional plot information, and otherwise absorb 4A’s meticulous rendering of the world in the year 2034.
Artyom passes through Theater’s kitchens, where a panhandling drama critic bemoans the irrelevance of his profession. Not without reason: this is a world where life is measured in bullets and gasmask filters rather than glasses of Prosecco and those little tubs of ice cream with a wooden spoon in the lid.
High art might have been a casualty of nuclear war, but culture survives. Outside the market, there’s an area where an older man performs shadow puppets for an assembled crowd of children. He makes a bird and an elephant, and his audience interprets these as a demon and a nosalis – two of the mutated creatures that prowl Moscow’s unsettled tunnels and blasted surface. The sequence is a touching little meditation on what it’s like to be born after the end of the world. It also illustrates what 4A’s proprietary engine is capable of. Dynamic lighting, audio and physics support everything that 4A are trying to achieve, from wandering around a town packed with refugees to stalking human enemies through the shadows, or engaging in a running battle with a pack of monsters.
A short time later Artyom reaches the theatre itself, where he is joined by Pavel – a returning character from the first game. As they make their way through the crowded auditorium during a burlesque performance, Pavel turns to the player and quips: “well, Stanislavski, you can watch the show if you like.”
A 20th century Russian dramatist is an odd point of reference for a character who makes his living blasting mutated rats the size of ponies, but it’s a neat touchstone for Metro: Last Light itself. 4A Games are based in Ukraine. They’re part of the Eastern European development ecosystem, and share a measure of its enthusiasm for simulation. Metro isn’t concerned with realism in the same way as Arma – once again, rats the size of ponies – but it boasts a naturalistic attention to detail and a vigilant support for the fourth wall. If Call of Duty is a broadway musical, a wide-barrelled cannon loaded with glitter and aimed squarely at the audience’s face, then Metro: Last Light is trying to be something smarter, tougher, and more rewarding – Stanislavski’s Moscow Art Theatre, perhaps.
“It’s this obsessive attention to every minute detail, on each individual thing in the world – the culmination is something that is greater than the sum of its parts,” THQ creative strategist Huw Beynon tells me. “We really want to impress on people playing the game that this isn’t a level. It’s an environment. A place.”
It’s something most apparent when Artyom is facing human opponents. During one mission to escape from an engineering yard patrolled by Reich fascists, idle guards can be seen working out, tending fires, sleeping, singing and talking shop.
Metro: Last Light’s stealth system is deep rather than broad, and grounded in realism. Like its predecessor, the game has a very minimal UI, with no crosshair and no artificial assists such as a mini-map or sight cones for patrolling enemies. Instead, you’ll rely on the equipment in Artyom’s possession: a torch, a lighter, a photosensitive gadget on his watch that glows when he’s standing in light to let you know he’s in danger of being spotted. Noise is important, too: even the game’s hand-pumped pneumatic guns aren’t perfectly silent, and will get you detected if you use them in close proximity to an enemy. The more power you pump into them, the louder they hiss – and this isn’t just a signal to the player that they can stop cranking the handle. It’s a sound, in the world, that a curious guard may respond to.
Throwing knives offer a guaranteed silent kill, as do lethal and non-lethal melee takedowns: but all of these require that you catch your opponent off-guard, and that means traversing the level carefully. Most light sources can be shot out, and electric lamps can be brought down at junction boxes scattered throughout each stage. Doing so will raise suspicion, however. Not only that, but the kind of light matters. Shoot out a lightbulb and you’ll plunge an area into darkness with a tinkling of broken glass. Shoot out an oil lamp and you risk starting a fire that will propagate freely on wood and cardboard, not only illuminating the area more but drawing every guard in the vicinity. These, you need to blow out the old fashioned way – unless a distracting blaze is exactly what you’re looking for.
Sudden darkness will cause guards to activate headlamps and torches, and these can also be shot out by a sufficiently skilled marksman. Kill a guard wearing a miner’s helmet and his light will continue to shine until you disable it, adding an element of risk to each kill and illustrating what a dynamic lighting system can bring to stealthy play.
