Metro: Last Light Review

Developer: 4A Games / Publisher: Deep Silver / Played on: PC / Price: $49.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol]

In the high school drama of videogames, Metro: Last Light is that kid that comes back after the summer break wearing trendy new clothes and an overwrought desire to be loved by everyone. While weird kids like Dark Souls find a group of friends by embracing their quirks, Metro: Last Light wants to be one of the AAA cool kids by scrubbing its personality clean. The result is a game packed with impressive-looking scripted scenes and a disappointing lack of gameplay depth and difficulty.

As much as I want to be upset that Metro: Last Light is just following the AAA playbook, I have to admit there are some cool and unique moments in this game. But by the time it’s over, that’s all you have–a handful of memorable moments diluted by competent but unexceptional hours of forgettable gameplay.

The story, at least, is a faithful extension of Metro 2033. You again play as the mute Artyom, a ranger in the strange subterranean world of the Metro. In case you aren’t familiar with the game’s setting, here’s a crash course: World War III led to a nuclear apocalypse forcing the residents of Moscow to survive in the city’s Metro tunnels. Now the surface is irradiated and filled with mutants while savage living conditions have turned the Metro into a warlike no-man’s land of tribalism.

7234METRO-LL-E3-2012-ONLINE-4

Last Light’s story follows the events of 2033, assuming the ending in which Artyom fires a salvo of missiles at the Dark Ones (a newly-discovered race of mutant surface dwellers). As the game opens, the rangers have discovered a surviving Dark One and task Artyom with finishing it off. As in 2033 a simple task soon derails, sending you through mysterious and abandoned sections of the Metro and uncovering a vast conspiracy between the Metro’s major factions along the way.

The story and characters are decent but don’t live up to the AAA ambitions evident in the game’s presentation. For instance, one character constantly drops jovial banter designed to endear the player to him. Instead, he just comes off as annoying… which neuters the emotional weight of his eventual betrayal. Though just as thick with characters, betrayal, and double-crosses, Last Light is less organized and impactful than, say, Black Ops II. Similarly, the voice acting isn’t the best.

The way the story is delivered is a bigger problem. Last Light finds ways to immobilize you for long stretches at a time, whether you’re physically restrained or just waiting for an NPC to walk to a door. You spend a lot of time in following NPCs, either waiting for them to clear the way for you or praising you for the simplest accomplishments.

Once the game is done directing you about, you can explore or fight by yourself and the experience is much more enjoyable (not to mention more similar to 2033). Combat comes in two flavors–versus humans or the mutated monsters of the Metro. Moving through areas teeming with hostile humans is the more interesting of the two, giving you the option of stealth or a direct combat approach. While the ability to choose your strategy is appreciated, the stealth system is extremely basic. You’re either visible or you’re not, and if you’re supposedly shrouded in darkness you can all but walk right up to an enemy and knock him out.

The simplified level design doesn’t enhance this gameplay either. In every stealth / combat stretch, there’s always a directed stealth path to follow that’s obvious if you find it. Shadows, light switches, and optional tunnels string together to create a direct route, leaving very little to your imagination when it comes to playing stealthily. It’s still fun to do, but the enjoyment wears off when you realize you’re just following a set path plotted out by the developers.

7235METRO-LL-E3-2012-ONLINE-5

You don’t always have to sneak, and engaging in direct firefights is intense because of the lights and sounds of combat. However, Last Light’s combat is much different than 2033’s. Artyom is much beefier this time around. You can take a lot of damage before going down, meaning there’s no mechanical threat to engaging enemies head-on. Just find a box to hide behind and you can kill everything with the basic revolver without breaking a sweat.

Fighting Metro’s mutants is fun in a Doom sort of way, but a lack of enemy variety makes these encounters wear thin within minutes. You spend most of your time shooting dog-like enemies that blindly run and swipe at you, leaving little in the way of intellect or strategy in each combat encounter. If you shoot them before they hit you and run in circles while reloading you can handle anything the Metro can throw at you.

Playing on a harder difficulty could add more depth to the combat, but 2033’s infamous Ranger Mode wasn’t available while I played the game. The situation there is a little sticky as well. It’s DLC, and while the first run of Last Light will come with a download code for the mode, that doesn’t ensure everyone will have access to it. If you’ve already played 2033, I recommend playing with that mode first. Otherwise, you have to sit through all the cutscenes and scripted conversations again when you start a second playthrough.

