Wot I Think: Metro 2033

By Alec Meer on March 26th, 2010 at 12:05 am.

This Stalker-meets-Doom shooter arrived late last week, and made quite the change from shepherding around tiny armies in that bizarre glut of real-time-strategy games which have marched onto our hard drives this month. 4A’s sci-fi/horror FPS is arguably the biggest-budget, highest profile Russian/Ukranian game to date, a real break from the eyes-bigger-than-their-stomach fare we’re used to from that neck of the woods – which makes it a fascinating moment in time. Is it worth the ride down its menacing, ultra-graphicked train tracks? Join me do.

I’m struggling for an introduction for this one. That’s because I can be a bit of a boring bastard at times (just be grateful I didn’t kick off with another cat anecdote), but I think my brain-failure in this instance is pretty telling about the game too. It’s a well-put together ghost train ride, a technical tour de force, a triumph of game-world atmospherics and most probably the best work out your graphics card will get this year, but at the same time it’s about as inspiring as a tour of a paperweight factory. Paperweights are pretty, but they don’t make me want to tell stories.

And there we go, an introduction. I am the best. Here’s another one: this is a first-person shooter, set in Moscow’s bleak’n’brutal, monster-infested underground system a couple of decades after the bombs dropped. Yeah, those bombs. The ones that killed the world, and turned rats into eight-foot bipedal horrors. As with Stalker, Russia’s approach to the post-apocalypse is not the nearly-cheery wild west gadgetry of Fallout, but grim, bleak, paranoid, defeated, and tinged with supernatural threats that are accepted but never explained. You play as Artyom, an orphaned young lad who has to travel through this claustrophobic place and death and mistrust in search of answers. And checkpoints. Bloody checkpoints.

Metro’s made by some of the guys behind the original Stalker (and there’s even been an online scandal of sorts, wherein the devs were accused nicking bits of Stalker’s engine), but it’s about as open world as a battery farm. It’s a tunnel shooter, set mostly in tunnels, and concerning people and creatures who live in tunnels. This isn’t a problem, so long as you going in expecting it – it means the action and the environments can be that much more directed, and it paces itself with fine sights and intense fights.

This is a game of survival rather than mindless brawn, with odds always against you, resources scarce and the environment itself as murderous as your enemies. It’s perhaps not great at dropping you into especially memorable setpieces, but the lavish look and the punishing combat means you’re not ever going to be bored.

But you might be annoyed. Instant death traps, widely-spaced checkpoints and scarce ammo and gas masks guarantee frustrating repetition. Metro’s a game that’s simultaneously incredibly slick and bewildering backwards. I get the sense it’s poured all its energy into its impressive look, and being so knackered after all that technical tinkering and environmental elbow grease that it didn’t have a whole left to spend on making the action grade-A. The guns feel puny, many of the enemies barely react to being shot, and some of them take longer to die than Sean Connery in the Untouchables. It’s a little like Far Cry, in fact, but with the crucial difference that the mutanty things are a much more convincing and welcome part of the world.

That said, there are several really smart ways in which the look and the feel genuinely blend, and for the better. The map and objective list is a leather-bound notepad with a built-in compass which you pull from a pocket, and illuminate with a lighter. Guns are designed in such a way that their ammo is always visible, so you can judge how soon reload o’clock is due. Your oh-so-precious gas mask visibly cracks as it degrades. Your watch displays how much air you have left, and how clad in darkness you currently are.

Metro goes to incredible lengths to ensure its interface largely exists inside the game, rather than as a bunch of numbers floating magically on top of it. There’s a palpable sense of there to Metro 2033, backing up all the incredible amount of incidental detail drizzled over the world with stuff that’s genuinely important to surviving your grim journey.

‘Journey’ is an appropriate word here, even if it does make me immediately start humming that song from Glee yet again – while it’s doing something a little different to the standard get to the end and shoot the bad guy structure. It’s based upon a big-in-Russia novel, which means it gets to pull concepts and backdrops from an existing fiction. So we get to visit places – the peaceful survivor enclave packed with makeshift pig pens and beaten-down families, the paranoid Communist-governed station, the murderous Nazi enclave (as opposed to the lovely, friendly Nazi enclave, obv) the ghost-haunted tunnels, and the bleak beauty of the icy, dead surface. Kieron’s prone to mocking me about my regular whining about other games’ failure to create believable places in favour of attractive killing arenas, but this is a game that does it. It’s dripping with obvious love for the world it’s built.

If it weren’t for that, Metro would be, I fear, entirely forgettable. Though it tries to make its face-shooting interesting with upgradeable weapons, precious ammo and oddball mechanics such as pumping-up pneumatic guns, structurally it’s just too much of an A-B slog of killing everything that moves until you reach the next door. I’m starting to worry that I might just be bored of shooters’ straightforwardness now I’m in my 30s and have played so very many of them, but I don’t /think/ it’s as simple as that in Metro’s case.

What should be pounding tension when a horde of hideous giant rat-like things are lobbed at you is instead just a bit of a grind of slow weapon reloads, infuriatingly limited ammo and hard-to-hit enemies that rush at your ankles. Work, not play. But it does support the survivalist fantasy concept: after all, being Serious Sam wouldn’t exactly suit ‘miserable struggle for existence in a hole under the ground’.