The AI seems improved from the days of Metro 2033 – I saw guards switch lights back on and respond believably to unusual sounds and the sudden disappearance of colleagues. In open combat, they fell back into a fairly familiar cover-and-flank routine. Without hands-on experimentation I’m unwilling to say outright that Metro 2033’s AI problems are a thing of the past, but in two hours of live demonstration I didn’t see anyone stare blankly as a colleague received a harpoon to the chest or start running laps around sandbags in the middle of a gunfight, so there’s that.
Last Light isn’t a dedicated stealth game, and therefore doesn’t feature the full mechanical complexity of Hitman or Dishonored – you won’t be hiding bodies or hacking turrets or approaching levels from a dozen possible angles. But its focus on simple details – the fact that it lacks typical stealth game accoutrements like maps and a HUD – give it a naturalism that’s appealing in its own right. Last Light is more about lots of small, interesting interactions with the world, rather than making and executing grand plans.
Those small interactions are the key to the game’s loftier ambitions. Metro 2033’s morality system will return with alterations that THQ and 4A aren’t yet willing to disclose – indeed, Beynon asks that the press give away as little as possible about the specific ways in which the game will track and respond to the choices that the player makes in the game. Metro 2033 undersold its morality system to the extent that many players had no idea it was there, but Beynon argues that ‘gamifying’ ethics with clear-cut ‘choose your alignment’ moments undermine the whole concept.
This also applies to anyone who played through the first game with a guide in order to ‘beat’ the morality system. “They’ve missed the point entirely,” Beynon says. “It’s almost a hilarious joke. It’s like following a recipe without understanding what it is that you’re making.”
“The things that take place in the environment should be consistent and believable,” Beynon continues. “As you introduce that, people will think about the way they perceive the game-world that they’ve been asked to play in. I think we do a really good job of humanising all of the people that you fight against.”
The hope is that by convincing the player of the verisimilitude of the world, the decisions they make will be more genuine – and more meaningful – than those offered by a traditional RPG.
The idea of providing room for more satisfying choices has also informed Metro’s weapon system, although in a different way. Where in Metro 2033 the player was limited to three weapons within different categories – sidearms, primary weapons, and secondary special weapons – in Last Light you will be free to mix and match any trio of guns you like. Extensive customisation also frees you to swap out scopes, extended clips, silencers and so on, at the cost of valuable pre-war ammunition that doubles as currency. If you want to tool Artyom out for sniping and stealth, that’s up to you: alternatively, you might place your hopes in automatic shotguns and assault rifles.
“You make your choice and you deal with the consequences,” Beynon says. “If you want to, you can play it very safe throughout the game – that’s fine, that might be the optimal way to play it. But you might not get to experiment with things that are really fun.”
An extraordinary amount of effort has gone into modelling the weapons themselves. Spent casings clink together dynamically as they tumble from a revolver during a reload, a detail demonstrated to me by slowing game-time down to a fraction of its regular speed. Viewing the game this way, it’s also possible to pick out the way a spring pushes each new ball-bearing into the chamber of Artyom’s pneumatic rifle between shots, and admire the lever mechanism that pulls the next shell into position on a jury-rigged automatic shotgun. Last Light’s makeshift weapons are the brainchild of 4A creative director Andrew ‘Prof’ Prokhorov, whose background in aeronautical simulation gives him the technical expertise to design new firearms that would actually work.
“There’s no gamification of the devices that you have,” Beynon says. “That’s a contributing factor – if you want to see how much battery you have in your torch, you have to bring up the charger – a physical thing that sits in your hands. The cumulative effect of that detail builds the sense of the world.”
It’s also what makes Last Light a contender as a horror game. During another sequence, Artyom drives a tram – made up like a dragster, and covered in lights – through an abandoned area of the subway. The lights keep photosensitive spider monsters at bay (sorry about those, arachnophobes), but if you choose you can stop the car at any point to get out and explore side passages for supplies and secrets. Dynamic lightning in this context means something very different.
Finding a junction box and switching on all the lights in a section is now a huge source of relief, tempered by the sound of a hive full of spider monsters screeching and thrashing in response. It feels like a totally different game to the one where a man darted between campfires, unscrewing bulbs and slitting throats – but it’s based on the same mechanics, and it’s part of a contiguous experience.