Instead of its story or gameplay, Last Light succeeds most as a sort of digital tourism. Occasionally you can explore the world at your own pace, overhearing conversations and absorbing the detail of the game world. There are some great scenes here, like participating in a shooting gallery of live mice and then walking around the stage to see the poor schmo that has to mop the resulting rat chunks. These occasional moments of sincerity and charm show glimmers of a more profound experience, but the game soon reverts back to script-heavy action sequences and self-serious dialogue.

7233METRO-LL-E3-2012-ONLINE-3

Even treated as a vector for digital exploration, Last Light still doesn’t match the immersive quality of its predecessor. The problem is visual–2033, despite coming out three years ago, still looks better than Last Light. 2033’s lighting conveyed the oppressive, unknown dangers of the Metro extremely well. Every hallway cut off into complete darkness. Light was a precious commodity because you couldn’t see a damn thing without it, which made the use of your flashlight a danger when around enemies. By comparison, Last Light is brighter, cleaner, and more sterile. You can see just fine with no lights at all. 2033’s fantastic lighting and texture work conveyed the closed and dark environments of the Metro much more believably than Last Light does. That’s not to say there aren’t some gorgeous environments in Last Light, but on the whole its lighting is more boring and flat.

By cycling through scripted AI encounters, combat sections, and low-key free-roam areas, Metro: Last Light is a dour, Russian themed take on Half-Life 2. Only problem is that none of those aspects work together in a mutually beneficial way. Last Light isn’t as gameplay-dense an action / stealth experience as Dishonored and it’s not as impossibly polished as Call of Duty. If you enjoy directed single-player experiences, you can’t go wrong with Last Light… just don’t expect the most focused or deep experience.

+ Good mix of gameplay
- Experience doesn’t combine effectively
+ Solid single player game

7.5 / 10

  1. Lol call of duty impossibly polished what are you smoking.

  2. I’m not sure if you played Last Light on a TI-84 (or something other than a PC capable of running it at proper settings – in reality it is THE most highly graphically detailed game of 2013 thus far if your rig can handle it). I truly cannot wrap my mind around the fact that you allowed yourself to make the claim that Metro 2033 is graphically superior to Last Light.

    • Are you forgetting Crysis 3 already?

      • Good point, Lawrence, but there is one thing: While mentioning that Crysis 3 is better looking than Metro: Last Light, what about Last Light v. 2033? Looking at PC Max Settings gameplay videos of them side by side, I didn’t notice any difference.

      • In the end, though, you guys shouldn’t be arguing about the graphics, because graphics are pointless.

      • Claiming that graphics are pointless is ridiculous. I’d be lying if I said they were the most important factor in a good game, but they are a huge part of immersion and getting me involved in the game world. I don’t know about you, but if this game had 8-bit graphics (or no graphics at all?), it would have a completely different atmosphere, and not a good one.

      • Lawrence Sonntag

        Graphics were one of the more important draws of 2033. If it didn’t look as good as it did I guarantee you it wouldn’t be nearly the cult hit it is.

      • Yeah, you’re right about that. It just isn’t the draw for me.

  3. Erm, what? “it’s not as impossibly polished as Call of Duty”; “The problem is visual–2033, despite coming out three years ago, still looks better than Last Light.”; “Russian themed take on Half-Life 2″; With this type of bs, you’d be better suited to do reviews for kids toys.

    • Do you have anything substantive to say or are you just going to quote then insult me?

      • I think some people just don’t like it when reviewers insist on comparing a game to another game in a review. Sounds more like a personal problem.

        Though, I wouldn’t describe Call of Duty as “impossibly polished”. “Unescessarily smooth”, maybe, but not “impossibly polished”. Firstly, if it was impossibly polished it wouldn’t still have the exact same level of polish after 4 years, and, secondly, there is such a thing as too smooth, and Call of Duty probably qualifies.

        Of course, that’s just my personal word choice on this matter.

      • Lawrence Sonntag

        Yeah people sure do hate comparisons. Near as I can tell they hate that I’m comparing an underdog to the industry’s largest juggernaut, but they invite that comparison by making a very similar game to CoD (in gameplay terms).

        Like it or not, CoD campaigns are polished. Animations, voice acting, and scripting are all extremely tight in terms of production.

        Meanwhile in Last Light, I saw some choppy animation and weird scripting.

        It’s objectively not as polished, that’s my only point.

  4. 1. Larry you have to be a freakishly noobish moron. You couldn’t get the ranger mode for your first play through? Really? I am just an average Joe Steam customer and I got the Ranger Mode with my game after having pre-ordered. You are a fancy pants Machinma God and you couldn’t figure out how to get so that you didn’t end up reviewing the game without it?