Where Metro really threatens to sing on occasion is the option for stealth. The systems to support this don’t entirely seem there, but buy the right armour ugrade, fit silencers to your weapons and avoid dangly cans and crunchy glass, and it’s entirely possible to avoid some of the scraps with humans. Stalking around in the dark, flashlight off, jumping at every sound – these things feel right. It’s much more interesting in these moments, a hint of a subterranean, alien Thief. There are even non-combative stretches which are purely about putting the willies up with with immaterial, indestructible threats, heavy with menace and sadness alike. Inevitably, it can’t ultimately keep away from being about shooting monsters in tunnels – its bread and butter, but also the aspect it’s least accomplished at. It’s a much better game than Doom 3, but it it’s definitely hanging around on the same street corner.

I like Metro 2033, but I wish I loved it. I can’t help but want it to be a curious cause to get behind, as with Stalker. It’s one of very few post-Half-Life 2 games that really understands and acts on why people dug that so much, and despite the infuriating checkpoint thing, it’s just obtuse and pleasingly fiddly enough that it feels like a PC game first and foremost. (It is on console too, and Jim tells me the need for precision in the shooting makes it a much more arduous experience there). It looks incredible, bar a couple of toy-faced NPCs here and there, and I find myself poking around in it for the sake of poking around – but then getting mildly annoyed when I have to fight something. I suspect I’d enjoy the game more if I could just wander through it unmolested.

I realise, uncomfortably, this has sounded pretty negative, but let me stress that it’s a different type of negative, not a sneery-lipped dismissal. I like Metro 2033, and I criticise it not because the game is bad, but because there’s a jarring disconnect between the excellence of its appearance and the adequacy of its action. It’s a good enough shooter, but it /looks/ like it should be a phenomenal one. In a perfect world, there’ll be a mod that fiddles with the balance, maybe ups the human count and lowers the mutant count, and definitely leaves a few more gas masks lying around.

Metro’s a competent shooter in what have been, surprisingly, rather dry times for them of late, so you’ll probably want to take a look, and you should. It’s beautiful, it’s tangible, it’s left the bugginess and brokenness of Stalker far behind, and it’s a bright promise of just how slick this next generation of Russian and Ukranian games are going to be. What worries me is that it’s also a dark promise that we might lose the glorious wildness of their last generation as a result.

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116 Comments »

  1. Coal says:

    “left the bugginess and brokenness of Stalker far behind”? Really?
    I haven’t had any troubles with the latest Stalker-COP game, something I don’t know about here?

    Not to say Clear sky was playable on release…

    • Stromko says:

      I still can’t play Clear Sky without it crashing hard every 15 minutes.

    • Doctor Doc says:

      Your save is probably screwed up from a post patch version.

    • frymaster says:

      i’ve never had any _crash_ issues with any stalker game, then again I never played SoC or CS until a patch or so down the road…
      …and I’ve only really had mission bugginess in SoC. The latest one, in particular, is rock solid… it feels a lot smaller than previous games, but it’s probably a better _GAME_ for it.

    • dhex says:

      starting over a few weeks back, clear sky has been bug free and only crashed once on me (after about four hours of being on)

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Same as frymaster here. I’ve only played Shadow of Chernobyl of the 3 S.T.A.L.K.E.R games so far but the only time it has crashed has been when I’ve been faffing around with the Stalker Complete 2009 mod & the crash was my fault for switching things on which are very likely to cause said crashes. Then again I’ve never played it without it being at least version 1.0.0.5 (have retail & Steam versions as of the Chrimbo sale madness on Steam).

    • Frools says:

      Having played all 3 stalker games right on release, they had some pretty spectacular issues before patches :P

  2. BobbleHat says:

    Good to read it from the perspective of someone playing the PC version. I’ve resisted the urge to buy it until I get my shiny new graphics card, although curiously it seems to have been removed from Steam. Hopefully it’ll attract modders in the same way Stalker has.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      It shows up on Steam for me. Must be a regional thing? I’m in the US.

    • IdleHands says:

      There was a twitter on the Metro 2033 stating that only the UK will not be able to purchase Metro from steam only retail, other countries can buy it from steam as normal. But no one has explained why the UK are being excluded from steam (even though you could at one point pre-order the game from steam in the UK). Can anyone shed some light onto why?

    • Samuel Bigos says:

      It was never on Steam, i’ve been looking from release. I’m in the UK, it must be available in the US. It’s odd because when you buy a retail version the key gets added to Steam so why would they not let you buy it directly from the Steam store?

    • IdleHands says:

      It was available on steam for UK pre-order at one point, if you pre-ordered you got Red Faction Guerialla free with it, it was up on steam for at least a week or two I remember. I don’t know if it would actually of processed the transaction or deny it part way through though if you tried. Then it disappeared for no explained reason.

    • Heliosicle says:

      People that pre ordered it still got it, it was just something to do with THQ being stupid about something.

      I’m glad I didn’t in the end, it sounds like alot of what I can’t go back to in shooters – unresponsive AI and rubbish saving..

    • Gremmi says:

      Word on the street is that this is due to an exclusivity deal. The only place you can buy it online in the UK is via GamesPlanet (or the THQ-branded storefront of the same site, but for some reason it’s £10 more expensive there than it is via the standard portal).

  3. KillahMate says:

    More slick, less character. Such is the way of the world.

    • PodX140 says:

      hmm. Having a feeling this wont reply properly, so i will include both my general statement and my reply

      General:

      Game was incredible, but very inopportune checkpoints and a viciously idiotic series of stealth sequences. Don’t get me wrong, the stealth is sublime, its simply that its about “thin down the numbers until you shoot it out” rather than “kill them all silently”. This really irks me especially the first time, I kept thinking I had done something wrong. Game is amazing, just so much potential to be unlocked there is why the review sounds so remorseful and degrading.

