METRO LAST LIGHT

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Robert Zak Pub­lisher Deep Sil­ver / De­vel­oper 4A Games / for­mat Xbox one / re­lease date May 2013/August 2014 (Re­dux)

There are few feel­ings as com­fort­ing as ar­riv­ing at a sta­tion in the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic Moscow Metro, the blast doors groan­ing shut be­hind me to block out the un­godly mu­tant shrieks re­ver­ber­at­ing through the de­crepit, vari­cose tun­nels. In­side these sta­tions, peo­ple get on with their lives in cor­ru­gated sub­ter­ranean shacks—trad­ing, work­ing, drink­ing, pro­cre­at­ing—giv­ing a pow­er­ful sense that, even when things are at their very worst, hu­man­ity grits its teeth and pow­ers on.

To an ex­tent, this could be from ei­ther Metro game, be­speak­ing the lack of sig­nif­i­cant evo­lu­tion be­tween

2033 and LastLight. The me­chan­ics are iden­ti­cal, and the plot is a direct con­tin­u­a­tion, as mute pro­tag­o­nist Ar­tyom must track down the last re­main­ing sur­vivor of The Dark Ones— the tele­pathic species he wiped out at the end of 2033. But while

LastLight may lack raw am­bi­tion, it does a great job of amp­ing up the at­mos­phere and world-build­ing.

Walk­ing through the en­claves of hu­man­ity in LastLight is es­sen­tially a mono­rail ride, a sin­gle path with a clear des­ti­na­tion, ex­cept you can jump off when you please to go into a bar, back al­ley, or brothel, where you’ll en­counter some won­der­fully scripted vi­gnette or con­ver­sa­tion, giv­ing you in­sights into the day-to-day rig­ors of life in the sub­ter­rane. The sta­tion of Venice, for ex­am­ple, is es­sen­tially a fish­ing town. Kids play with toy boats in the sickly wa­ters while men fish next to them, traders sell du­bi­ous look­ing sea-crea­tures, and I buy an awk­ward lap­dance be­fore get­ting drunk (re­turn­ing later to find a ru­ined bar, blood­ied floor, and cry­ing bar­man). Bol­stered by the nat­u­ral­is­tic di­a­logue (co-writ­ten by au­thor of the Metro nov­els, Dmitry Glukhovsky), LastLight feels in­cred­i­bly hu­man. At Bol­shoi, the cul­tural heart of the Metro, I stop to watch a man tell chil­dren about an­i­mals that used to ex­ist on the sur­face, de­pict­ing them us­ing hand shadow pup­pets. I then give a bul­let (the cur­rency of the Metro) to a beg­gar, and dis­cover that he was ac­tu­ally a re­spected critic be­fore the bombs fell—a stern re­minder that mid­dle-class soft­ies like yours truly aren’t cut out for the post-apoc­a­lypse, much though we like to fan­ta­size about ‘What We Would Do’ should it oc­cur. In­trepid Ex­o­dus There’s a good rea­son I’m talk­ing about ev­ery­thing I did out­side of com­bat in

Last-Light, be­cause there’s least to say on that front. Stealth is flimsy, and usu­ally ends in a generic fire­fight against shonky AI, while en­coun­ters are ei­ther waves of mu­tants or cov­er­filled rooms of sol­diers. It’s dated, but there are some great touches, such as the air-pres­sur­ized gun that you need to pump to de­liver max­i­mum dam­age, and the gas mask that you keeps you alive on the sur­face, which gets smeared with per­spi­ra­tion and blood that you can wipe away to cre­ate an aptly suf­fo­cat­ing sense of claus­tro­pho­bia.

With Metro-Ex­o­dus on its way, ev­ery­thing from the ti­tle to the trailer sug­gests that the un­der­ground won’t play as big a part this time round. The back­drops on the sur­face in Last

Light teased a stun­ning bro­ken world scream­ing to be ex­plored, and one mis­sion, where you ride a kart down a Metro track, and jump off at any point to ex­plore nu­mer­ous side-rooms, hints at the ex­ploratory po­ten­tial in a fully open un­der­ground net­work.

But while a free-roam­ing postapoc­a­lyp­tic Moscow is al­lur­ing, can the ur­ban cen­ters have that same rich char­ac­ter when you can freely visit them over and over? Will hu­man­ity liv­ing on the sur­face have the same air of re­silience as when it lived un­der­ground? Para­dox­i­cally, Ex­o­dus’ big­gest chal­lenge will be to pull us deeper into this fas­ci­nat­ing world so well evoked by its pre­de­ces­sors, rather than push us onto the sur­face.

“I buy an awk­ward lap­dance be­fore get­ting black­out drunk”

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