    2. After giving the game a measly 7.5 you say play it on Ranger mode it’s better especially the first time. This means that your review is totally inaccurate and irrelevant. Because tons of people got the Ranger Mode and played it that way. Sure there were some glitches for some people, but I am not buying what you are selling here. You aren’t some regular dude in some small town in Iowa. Nope you are a spoiled swag monster with nearly unlimited access to all the cool toys.

    Your review is asinine.

    • Please don’t insult me because of your flawed assumptions.

      I played the game before release and Ranger Mode wasn’t available. As in, it wasn’t there. As in, I couldn’t have downloaded it if I wanted to (and I wanted to).

      Your comment is asinine.

      • Sorry Larry, but my opinion remains intact. You reviewed the game absent the Ranger Mode. Perhaps it was because of the deadline for publication that you agreed to or set by the powers that be at Machinima.

        However, in your video review you stated very clearly that you were of the opinion that this game was best played with the Ranger Mode in the first go round. Logic tells me that if you had the Ranger Mode you would have scored the game higher. This undermined your review and final score. Hence, this is why I called your review asinine.

        We all know that as a reviewer you often get access to games early and for free. This is an ugly truth about game journalism. But sites like Machinima and reviewers like you don’t have to limit yourselves to these gifts. As I so aptly pointed out earlier I simply isn’t true that you and Machinima were unable to get access to the Ranger Mode.

        I know you don’t like to hear this, but you and Machinima could have gone outside of your self imposed game gulag that subsisted of only a vanilla edition of the game and do the same thing I did in order to obtain the Ranger Mode–which means you could have paid for it (GASP!).

        There is no law that says you have to limit yourselves to the free crap you get as a perk for being a reviewer. I think that sites like Machinima produce reviews in order to draw reader and viewers. The reviews are supposed to be providing the best information and opinion about games so that we are properly informed.

        In this case, the Ranger Mode is of paramount importance. You obviously recognized this fact. Yes, it wasn’t in your build. But huge number of us got it at launch. Machinima decided not to wait for it’s inclusion in the review. That is a disservice to us, your patrons.

        I would rather have a complete and accurate review rather than be provided an incomplete review that comes out on or before launch date of the game.

        I know you guys want to blame Deep Silver and 4A Games because the free copy you got didn’t have Ranger Mode. I hear that. But you guys and everyone else already reported about the Ranger Mode fiasco. It doesn’t take a genius to know that Ranger Mode has got to be in there. Next this kind of thing happens stop whining about what was missing from the free shit you got and review the entire game for the benefit of your audience.

      • Technically, the Ranger Mode is DLC that has been barred off. Jim Sterling in his review on Destructoid (http://www.destructoid.com/review-metro-last-light-253546.phtml) decided:
        “Unfortunately, despite being labeled by 4A as “the way Metro was meant to be played,” Ranger Mode is only available as a pre-order bonus or a piece of extra paid-for content. As such, it has not been reviewed here, as it is not part of the default experience”

        In that regard, I think Lawrence is justified in not reviewing the Ranger Mode itself.

      • Lawrence Sonntag

        Dude you have a gigantic chip on your shoulder.

        I don’t do this for free games. In fact, I end up buying most of the games I review, so you can drop the pretense that I’m some entitled aristocrat right now.

        At no point did I whine, but as a writer I was obligated to produce content to go up at embargo. Why? Because the audience won’t read a review or watch any content that’s a week old. I’m not just rolling in cash here. I don’t have the freedom to produce content that will get zero views because I need to cover every base that may be nitpicked by angry fans on the Internet. That list is endless and I can’t please everyone.

        I suspect that, because of your writing and the resentment you clearly harbor towards me and games media in general, you probably don’t financially support yourself. If that’s the case, I encourage you to revise your world view after you’ve done so for a year or two.

  5. I’m not entirely sure what or why, but something about your review bugs me, Lawrence.

    Everything is a perfectly rational opinion that I respect and a rather good score of 7.5. It…just isn’t something I’m getting behind.

    Maybe it’s the comparisons you keep making or your lack of attention to the story as opposed to gameplay/graphics, or maybe it’s me being already set on buying this game such that I don’t give a damn what your review says.

    I think Jim Sterling’s review on Destructoid gave a better impression of what the game’s problems are. So…yeah, I guess it is a personal problem for me.

    http://www.destructoid.com/review-metro-last-light-253546.phtml

    I guess it bugs me because your opinion has often proven reflective of my own in the past, but this time it isn’t. Maybe college has changed me and I’m a different person or you’ve changed or…ok, I’m fucking spitballing at this point.

    I respect your review as always, Lawrence. I’m just not going by it this time. Nothing personal.