      @ KillahMate

      Rather, its almost the exact opposite. The game |gushes| with atmosphere and character. It makes you feel the world, blackened, forgotten, and so bitterly cold. You feel terrified and sad when you pass through |the| tunnel (not spoiling that one, you will know what I’m talking about), and will love the personality of the entire substations (or hate them, but you will feel, thats for sure)

      however, it just misses out on its lost potential. It looks like it has all these incredible rules in play, but then ignores most of them. Its not that it doesn’t use them, its that it doesn’t fully use them. Difficult to explain, but I’m sure 2033 players know my meaning.

      P.S. Someone leave a reply on how 3D looks on this, I’ve heard it can be spectacular.

  4. Samuel Bigos says:

    I think it’s a fantastic game, though I agree that I tend to moan a bit when I have to actually fight stuff. A stand out level for me was passing through the murderous Nazi encampment, I tried to stealth at first and it went quite well, I even found a passage down to a sewer area laden with traps which seemed to lead nowhere at all.

    The Ghosts level was also wonderfully designed, I was playing it about 2am with only my bed lamp on and found myself staying as close to the guy who guides you through it as the collision detection allowed. I think you can definately draw comparisons between this and Dead Space which I loved as well, despite them having a completely different setting.

  5. toni says:

    i finshed the game on hardcore with 500 military grade ammo, never bought any filters, ammo or guns and gave away all my money to the poor. to call the game “survival” and “hard” is an overstatement.

    • Bret says:

      I’m sure.

      Well, as Mayor of England, I congratulate you. I’m sure this hoverboard will be reward enough.

    • Samuel Bigos says:

      Thanks for sharing your awesomeness, ubergam0r.

    • 12kill4 says:

      sure you weren’t just playing the ‘insert coin’ screen?

    • Lewis says:

      I’d be fascinated to know how. I, and everyone I know who’s played it, found it to be often brutally difficult on Normal.

    • Doctor Doc says:

      You guys play on console? It’s very easy when you can aim at all.

    • battles_atlas says:

      I completed it on Titanium Jesus mode, without even playing it.

    • Other Steve says:

      I’m finding these reported differences in difficulty to be really interesting and would like to know just exactly what people are finding that made the game difficult.

      Is it just the particular platform and aiming that is responsible?

      Personally i found it to be quite easy played through on the PC using keyboard / mouse.

    • Lewis says:

      I played on 360 (was reviewing it, didn’t have a choice, etc.) It wouldn’t surprise me to learn the difficulty has been tailored to keyboard/mouse precision, and not tweaked to suit the erratic nature of an analogue stick.

    • IvanHoeHo says:

      I also found it to be not so bad at all, as well. Since you’re almost always with company, I tend to let them thin the crowd out and take the aggro, then help out the ones that are getting ganked and also engage your own foes.

      When going against humans, it’s very important to go for the neck as most of them have annoying helmets and headshots won’t do any good. For mutants, just stick with the shotgun and you’ll be fine. Lastly, go get some sharp metal sticks before you head into the library, or you’re in deeeeep shit.

      I did have to trade for some filters, though, as I love loitering.

  6. Premium User Badge Kelron says:

    I really enjoyed it, there was a few frustrating sections (mostly involving packs of mutants) but they all had checkpoints immediately before. I agree that it doesn’t make for interesting player stories in the same way as Stalker, but that’s ok, it’s a game that tells you its own story and does so very well.

    The only time I really felt disappointed with the game was Polis Station, and I think anyone who’s played it will know what I mean. Without spoiling anything, it gives you glimpses of this beautiful, bustling station then shoves you back out into the desolate waste 5 minutes later. Walking through this place was the most striking scene in the game for me, but the only part you’re allowed to control is a tiny room identical to all the other stations.

  7. Bogulmon says:

    Did you actually have any FUN? Because it sounds like you played it for bragging rights.

    • Bogulmon says:

      That was supposed to be a reply to toni up there, now I just look like an arsehole.

    • battles_atlas says:

      There’s a lot to be sad for randomly ordering posts

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I have this problem with a lot of my internet gaming friends (as in people I play games with on the internet but haven’t met IRL). There seems to be this philosophy that you have to speed-run games to get them finished as quickly as possible. Fuck that for a game of Team Fortress tbqfh. I’d much rather enjoy a game as it was created to be than teleport my way to the end just so I can wave my e-penis at people.

  8. Deuteronomy says:

    Yeesh. Doom 3 is one of the best games I’ve *ever* played. It’s definitely the best corridor shooter. As for the brokenness of Stalker, all this game proves is that the open dynamic worlds are a hell of a lot harder to build.

  9. Angel Dust says:

    To be honest I thought this game was a highly polished turd.

    I went in expecting the combat to be a bit clunky but was hoping that it might be like Cryostasis with the any gameplay issues being overcome by sheer atmosphere and a fantastic narrative. However the story was a complete wash and wasn’t really any better than STALKER’s limp narratives. Granted the storytelling was better but as far as characterisation and plot went it was a bit fat nothing.

    The combat was dull and unsatisfying. The decision to marry the slower and heavier gunplay of the STALKER games with a CoD like spawn-fest was pretty stupid and the monster menagerie was the dullest I’ve encounterd in a long time. It seemed to consist of either your bog standard soldiers or hairy rat/mole men who all attack in the same way i.e. melee attack to your knee-caps.