It’s easier than ever to think of ‘first-person shooter’ as an outdated term. The temptation is to break it down into parts – to map out a landscape with your deathmatch blasters over here and your thinking man’s sneak-’em-ups over there, your Portal-style spatial puzzlers nestling a healthy distance from DayZ’s wide-open survival horror. The problem with this approach is that it downplays the unifying effect that the first-person perspective has: the way that lots of divergent experiences can be made to feel like part of a continuous whole. Game mechanics don’t get much simpler or more relatable than ‘looking and doing’.
Metro: Last Light is setting out to be many things: realistic shooter, stealth sim, cinematic narrative experience, atmospheric exploration game. Having been shown an extended chunk, though, I don’t feel it’s quite right to describe it as a hybrid. Instead, the impression I get is of a first-person shooter of an older sort – a linear game with the mechanical variety to support many different approaches and experiences, and the design sense and eye for detail to sustain dramatic shifts in tone, from frantic monster horror to blistering military shooter. It’s an old model, in some ways, but a proven one – just ask Half-Life 2.
Whether or not the game can perform to those high standards remains to be seen: but it has something of that old-school sensibility. It’s a show that is very much worth stopping to watch.
THQ is no more: the bankrupt publisher and developer auctioned off its assets in U.S. Bankruptcy Court today. Though the court must still approve the sales, a letter from THQ's CEO (which was passed to Kotaku by an employee) reveals the bidders, which include Sega, Ubisoft, Deep Silver, Crytek, and Take-Two, and the THQ franchises and studios they'll acquire. Below is a breakdown of who's getting what, and what led to today's sale.
Who's getting what? Based on what we know right now...
Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40,000 developer Relic Entertainment is going to Sega.
Saints Row developer Volition, Inc. and the Metro series are going to Koch Media (Deep Silver).
The Homefront franchise is going to Crytek.
THQ Montreal and the South Park license are going to Ubisoft.
Evolve, a game in development by Turtle Rock Studios (which worked on Left 4 Dead), is going to Take-Two Interactive. THQ will "make every effort to find appropriate buyers" for its remaining assets, such as Darksiders developer Vigil Games.
On November 13, 2012, THQ announced that it had defaulted on a $50 million loan. Its subsequent Humble THQ Bundle raised about $5 million for THQ, charities, and the Humble Bundle organizers, but it wasn't enough: the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 19th.
Bankruptcy isn't necessarily the end—Chapter 11 allows the debtor to stay in control of the company under court oversight—but things didn't go as planned. THQ expected to sell itself in whole to a private equity firm called Clearlake Capital Group, but THQ's creditors and the bankruptcy court rejected that proposal earlier this month, which led to today's piece by piece auction.
We're heading towards the conclusion of THQ's ongoing bankruptcy saga. After the publisher's creditors raised objections over its hoped-for quick sale - objections which were upheld by a US judge - details are emerging about how that sale will eventually go down.
THQ had hoped to sell themselves as a whole, ensuring the company could exist as-is under a new owner. That's now not going to happen, after it was decided that a wholesale attempt would fetch less money than dividing the company up and selling each franchise separately. A tweet by the Distressed Debt Investing blog confirms this move, saying "The auction will allow for piecemeal ("title by title") sales of THQ assets"
DDI's latest blog update on the THQ case explains how the sale will work. THQ's properties will be auctioned off on January 22nd, with both titles and studios up for grabs. So far EA and Warner Brothers have been revealed as interested parties, although it's not known which titles they're eyeing up.
Also unclear is how this arrangement will affect THQ's upcoming games. Company of Heroes 2, Metro: Last Light and South Park: The Stick of Truth all seem close enough to completion that a prospective buyer would almost certainly want them released and making money. The status of their other projects - like Volition's Saints Row 4 - may be less secure. This is assuming the auction will keep each developer with their respective games, which itself is far from certain.
We should start to finally get some solid details come the sale hearing on January 23rd. In the meantime, wild speculation! Where would you like to see THQ's many great franchises end up?