Literally released out of nowhere with little marketing hype, Metro 2033 is bound to become one of the best sleeper hits of the year thanks to its believable environments, sense of despair, and convincing gameplay.
Taking place within the train tunnels of the nuke-blasted Moscow, Metro 2033 is a single player FPS that mixes together features from many successful games. It takes the atmosphere and looting of Fallout 3, blends it with CoD’s single player style of gameplay and the sense of desperation found in the early Resident Evil games, and finishes it off with a touch of Silent Hill’s fear factor. This special hybrid of all these game styles merges into a symphony that hits almost all the right notes.
Instead of focusing on multiplayer, the developers at 4A Games wanted to create an engaging single player experience. The game’s linear level design allows for a tight story to be woven around this dystopia. Each section of the game takes place in dimly-lit, claustrophobic tunnels and walkways that only further the “what’s around the next corner?” mindset. Also, using Resident Evil’s “make every bullet count” approach keeps you on the edge of your seat.
The developers also took a creative approach to how the game functions as a whole. By removing any sort of HUD, the game’s spooky paranoia is always at center stage. For example, if you lose your sense of direction in a dark dilapidated tunnel, the player will literally have to pull out your compass, in real time, to find the way. When holding the compass, which also acts as your list of objectives, the player can even spark a lighter to make reading the compass and object clipboard easier. All this is performed in real time, just like how it would be done in real life. Even the long reload times make the game feel more real.
Like Fallout 3, looting is a major part of survival. For the most part, the player usually only has one way to the next objective marker. However, it often pays to explore, letting you come across fallen soldiers and hidden caches of ammo. Uniquely enough, ammo also serves as the game’s form of currency. Traders will often sell you better/different guns in exchange for bullets. Normally, a game mechanic like this could easily be seen as a tedious way to trudge through the game, but it is a system that works very well in Metro 2033 as it forces the player to experience the desperate times that the game is so strongly trying to convey.
Since the game’s environments and overall atmosphere is constantly sending the player on a quest for survival, the musical score also accompanies the game’s dark aesthetic. Metro 2033’s soundtrack was not designed to prepare you for a large and frantic firefight. Instead, each musical tracks takes a more passive approach that emphasizes the sad and depressing state that of a completely annihilated Moscow. It makes you appreciate the environments and reflects that overall gameplay quite well.
The biggest downside to Metro 2033 is, unfortunately, the game’s combat. When creatures are shot, they usually lack a “I just got shot in the leg and should stumble” animation, while the right stick just feels too loose. For example, earlier in the game the player takes a haunted mine cart ride and must fend off waves of wolf-like creatures with a shotgun. Even though these werewolves were just a couple feet away, I still had difficulty shooting them. There are also guns that require the player to pump them up to put pressure behind each shot, and the flashlight must also be recharged when it runs out of juice. The realistic sense of survival is one of the main reasons Metro 2033 stands apart from other shoots and creates a memorable experience, but the departure from some of the conventional FPS mechanics is a little off-putting.
If you enjoyed the single player experience of Modern Warfare, Metro 2033 is worth looking into. This single player experience is one that should not be missed. Unfortunately, March 2010 has been a stellar month for games, with Final Fantasy 13, God of War 3, the Pokemon and many other AAA titles that make it easy to forget that this game exists. Combat is sometimes a little too loose, but the atmosphere, sense of realism, and highly creative game design makes this FPS highly enjoyable and quite the pleasant surprise.
Better Than: Actually fighting for your life in Moscow’s train tunnels
Bound To Be: Potential Sleeper Hit of the Year
Wait For It: the next 4A game
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