Fresh emotions, tactics in Metro
Metro 2033 was something of an unknown thing for publisher THQ. A survival-horror game based on the novel of the same name by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, it was set in a postholocaust Moscow.
The hero was a young man called Artyom, born in the city’s underground Metro system, where survivors of a nuclear attack now live. On the surface roam unspeakable horrors called the Dark Ones. The action took place mostly in dark tunnels of the Metro and in the radiationlaced streets of Moscow.
The game’s global communications manager, Jeremy Greiner, told me ‘‘ Metro 2033 turned out to be a cult hit. It flew under the radar. It wasn’t understood by THQ at the time and it didn’t get the marketing push that it should have. It was the gem that not everyone knew about.’’
Not surprisingly, the sequel, Metro Last Light, has THQ’s solid backing, complete with a big marketing drive that includes a live-action sequence that sets the story.
Metro 2033 had two possible endings: a ‘‘good’’ one and a ‘‘bad’’ one, depending on the player’s actions, and Greiner says Last Light carries the narrative on after the bad ending.
Like the first game, Metro Last Light, is different from most shooters. It strips away some of the most common on-screen elements, most noticeably the mini-map and the health meter.
In Metro 2033, players had to monitor the effectiveness of a breathing masks filter by keeping an eye on Artyom’s wristwatch. Ammunition was scarce forcing players to scavenge bodies and lockers.
‘‘By not having an on-screen mini map telling you where you must go next and by stripping away the HUD [heads-up display] and user interface, it makes things more challenging for the player,’’ says Greiner. ‘‘ Metro 2033 and Last Light are all about immersion in the game world and when there is a pop-up on screen it makes you realise you’re in a video game. It pulls away from the experience.’’
Greiner says the game makers aren’t concerned about other shooter games on the market but just making the game that they wanted to create with a strong narrative.
‘‘ Metro Last Light has lots of emotion and geopolitical themes. It’s a highly detailed world and the conversations, too, deliver a strong narrative experience.’’
I asked him how much of the developers’ political leanings are in Last Light?
‘‘A lot of the guys [on the development team] lived under the communist regime so I’m sure that will shape their political and cultural beliefs.’’
He believed gamers will be surprised with Metro Last Light and how it handles first-person conventions.
‘‘Gamers are going to have an ‘Aha’ moment, a revelation, and will question how they used to play shooters. You’ll ask why do you feel a certain emotion and it breaks out of the regular shooter mode.
‘‘With the breathing masks, for example, you have to change air filters yourself – the game won’t do it for you. I feel that in other games you’re conditioned to do things in a certain way but in a game like Last Light, where you challenge yourself, it’s rewarding.’’
Metro Last Light is out on Windows PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 later this year.
Highly detailed world: Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light are first-person shooters set in post-holocaust Moscow.