“Oppressive” is the first word that comes to mind when I think of my time with Metro: Last Light so far. More than “fun,” more than “gorgeous,” and certainly more than “pacing,” at least in the positive sense. Metro: Last Light is by no means a bad game, but it is flawed and depending on how invested you are willing to become in the narrative and the world, that will dictate how much you enjoy your time with it.
On a pure gameplay level, I enjoy Metro: Last Light. It controls well, the UI is easy to use and the mechanics makes sense. It doesn’t truly innovate the way we look at shooters, but it does handle menus better than most games that are as gadget heavy as this, though there are some curious omissions that seem obvious. Pressing the left bumper brings up a UI menu, which details the different items you can use. The left side of the screen shows items mapped to your d-pad. This includes your lighter, the charger for your flashlight, etc. The right side of your screen is mapped to your face buttons. Your flashlight, gas mask, filters for your gas mask and night vision goggles. It works well and while this menu is up time slows down making it manageable but doesn’t take you out of the environment like menus often do. Sure, it’s not an innovation, but it is streamlined. However, outside of the menu up on the D-pad is the lighter, down is health, but left and right are not used at all. Why couldn’t the battery and the weapon pump be mapped to those buttons thus eliminating the left side of the UI when bringing up the menu and making it that much easier?
Playing on the Xbox 360, the graphics and environments in the game look good, but like I had stated, the interiors are all dark and cavernous, don’t offer much in the way of variety, and are depressingly brown. I understand that it plays into the world 4A wishes to create, but it makes the game feel like it drags since most of the environments all look and feel the same. There is some variety, be it the underground settlements and such, but your time there in terms of the narrative are brief, unless you wish to look into every nook and cranny. For me the best and most exciting environments are seen when you strap on your gas mask and step outside of the Metro. The nuclear devastation of Moscow is at once gorgeous and frightening.
While the game does look good, there are a few nagging issues I’ve experienced. First, the game is surprisingly buggy. The game has an emphasis on stealth; The player is able to interact with lights either by shooting them out, blowing out candles or by turning off the breaker for that area. Awesome, right? Well it would be if the AI wasn’t inconsistent if not non-existent. At times I literally dropped bodies from walkways onto patrolling soldiers only to have them do nothing. They just kept walking without even acknowledging the dead comrade that just fell in front of them. Other times they would spot me from across the room, in the dark. Without good, consistent AI that reacts to you, the stealth isn’t nearly as engaging, suspenseful or satisfying as it could be.
Pacing has also been an issue. After all the big action sequences, I almost always was forced into a “walk through the environment as slowly as possible” chapter. Instead of acting as a reprieve from the action, it feels intrusive and since there is no one to interact with beyond a bullet shop or a gun shop, it’s kind of a slog.
It also doesn’t help that so far I don’t care much about what’s going in the story nor with any of the characters. Midway there is a dream/fantasy in which Artyom, the game’s protagonist, beds Anna whom has had exactly one scene with you earlier. There is no connection here so it just feels gratuitous and forced rather than earned.
So far my time with Metro: Last Light has been a mixed bag of satisfying shooting, frustrating AI and pacing, and a lack of any really deep or meaningful relationships. With any hope, this will improve in the second half of the game, though much like the oppressive world of Metro: Last Light, chances seem pretty bleak.