    I wasn’t sold on the atmosphere either. While it was sporadically successful (the ghosts are great), the rather abrupt level transitions and the small, self-contained nature of the levels meant that it never all came together for me. I wasn’t expecting an open-world ala STALKER but it didn’t have the flow that the HL2 series has nor was meant to feel like a series of geographically unconnected ‘missions’ ala CoD. The game also had a rather bizarre way of glossing over some of the best areas e.g. Polis station.

    But hey, I’m sure many people will enjoy it and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I may be ‘getting to old for this shit’.

    • Lewis says:

      For the record, I thought Metro was roughly ten million times better than the initially interesting but quickly painfully dull Cryostasis.

    • Marar says:

      Better then Cryostasis?, that game was (besides The Void) my favorite game of ’09, if it’s better then that, I am SO getting this.

  10. Lewis says:

    Metro’s an interesting one. Perhaps it’s apt that a game essentially about a situation that’s brought out the best and worst in humanity should end up showing the best and worst of FPS design. It looks absolutely beautiful, and I know exactly what you mean, Alec, when you say you often wanted to just stop and look around you and explore. It is incredibly good at evoking a sense of place and, on the surface, a sense of space, despite being utterly linear.

    But the shooting is – I’d go further – weak. I played on the 360, which means it was probably even weaker. The checkpoints were bloody horrendous and once backed me irreversably into a death-corner, auto-saving my game just as my gas mask shattered into a thousand pieces. And some of the difficulty spikes… ugh. I also didn’t like the stealth sections, in that they felt tacked on – BUT, in a way, I’d have loved to see what 4A could have done with Metro as an almost pure stealth game, with the Stations acting as safe hubs in between. In other words, very much like a post-apocalyptic Thief 3. In fact, Christ, someone should make that game. DO IT NOW.

    • speedwaystar says:

      @Lewis:
      Looking at the huge Metro 2033 subway map (most of which you never visit), I can envision a really quite amazing open world game with story/quest hubs at each station, and terrifying 1:1 scale runs through dark tunnels (with variously, ghosts, monsters, nazis, radiation threats guarding each) to reach those far-flung stations.

      If STALKER can do it with a huge open map, how much easier to create memorable (and semi-directed) open world gameplay in a node-based subway network?

    • Lewis says:

      That’s kinda key to what Alec said, though. And what I’d say too. If you wanted Metro to be an open-world survival game, well, it’s not, so you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. It’s an absolutely linear FPS/action-adventure/occasional stealth-em-up. There’s almost no diversion from the set path. That’s fine – linear shooters can be great too – but I suspect wishing it were something else would only lead to disappointment.

  11. Kevbo says:

    Interesting review, it seems you really wanted to love this game which explains why you were disappointed from the experience. Its good to see an FPS trying to deliver real atmosphere and and a believable environment. Stinks the action wasn’t on par but at least they got the hard part right :)

    Does anyone know if they are releasing an SDK or if it will have any official modding support? I guess I could do some googling around to see since that would definitely push me over on buying this. I’m a mod fanatic and would love to see some mods using this beautiful engine and possibly fixing the action issues.

  12. The Dark One says:

    I really hope someone manages to make a Heart of the Comet game at some point. Reading anything about this game immediately reminds me of that book.

  13. DMcCool says:

    Sounds like how I’ve felt playing every first person shooter since Half-Life 2 that wasn’t ARMA II or S.T.A.L.K.E.R. An FPS really has to do something extraordinary to keep my attention nowadays, pretty graphics haven’t done anything for me since Unreal.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Echo that 100%. Since HL2 the only non-VALVe FPS games I’ve played which come close are S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl. Bioshock started well but lost its way quite quickly (I think the setting & introduction to Rapture & it’s inhabitants are exceptional but once those wear off it doesn’t have much left to prop it up). I haven’t gotten around to playing Dead Space or the Penumbra games yet which are spoken highly of.

  14. Al3xand3r says:

    Personally I loved it and will go back to it later to get the 2nd ending (yes, some choices matter, you can’t just load a save be4 the end, do something a bit different, and see all it has to offer) I’ve yet to see. I didn’t find the shooting or stealth clunky. Perhaps more realistic in its difficulty than most games. Ie, one mistake in a level and kiss stealth goodbye, enemies won’t forget an intruder was there killing their friends, so you’ll need to play it as a shooter at that point. But stealth is actually very possible if you do well, using silent guns, turning off lights, making sure to aim unarmored parts of enemies, etc. One of the most atmospheric games ever. And the part with the librarians was GENIOUS. Some people hated it, finding them to be damage sponges, but there’s a trick to it, and an NPC tells you, so LISTEN CAREFULLY. The game is brilliant. No, it’s not very open, no, it’s not very replayable, but neither is the Half-Life series, and to me this is right up there with classics like that. I also liked how natural the levels felt, at times you’d think you were exploring off the beaten path to find extra ammo, filters, maybe some nice gun from an unfortunate soul, yet you reached the end of the level because that’s where you were supposed to go. I didn’t even mind being unable to save at any time, it only added to the serious gameplay, no more cheating the game with quick saves every 10 seconds, you have to be careful in how you play. I hope they will make a franchise out of it because I already want more of this brilliant gameplay. And next provide an SDK so that fans can make a few decent campaigns for us to play until the next chapter arrives. Please. Oh yeah the graphics were mostly brilliant as well, but that’s not what made me play :)

  15. devlocke says:

    I feel like this review makes a strong case for scores. Reading it, even when it was being positive, it sounded kinda negative. I feel like it could have anything from 6/10 to 9/10 accompanying it, and depending on where on that scale it stood, I would interpret the text differently.