    • It’s OK to like a 7.5 game. I enjoyed Last Light. The game is fun and at no point do I say it’s bad.

      • I know. That’s the issue I had. The review, when reading it, just feels wrong, despite the good score and the fact that you don’t say its bad anywhere, and I can’t figure out why that is. It’s as though it sounds more negative than it actually is or something.

        It’s just wierd, is all.

      • Lawrence Sonntag

        That’s a fair statement, and tone is a very hard thing to nail down.

        What I’ve noticed is that readers tend to file away positive and negative statements in extremes. It’s very, very hard to impose shades of gray verbally without repeating yourself. Also, more direct statements leave a stronger impression.

        There’s a thread of negativity running through the review. Nearly every point is “This is good but has this problem…” While that’s my honest interpretation of the game, the recurring descriptions of what goes wrong is easier to focus on what is right.

        TL;DR it’s very hard to say “It’s good but not THAT good.” So much so that I’m not convinced it can be done especially considering an audience that is conditioned to glom onto extreme thinking.

      • Yeah, I do think the negative sides of the various “it’s good but not that good” statements do tend to draw attention to themselves. That was definitely what was bothering me, although I think I was anticipating Last Light more so than other games that also got reviews filled with statements of “good but not that good” (like Tomb Raider and Dead Space 3), so I reacted a bit more than usual.

  6. What people fail to realize with the scoring is that this is not IGN nor is it grade school where a 7.5 equates a “C.” 7.5 is good. Besides, there’s hardly ever perfect or near perfect games – at least in my book. There’s always gonna be some flaws with them and that’s okay. And if you really need some random person on the internet who you don’t know (no offense, Lawrence) to validate why you like/play a game with some trite score, get over yourself. While I do feel like this game was awesome, I could see why it gets a 7.5, especially with Ranger Mode being excluded by the devs/publisher since that mode is so fun and it’s a shame that one has to pay extra for it. Furthermore, on the subject of the Call of Duty comparison, I could see where he’s coming from in some regards. Although not entirely, the game has become more action-oriented and that’s fine. Don’t know if I would say it’s altogether that similar, but eh, opinions are opinions.

  7. Thank god not everyone on the internet thinks this game to be a masterpiece. Yes, it is a good game I enjoyed it, but, seriously another shooter with scripted events and corridor shooter mechanics with an immersive world is old now, just look at half-life 2, they used the exact same formula here. It’s time for better game design already.

  8. Whilst I disagree that CoD storyltelling (storyline is nearly drunkly insane, I am NOT counting it) is in any way polished, I must flat out completely and utterly disagree that Last Light is not as good looking Metro 2033.
    Rest is somewhat of a personal opinion, but that is just NOT correct.

  9. yaaa…. sorry last light in the graphics department was vastly superior to 2033 which was already amazing visually. the jaggies were MUCH less noticeable in last light, and last light has probably the best lighting and shadow engine of any game i have ever seen. and the art design of the environments in last light and the atmosphere is just awesome. yes there were a lot of elements of last light that 2033 was better with, but 2033 was an epic game i would say worthy of a 9 based on the atmosphere alone. last light was easily an 8.5 for the same reason. seriously the game is what is its, and what it goes it does amazingly. it is a simple story based linear FPS that relies on amazing detailed and compelling environments and lighting to bring elements of immersion. Its not TRYING to be anything else, and if you like that kind of game LL is probably visually on a tie with the other best looking game that people bitched about being to linear (crysis 3). You want a sandbox go play Farcry 3 you want awesome graphics play Metro or Crysis. People forgive a lot about graphics when it somes to sandboxs, Farcry 3 visually was kinda ass when compared to Metro or Crysis, but omg the game was so great that no one bitched about it (i personally found the game tedious using a bunch of copy and paste mechanics to artificially lengthen the game). But when Metro or Crysis gives you jaw dropping visuals, but keep you in a straight line because A that much detail takes a lot of space and B most of those environments were painstakingly crafted where sandboxes are a lot of procedural generation, people say waaaahh waaaahhhh!!!! Farcry is better waaaahhhhh!!! im sorry piss off. Farcry visually was mediocre at best and was only as good as it was because of cryengine running it. For the fact that Last Light does what it SET OUT TO DO amazingly well, and the fact that it is pretty much tied with crysis as having the best looking environments of any game ever, I am overturning your stupid ass review and re rating it an 8.5. oh look at the comments section of your youtube video… looking the the rest of the universe agrees. I seriously hope michinima reconsidered your employment in light of this review. That is all…

Tell Us How Wrong We Are

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *