E3 2011 First Look: Metro – Last Light

By John Walker on June 9th, 2011 at 7:16 pm.

It's nice that the last light is such a pretty one.

This was an interesting one. We were shown the most extraordinary demo of the game, that was pretty much unrepresentative of how the final game will play. Because showing a man creeping along a dank tunnel, scared out of his life, with one bullet and little hope, isn’t going to thrill the men in ties, or the excitable kiddies. But I was solemnly promised that the game is emphatically honouring the atmosphere and style of the original, while improving in every respect.

It looks stunning. The engine is mind-blowing, vast cityscapes meticulously rendered in seemingly impossible detail. Underground things are equally detailed, with some remarkable lighting. Lighting you’re mostly switching off. Keeping in the shadows we saw the player shooting at pots over fires to spill their contents and put them out, unscrewing light bulbs, taking pot shots at bulbs on walls, and so on. Larger underground caverns gave opportunities for stealth, or large-scale firefights.

We then saw a long series of intense action. Nothing original, and mostly quite tired for the FPS genre. Particularly hoary was a long cart ride through tunnels, shooting at waves of enemies careering down neighbouring tracks. However, despite this being gaming’s oldest idea, here the intensity was remarkable. I felt out of breath as we roared through the rock, the cloth physics of scraps of material defying belief as they whipped and flapped at the high speeds.

Before that point we’d sneaked into a rally meeting of the Reich, an unambiguously Nazi-inspired baddies, wandering through crowds of hundreds of NPCs, until we reached the very front and started a firefight to make good our escape.

But this was a sort of faked up version of the game, where it was all action in a row. The real game, a producer explained to me, will include all those elements but well spaced out, ensuring the vision of 4A Games is respected and delivered. As if any publisher could tell them what to do.

I think there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this one. THQ seem determined to honour 4A here, both in terms of letting them create the game they want to make, and in terms of recognising its potential and marketing it appropriately. And they have good heads about that. They know it’s not going to break into the broader mainstream, and compare their hopes for it with something like BioShock. The 4A Engine is ridiculously good, and ambitions to make the best looking shooter ever aren’t empty boasts – it’s already looking that way.

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45 Comments »

  1. Enterprise2448 says:

    Hell yeah!

  2. Inglourious Badger says:

    I’m still excited. 2033 was a great game, despite containing everything I bemoan about the CODBlopses of this world it was just so damn atmospheric and intense. Truly a linear STALKER, and I mean this in a good sense, with all the added detail you gain from tying the player down to set locations.

    • choconutjoe says:

      I know how you feel. Great atmosphere, but fewer QTEs and instances where control is torn away from the player would be a definite improvement. Here’s hoping.

    • Eukatheude says:

      QTEs? Really? I don’t remember a single one.

    • choconutjoe says:

      57 seconds in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWwCYD5i87U&feature=related
      I can recall another one on a ladder towards the end of the game. I have a feeling there are others, although I can’t remember exactly where.
      The game also has an annoying habit of taking away player control every time something exciting happens, forcing the player to look at the ‘awesome’ set piece. Personally I’m not keen on all that stuff.

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      Alegis says:

      when in melee with a .. what’s the name of those regular demons, nosalises? it’s QTE as well as some events with those gargoyles I believe, or at the end of the game when navigating through a certain structure.

  3. westyfield says:

    Is this the same/an upgraded version of the Metro 2033 engine, or is it an entirely new one?

  4. Fattsanta says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed 2033, I’m actually going through it again on this so called “ranger” difficulty and im having a blast.

  5. Hooi says:

    Orange and blue, anyone?

    • applecup says:

      I’m only seeing that in the first shot, honestly.

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      blind_boy_grunt says:

      just… don’t. It’s nice that you learned about blue and orange and it sure is an interesting thing but don’t try to see it everywhere and don’t think you need to point it out everytime.
      Is what i would say if i wanted to sound like a douche.
      (I’m not sure why it bothers me that much. But everytime someone writes: “oooh too much blue and orange” and “ooooh that shooter is so grey” for a second i want to punch something. Maybe it’s just the fact that people complain about one more dull/unoriginal shooter while they make one more dull/unoriginal complaint about it).

    • Pemptus says:

      @blind_boy_grunt:
      Just remember that the dullness of a complaint doesn’t automatically make it irrelevant.