    I mention this because it’s the first time I’ve ever thought having scores was possibly a good idea at all. It was weird. I mean no offense at all when I say that I wonder if that’s because it’s just not a good review (are ‘Wot I Think’s supposed to be reviews? I always thought they were…) – I’m not saying it isn’t a well-written review, because the writing was good. I just found at the end that I couldn’t really tell Wot You Thought. And if there were a number at the end, depending on what it was, it would have put the text in a very different context.

    • PodX140 says:

      I disagree. The review feels that way because the game feels that way at any one time. Is it mostly a 9/10 or mostly a 5/10 you would ask? and to that, I didn’t even notice at the time. If i quit the game feeling suspenseful or joyed i knew I played a great section, but i wouldnt be able to tell you when that started. If i quit feeling angry, or annoyed, chances are I was stuck on one of the lesser parts.

      I say the review captured the game perfectly, and a score would only ruin that

  16. Soobe says:

    It’s interesting to see a few mentions of ‘I must be getting too old for this shit’

    I’ve also thought the same thing on many occasions as of late, but you know what? Fuck that. I love gaming as much as I always have, and I’m not letting a few mediocre games convince me otherwise.

  17. TeeJay says:

    Alec I like your cat anecdotes. I also find ‘straight-forward shooters’ less compelling than 10 years ago but rather my being 30-something I blame prolonged exposure to intense/unpredictable fighting and the range of tactics in TF2 and similar multiplayer games.

  18. Flying Squirrel says:

    I’m actually looking forward to picking this up whenever it hits crazy steam sale time. I’ve really enjoyed all the open world shooters we’ve had the last few years, but they’re actually starting to hit that samey feel – ie OpenWorldShooter but with VATS/Realism/Cars/etc etc. I’m not sure we’ve had a good corridor shooter since half life2, maybe FEAR (MW2 isn’t quite long enough to count highly) and I’m actually looking forward to a game that doesn’t require fast travel or slogging cross country all the time, as well as having the advantage to be able to pull of proper pacing. I suppose time will tell

    PS – Hey interwebs, have i missed any other good corridor shooters the last 5 years?

  19. RobF says:

    It’s certainly an odd one and yeah, I wanted to like it too. I couldn’t manage it though. It’s a beautifully broken and quite evocative world they’ve created for it, the tunnels are dark and spooky as dark and spooky tunnels should be and the surface quite the amazing spectacle of a wasteland. Runs solid as anything I’ve played in a long time given the uber visuals and my now aching 2900. The ghosty vignettes were freaky and well done in all the right ways for me.

    It’s a hateful game though. For all the good forward looking stuff it does with the hud-as-part-of-the-game things, it’s like a step back into a dark and distant past I’ve been increasingly glad to see the back of. Limiting the ammo and ammo as currency is a reasonably idea but I ended up pissing most of the ammo away trying to get a clear shot on the bloody midget enemies. The enemy spamming started to drive me nuts and there was one tunnel section quite early on where I was blown apart constantly by grenades whose locations I couldn’t parse nor get away from fast enough. Repeatedly. Which with the checkpoint system meant constantly doing the same shit over and over again until my patience was truly tried.

    And then there’s the traps! On one hand I was quite impressed with the brutality of leaving these little trip wires everywhere and had the combat been more tolerable and the enemies not so multibloodyhit all the time and nipping at your knees so you have to be staring at the floor constantly rather than looking where you’re going I might have been able to afford myself the evident luxury of being able to see where I was bloody going. Thus avoiding another spike to the face in the middle of a gun fight.

    Special mention also goes to the utterly shit waypointing. Way, way, waaaay to much trying to find the spot the developer had decided was going to be the exit stuff. I don’t think I’ve played anything in a long while with that sort of problem, Painkiller is the last one that springs to mind.

    All in all, it adds up to the difficulty feeling artificial and forced rather than a natural challenge. I can see what they’re trying to accomplish with it, you’re meant to be scared to do anything, this is meant to be an aggressive and horrible world to exist in but it ended up way, way too frustrating for me and for all the atmosphere they built up, all the scared to wander from the beaten track in the tunnels stuff they did so successfully, whilst it’s attached to such a stupid bag of awful design decisions I don’t want to carry on putting myself through such a depressingly unenjoyable experience.

    Perhaps, now the tech is there, they can wangle something for their next game and try and marry their rather impressive world building with a non-shocking game. I’d like that. A lot.

  20. Anthony says:

    I think what shooters really need at this point is a Half-Life moment. We’re sort of stuck in a rut between highly scripted corridor shooters (CoD, Metro, etc) or attempts at something wide open that don’t quite work (arguably Borderlands, STALKER).

    Someone needs to be making an FPS that grabs us by the short and curlies the way Half-Life did back then. When that happens they will have my monies and eternal gratitude.

  21. Rob Jones says:

    That’s OK. He does, too.

  22. Rob JOnes says:

    I hate the way replying works here. :(

  23. Wulf says:

    “Instant death traps, widely-spaced checkpoints and scarce ammo and gas masks guarantee frustrating repetition.” and the UK singled out for Steam removal, forcing the UK to buy retail.

    Those are two massive turn-offs for me, and it’s a shame. With quicksaves and Steam availability? I would’ve bought this.

