Fresh emo­tions, tac­tics in Metro

The Press - The Box - - FRONT PAGE - GER­ARD CAMP­BELL

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.

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