Sunday, March 20, 2011

Metro 2033 - Xbox 360

Metro 2033 is heavily based on the novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky. In 2033 a nuclear war has resulted in Moscow becoming an irradiated wasteland populated by mutated creatures, whilst the surviving people live underground in the metro systems tunnels and stations. The player controls a typically mute character Artyom, who finds that his home station is under threat from mutants called Dark Ones, more deadly than the usual tunnel dwellers that attack those who wander beyond the safety of the stations.
As Artyom you venture out looking for help from other stations, coming across outposts of communist and fascist groups who seek to control what remains of the city until ultimately finding an old nuclear weapons facility. There are hints in cut-scenes that the mutant beasts are some sort of radioactive evolution rather than mindless killers, but this idea isn’t really fleshed out at any point. There may be more made of the idea towards the end of the game depending on the moral choices you make at various points (giving money to a beggar etc.) but these decisions don’t seem significant in and of themselves.
The game is ultimately a first person shooter with a few tweaks on the standard genre tropes. Certain areas of the metro, and most of the surface of Moscow, necessitate the use of a gas mask, which needs filters to keep fresh or Artyom’s breathing becomes heavier and harsher. Additionally it can becoming damaged in combat meaning you will need to scavenge new ones from your victims. Ammo comes in two different flavours, expensive military grade pre-war ammo, which is understandably rare, or the botch job amateur produced gear knocked out in the metro system. Ammo is used in the stations for trade, though what you can buy is restricted to trading ammo types, guns and upgrades and health kits.
As well as the gas masks another consideration is light - much of the metro system is swathed in darkness so a torch is essential, and although use is limited it can be recharged using a hand pump.
Much of the combat takes place in a state of mild panic as you wheel about in the dark, mutants clambering across ceiling and walls, so it’s more relaxing when you come up against the human enemies in their dens. The action is fast and violent, the game allows a certain amount of damage which ‘regenerates’ - the screen gets increasingly red which fades when you find cover - and much like the charging of the torch and opening your log book, using health kits is done in real time, opening a box of vials and administering a quick dose of something with a syringe.

Due to its setting within the metro system, the game architecture is often limited to corridors and tunnels, and when the world opens up on the surface you still have the standard apocalyptic ruin seen in everything form WW2 shooters to Gears of War and Fallout 3. Opting for Russian dialogue with subtitles gives the game more atmosphere, but there is essentially little deviation from the survival horror style of the FPS genre as you battle monsters and bandits in the dark. As the genre inhibits much of the storytelling and characterisation that an RPG allows, the combat is pretty much all Metro 2033 has to fall back on, so happily this is as meaty and involving as you could expect.
Nothing truly exceptional but a nice change from the CODs that currently dominate the overcrowded FPS stable.

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