  24. MinisterofDOOM says:

    I’ve been looking forward to reading this review. I’m not surprised to find it matching up almost exactly with my views of the game. Metro 2033 definitely isn’t perfect, but what it does right makes up for what it does not-so-right.
    Amusingly, most reviews of this game I’ve read it rip on the stealth sequences pretty badly–while I found them to be some of the most enjoyable bits. Even the first one, for which I was ill-equipped and by which I felt utterly overwhelmed initially, turned into a very visceral-feeling stretch of me using the shadows and popping up where the enemy least expected me. I didn’t use stealth to avoid, I used stealth to massacre, and it FELT wonderful. It wasn’t my territory, and the enemy was well-entrenched, but I was still in control. Despite having only partially-developed stealth mechanics, Metro 2033 produced a more thorough FEELING of using shadows as weapons than many completely stealth-based games I’ve played.
    There are the annoying “throw lots of enemies at you” sequences, and I can definitely agree with the fact that they get hard to shoot at and tend to crowd your ankles leaving you backing-spinning-backing-spinning to get in a good shot because you don’t want to waste ammo.
    And checkpoint saves are unforgivable, especially considering some of the insta-death traps/events that can happen.
    But, as a whole, the game works for me. The atmosphere is fantastic, the vocal companions are interesting and help to build and support the world they live in (which is FAR too uncommon and perhaps the game’s biggest strength in my eyes), and the combat is enjoyable enough to form a basis for all that the game does genuinely well.

    I like the game’s setting enough to want to read the novel, which I can’t find anywhere in the US, despite the fact that there’s supposed to be someone publishing it here already.

  25. Shazbut says:

    All I want to know is what is going on in the fourth picture up there. Is that your arm that that thing has in it’s mouth? If it is, then do you have a second left arm that is much smaller, wields a peashooter, and comes out of the centre of your body?

  26. V. Tchitcherine. says:

    Everyone’s crazy about the gun play in this game, I for one think it’s among the most satisfying in any game. I mean for instance if you look at the silenced VSV rifle with night-vision googles on you can actually see smoke and exhaust curl out of the barrel when firing and headshots are headshots unless they have a helmet on, but shooting the uncovered neck or face is an instant-kill.

    Am I the only one who loved the combat in this game and had competent A.I. in his copy?

    • Skyblade says:

      You werent the only one, i personally loved the hell out of it, way more satisfying than any of the CoD games to date. Maybe everyone else spent so long trying to find problems with it that they just imagined them.

  27. unclelou says:

    I am usually among the first to complain about annoying checkpoints, but I didn’t have a problem with Metro at all – in fact, I thought they were very fair.

    And I love the firefights – I am finding the AI a lot of fun to play against. The whole game reminds me of Half-Life and Thief, with a bit of FEAR (and obviously Stalker) thrown in.

    The opinions (not just in Alec’s write-up, but in forums as well) about checkpoints, AI, deathtraps etc. vary wildly between people, so I guess the game fits certain play-styles better than others – I am in the lucky position that it seems to fit mine like a glove.

  28. Ravenger says:

    As for the game not being available via Steam, I believe it’s some sort of exclusive deal with retail. I bought it from Game (I wouldn’t normally buy something from them, but I had a voucher to use up), and it had a special slipcase with Game’s logo printed on it.
    Ironic that the high street retailers – who have done their level best to kill off PC gaming because they can’t re-sell them multiple times via the ‘pre-owned’ route – have this as an exclusive, especially as it’s a Steamworks game and requires Steam!

  29. toni says:

    I’m not an uebergamer but I use my brains. 80% of the enemies don’t have to be killed. 99% of the monsters don’t have to be killed. in the last level where the acid blobs attack you they don’t even attack you, they just go in a straight line and you just have to dodge and take care of your AI mate. In the librarian level you can just rush through it, no need to wait for triggers to fire. the only hard sections are the ones where they force you to fight and in those I had so many ammo I never died as long as I dodged.

    • Wilson says:

      @toni – Ah, I see. Fair enough, but I think games should really be balanced for people who do engage in all or most of the fights on the way through the game. I mean, unless this is really different to most shooters, the enemies are there to be killed right? It’s nice that they give you the option to run through parts of it (or stealth past them), but people who decide to fight them shouldn’t be penalized. Not in a shooter anyway.

  30. Katsumoto says:

    Weird how this game seems to have split opinion even amongst those who actually enjoyed it. I didn’t once notice a problem with the checkpointing as I played through it. I thought the gunplay and stealth were amongst the best in -years-. I was reminded of the best of ‘em: Half Life, Stalker, Thief, Fear (1). The light-meter in the stealth section works perfectly, being unobtrusive but always giving a clear indication of how well you’re hidden. In fact i’d say the stealth sections are the best in any game i’ve ever played outside of a dedicated stealth game like Thief. Moving around a fascist base knocking out the bulbs with a silenced pistol may as well have been sneaking about a castle with my water arrows!

    I’d have said I was just being over-enthusiastic because I was so taken with the game world, but it’s been a week since I completed it now and i’m still jittery with excitement when I think back on it. Still, it obviously hasn’t clicked as well with others, which is a darn shame, as I’d really love to see the devs get some MEGAPRAISE! for their efforts.

    Not to say it’s perfect – those FECKING amoebas on the D6 level can FECK right off. If I’d have been a reviewer for PCG or wherever i’d have rage-knocked-5%-off-the-score just for that 20 minutes of screaming frustration.