      Of course in this case it is *wholly* irrelevant.

  6. McDan says:

    Looking forward to tha game so much. Replayed 2033 so many times. More excited for this than for quite a lot of other games.

  7. squareking says:

    Whoa, the pretty.

  8. Arglebargle says:

    Always great atmosphere, I hope they move on from the linear, crappy design of the first. I quickly came to distrust the developers, and quickly came to deleting the game from my hard drive. If I had paid full price I would have been very unhappy. This review is not that enthusing to me. Will wait and see.

    • Thants says:

      If you want to play a sandbox game, play a sandbox game. The developers didn’t betray you because they made a linear FPS.

    • Arglebargle says:

      No, they messed up when they delivered some poorly implemented linear design decisions. There were a number of issues not related to it being on rails. Though having beautiful scenery that you never have time to look at is also a failure of concept, imo.

    • dryg says:

      You know it is based on a book with a specific story from the start, right?

    • Acorino says:

      Stalker is also based on a book. But very very loosely, wisely.

    • edit says:

      I played it through and I did enjoy it. There’s a lot of good stuff happening there, but also sources of frustration.. and when it boils down to it, I just hate linearity so heavy it feels like you’re being sucked through a tube.

    • Motorheadache says:

      If you only played a few hours of it, you didn’t get into it enough to actually form a proper opinion.
      Linear, story-based games have gotten a bad rap, due to certain parties pandering to the ‘masses’.
      That’s gonna happen, but I’m glad it doesn’t always.
      This one, assuming you can get into the ‘mindset’, is brilliant.
      ( no you can’t play it one-handed , haha j/lk )
      I look forward to a sequel(s).
      S.T.A.L.K.E.R. rules, ( hell yeah! )
      but if you’re going to drive it down a set path due to a story,
      Metro kicks the snot out of anything else out there.

      .02
      Cheers.

  9. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Man, I really love the second screen shot. And the fourth. Not to mention the third as well, besides the first.

  10. Inigo says:

    So does this have anything to do with the book’s sequel or not?

    • MrWeed says:

      I don’t think so, seeing as you play as Artjom. And as you should know he was sitting around in this station with those infected people for the whole book. That wouldn’t make a good game I believe.

  11. Creeping Death says:

    Probably the game I am most interested inhearing about from this years E3. I absolutely loved the first game… and now have a huge urge to replay it after hearing about the sequel over the past few days xD

  12. Eukatheude says:

    As soon as i get my new GPU i’ll replay the first one. Had to go through it with a laptop which had a terrible screen, pretty much lowered the immersion.

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      john_silence says:

      Hmmm… On the contrary it must have heightened immersion – great post-apocalyptic setup, isn’t it?

      Heck I’ll just go get myself a busted laptop with the w key out of order. That’ll teach them for making a great-looking linear game.

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    MinisterofDOOM says:

    I’m crazy excited for this. Metro 2033 is one of the most impressive game experiences I’ve ever had. There was so much about it I liked, and even if Last Light is just more of the same I’d be immensely pleased.

    I really hope they work on that frame rate, though. My i7 920 and Radeon 6870 still aren’t a match for Metro 2033 in many places, where the frame rate maxes out in the mid 30s and chugs well below 20 quite frequently. It is without question a spectacularly beautiful game, but I’d like to AVERAGE over 30FPS, not just get lucky with it occasionally.

  14. Ziv says:

    The first game was surprisingly good. One of the best linear shooters I have ever played.

  15. Navagon says:

    If they just keep the QTEs and the annoying escort bit out of this game I’ll be happy. AI that isn’t so ultra-alert when you’re sneaking in the dark would be appreciated too.

    Because those things aside, the first game was very impressive indeed. I’m just put off the idea of replaying it because of that bloody escort bit.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      Are you and I the only people that thought the AI was too much?

      Bunch of clairvoyant, telepathic owls with perfect accuracy and way too much coffee in their system. It wouldn’t have been so much of a problem but for the checkpointing shitting you back to miles away when your location finally became known to every single enemy at the same time and they turn you into a very leaden corpse.

      Fix either one of those little flaws and Metro: Next Stop will be super great. Oh yeah and the QTEs.