  31. Centy says:

    Yeah It’s a good game but just a stones throw from being great. My problem isn’t with the weapons, they have more of a powerful feeling than 90% of the guns in Stalker but the often pants on head retarded AI which often just allows itself to be killed and one time I even saw one just walk off a ledge to it’s death.

  32. Gremmi says:

    I’m surprised no-one’s mentioned the somewhat jarring in-game adverts for the book yet. They’re everywhere in stations. Every desk has at least one or two copies of the book lying around in plain sight, and most rooms seem to have posters up. It jarrs me every time I see it. Conceptually, it’s a horrible 4th Wall breaker, sort of like a character walking up to you and going ‘Enjoying the game? Buy the book!’

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Gremmi: I haven’t played Metro 2033, but that’s one of my pet hates. I was laughing out loud at the Rainbow 6 game with all the adverts for Ghost Warrior or whatever in.

      KG

  33. bl says:

    I’ll be sure to give this a try once it’s offered in a deal or something. Those $50 I’d rather spend on ME2 which I still haven’t played being busy with Dragon Age and all.

  34. Chris Evans says:

    I was interested in this game until I read a PCG preview (Jim I think?) which talked about the gun play being lacking, may still check it tho based on comments here.

    • damien says:

      you should. from your reticule writings, i’d hunch you’d get some fun mileage out of it.

  35. Ziv says:

    I really like Metro. I think there’s a lack of good corridor-go along a certain path- shooters today and I think that metro actually got the balance right. I like how unlike half life, metro gets its “fear factor” not from enemies jumping out of nowhere but from the design, environments and sheer numbers (even if those numbers are only 2-3 it’s still a lot when you have only 10 rounds of shotgun ammo to spare).

    the checkpoints- I don’t know, I have mixed feelings about them-they didn’t give me problems yet but it doesn’t change the fact that checkpoints are a thing that most people believe belong to the past (even though I think it is a great way to get the developer in control of where you are when you start the game).

    I have nothing to say about the graphics that hasn’t been said before but I’ll say one more thing- there is a bit in the beginning (not the prologue) where you go outside. I’m not sure why but the place had a feeling very similar to some of the city environments in CoD4 just very apocalyptic. they nailed that feeling that somewhen someone lived here but it’s been so long ago…

    the weapons- weapons are weak but have a great feeling about them, there’s nothing like getting from behind a cover with your pistol to here that sound of an empty barrel and then frantically jumping back into cover to reload.

    Enemies-the humans aren’t the best I’ve seen in a game and they take quite a lot of ammo to take down. but the main feature of the game is the monsters-fraking incredible detail and amazing believable look that just blends right into the game. great design work.

    to conclude- this game is fucking awesome/ if you like corridor shooters-buy it NOW.

  36. Langman says:

    Played through it – unfortunately it’s a bit of a lame duck. When you strip an FPS down to such a limited experience you have to be damn sure you get it right, since there’s no leeway if you screw up.

    Gun-play is very poor and it doesn’t feel anywhere near properly balanced. For a linear, corridor shooter that’s unforgivable. Has some nice touches though and the atmosphere is well done.

    Disappointing.

    6/10

  37. Andrei Sebastian says:

    Spamming enemies? What exactly are you talking about? In the previews I read, they all talked about continuously spawning enemies… fortunately the game didn’t feature such a thing. A wave comes, you find a nice position (corner or something), you kill it – end of story.

    This is becoming increasingly frustrating.
    Most complainers refer to the ammo / currency. I finished it with roughly 400 military grade ammo on normal difficulty. You generally don’t shoot at mutants with the smg, if you do you’ll waste ammo, the shotgun is for them (the pump guns are interestingly quirky but utterly useless). I have no ideea how the guy up there ended on hardocre with 500, but on normal it’s clearly possible (I wasted some of it). Never had a problem with the dirty ammo either. Everything revolves around aiming, except the case of the mutants (on which you basically have to use only the shotgun that can be fired from the hip). Don’t buy useless shit, you are supposed to buy two (three if you stretch it) things in the whole game – conversation over.
    The gunplay, omg the gunplay. What is up with people complaining about the gunplay? It simply is all about aiming, that is all (when Alec stated the enemies take a shitload of damage he was probably talking about the fascists, if you simply aim for the parts that are not covered with armor you can preetty much take them down in two burts, that is all). The guns are ADEQUATELY puny, I actually enjoyed them.

  38. Other Steve says:

    General Metro 2033 Gunplay Hint:

    Humans: Aim and shoot them in the face.
    Mutants: Aim and shoot them in the face too!
    Demons: Use a sticky bomb.

    And if you are having problems in the library use a helsing.

  39. Latterman says:

    Got stuck (as in: game broken) near the end (“biomass”) with those annoying spores. Didn’t have enough to ammo to destroy their spawning pods, one hit was a certain death sentence and after i ran ahead to explore it auto-saved and my buddy died shortly after. Nothing I could do.

    Great game never the less.

  40. CHR says:

    Personally I found the gun play solid. The pistol was still a viable weapon against most enemies right up until the end of the game and only required two or three shot to kill somebody if they were wearing helmets.

    The sequence with Khan in the haunted tunnel was incredibly atmospheric and was a very nice piece of story telling. It was something that I don’t think I’ve seen handled better in any other game. The Librarians were excellent and complete pains, I remember turning briefly away from one to try and see were I was supposed to be going and realizing what a mistake I’d made before running away from it.

    It’s not perfect. There’s a bit where you are escorting Vladamir a former military officer to d6, except that game doesn’t actually mention that in dialogue. It does put it on the journal but I was just following the rest of the group so didn’t bother checking it till after he died and I reloaded.

    Also whilst the background from the novel helps I don’t think they actually explain things in the game. I was always a bit surprised that you where going for missiles to kill the Dark Ones, because the game never really explained where they were coming from. Also whilst it was easy to guess why bandits, Nazi’s and Communists are evil why were Hansa dicks? I did find out but outside the game

    PS The use of “Stalker” apparently come from the book and isn’t an easter egg

  41. Andrei Sebastian says:

    It gets clearer and clearer this is a love or hate game. Unfortunately, it seems most reviewers lean towards the latter. Fortunately there seem quite a few lovers (as demonstrated by the Destructoid forum responses to Anthony Burch’s “not-review”).

    On the “to be polished or not to be polished” subject matter. In my opinion the problem can usually be resolved by asking a simple question: “Is it gratuitous or not?”. I don’t consider gratuity is a concept that can be easily associated with Metro 2033.

    I also heared inevitable comparisons to Cryostasis. In Cryostasis the ending made up for all the fail in the gameplay mechanics. The most relevant subject in this comparison is the gunplay. In Cryo it was downright horrible, but at the same time appropiate and in tune with the atmosphere and feelings it was supposed to muster, it’s the exact same case in Metro 2033 (where the mention has to be made that the gunplay is considerably better and far more satisfying).

    I don’t get the problems people seem to have with the checkpoints, there were numorous occasions when I was “wtf, a checkpoint this soon?” (why don’t people remember games like Hitman, where you wheren’t given any sort of brake or save whatsoever). The checkpoint locations always seemed convenient to me (probably people usually tend to run form the waves of enemies?, I don’t get it, the game never should’ve saved in a though situation).

    If a read / hear one more person complaining about the amoeba I’m going to have a nerdrage fit I think. You are evidently supposed to shoot the creatures that spawn the amoeba (just like 4AGames insultingly and annoyingly tells you in near every loading screen). Not one amoeba managed to actually get close to me. Wtf is wrong with you people? Stay in the back, shoot the creatures = empty road ahead.
    My gas mask never broke either (dough it was in preetty bad shape in the ending)…

    P.S.
    One important factor in all this is probably that I didn’t expect anything beside a linear game either. I just wanted an extremely good authored experience (I’m kinda bored by the now aging fps world mechanics).

    @Alec
    I enjoy your articles and RPS’ writing in general but c’mon… The use of words like “grind” or “Doom” in a Metro review? No matter the experiences a player could have with this game that’s quite exaggerated…

    • Lewis says:

      “It gets clearer and clearer this is a love or hate game. Unfortunately, it seems most reviewers lean towards the latter.”

      Really? Who’s leaning towards the hate? It currently enjoys a 78 average on Metacritic (ugh, I know, sorry).

  42. toni says:

    ok, i just replayed it with killing everbody. I bought the armor, nothing else. it makes the game harder oc but now I even have more ammo than before ….. nah, that aint survival. it may be hard to play but since there is no backtracking (or need of) pressing forward will always give you what you seek. gasmask btw are hidden everywhere, I can’t see anybody running out.

    • Whelp says:

      You bought armor? You can buy armor in Metro? Where?
      I’ve never seen any armor I could buy, only guns and grenades/medkits.

    • V. Tchitcherine. says:

      Before you leave the communist station there are two available suits; one for stealth/reduced noise and the other increases your armour protection, with a nice little detail of new visible gloves as well.

    • CHR says:

      You can buy a heavy suit in Polis as well

  43. Aganazer says:

    Checkpoint saves? No thanks.

  44. bill says:

    “I suspect I’d enjoy the game more if I could just wander through it unmolested. ”

    I’m playing Bioshock (1) right now. I have this feeling a lot.
    It’s also the feeling I got when I saw the Secret World trailer.
    It’s kind of what I thought about Mirror’s Edge and several PoP games too.

    I think I’m getting old and pacifist or something… or maybe at this point in my 30s I’m just getting fed up of shooting things being the only viable action.

  45. Bursar says:

    On a tangent…

    Please stop calling ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ the “song from Glee”.

    If you must use a tv reference may I recommend “The song from the end of the Soprano’s… when y’know… Tony sits down at a restaurant for a family dinner”

  46. Bronte says:

    I only read through as much of this review as I dared to without reading spoilers.

    I started playing it this week and I am having a blast so far. Most people claim the game isn’t scary, just atmospheric. Tell that to the hollow silhouettes of children perambulating the empty subway tracks… *brrrr*

    Some additional thoughts here:

    • Lewis says:

      I agree, I thought it was properly scary, too. Up there with Call of Pripyat at least.

  47. karmakgb says:

    Yes, I thought the shooting in this game was excellent as well. Sure the weapons are a little hard to use, they are mostly homemade after all (bad guys go down much faster if you’re using a pre-war AK with military-grade ammo, BTW). You have to shoot the enemies in the right spot, of course. Shoot an armored soldier in his armor and, yup, he won’t go down. The back of the neck while stealthed works wonders.

    Basically, it was meant to be played a certain way that’s different from most “corridor shooters”. Some parts are like Doom 3 but this is definitely not DOOM.

  48. unclelou says:

    Yeah, I really don’t get the “poor gunplay” at all. Weapons are a tad too quiet in the soundmix, granted, but apart from that, they feel fantastic. Shooting someone in the face with a shotgun in this game made me wince a few times.

  49. Sharkey says:

    As someone mentioned above, Dead Space!!!