  16. medwards says:

    So.. not to be a stick-in-the-mud but what is up with the ‘unambiguously Nazi-inspired Reich’ comment? Its not like there are no modern-day fascists in our community who lack the ability to form a faction after the apocalypse. The phrasing just jumped out at me I guess because it seemed to highlight them as being in some way highly fanciful rather than descending from real world conditions. There are real anti-fascists in Russia today fighting real fascists.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Yeah, see the word “Reich” in there? How about the red flags with black and white emblem in the center? Or the fact that they’re fascists?

      In the fiction of the books and first game they are very clearly Nazi inspired, if the above wasn’t enough to make it obvious to you.

  17. mejobloggs says:

    Loved the original. Had a great mix

    I especially liked the train rides, and staggering around with the kid on my back

  18. Jake says:

    Last time these screenshots were posted, someone commented that they were not in-game graphics, or that they were enhanced/post-processed or something. Is that true or are these in game? They look amazing, the second and fourth shots in particular looks miles ahead of anything I have seen elsewhere.

  19. fuggles says:

    The plot seems unlikely, odd thing to comment on a video game, I know, but given the world is FUBAR then what good is a doomsday device? Anyway, I hear Metro 2034 is being translated to English, so maybe that is the plot and all will be revealed.

    Hopefully more surface work, although with one announced new monster, it all sounds VERY similar to the first one. Hmmm.

  20. Vurten says:

    I really felt Metro 2033 went unappreciated.
    Setting, restrictions, mood and peoples eyes count for a lot in my book and the “first” game had plenty. Looking forward to this.

  21. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    I’m hoping the games themes will be a bit stronger, like the books. That and much less of that horrible buletsponge mutant shooting.

  22. Bweahns says:

    I tried getting into the original twice and just couldn’t deal with how linear it was and how often control was taken away from the player. I love scary games like System Shock 2 and the like but Metro is just not my style of game despite the amazing graphics.

    I found Stalker scary as well, especially those underground lab levels but it was totally open and free, one of my favourite games from the past decade.

  23. Angel Dust says:

    While I understand that it’s going to be pretty linear (for maximum orchestrated drama), I do hope they make it less so in the quieter moments (the settlements etc). The most amazing and disappointing moment in the first game for me was when you arrived at that last settlement (the really huge one); the vision was breathtaking but I could only take it in for all of about 3-5 seconds before I was literally rail-roaded into a dingy side room.

    And yeah, the shooting needs work too. Gunning down erractic, knee biting mutants with STALKER-esque gunplay in cramped, linear interiors wasn’t much fun. The more sneaky human fights were ace though.

    • laddyman says:

      I can’t agree more, with everything you said. The firefights were a lot of fun, the creature fights not so much (especially against said knee-biting vermin). The guns felt good, they all felt unique in their own way, the silenced AK varient with the built-in laser dot being my favorite. It was indeed a crowning moment of failure when you reach this beautiful (compared to the damp, dangerous metro tunnels) shining topia, look at it for maybe a few tens of seconds, then are hauled unceremoniously into a side room to continue the story and to peruse the last shop of the game (but not actually warned of such).
      I’m still going absolutely nuts in excitement for this game, mind you. Despite its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed the game and am impatient to see what 4A has up its sleeves for the sequel.

  24. papabear says:

    I hope they make the shooting feel more right this time. The first game was brilliant. Just not as a shooter.

  25. fitzroy_doll says:

    This will be a day 1 purchase for me.

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    Joshua says:

    But will we be able to set aside our prejudices and become Enlightened?

  27. buffalobill says:

    I’m pretty excited about a follow up. For some reason I completely missed it last year and only played it this last month. Metro 2033 is different from the average FPS, it’s grittier, harder, has atmosphere. It challenges you to manage resources, because of which it’s pretty difficult – even almost impossible in places. On one surface scene, I was down to a minute of air, had a demon to kill and get to somewhere I knew not where. Hair tearing times. As for the Librarians, it took me two days to get through them. I devised my own strategies and I guess next time will be easier. Yes, the dialogue was cheesy, yes it was buggy, yes you sometimes had no clue where to go next, yes it was (almost) impossibly hard at times – but on balance I loved it. It had a special atmosphere different from the others.
    For the developers I’d like more save points – or the ability to return to a couple of save points back.