The beautifully bleak first-person shooters Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light have both been retooled and are being resold: a bit weird since the latter only came out last year. Is Metro Redux worth the dough if you already own the original games? How about if you don't? How about if, like me, you own one but not the other? Well, here's whut ah thank, y'all! (Note: I'm an American. We all talk like that.)
Quick recap? Metro 2033 and its follow-up, Metro: Last Light are both first-person shooters set in the mutant and monster-filled metro system of post-apocalyptic Moscow. The original game was billed as survival horror, while Last Light was more of an action shooter, and both were praised for strong atmosphere and a visually rich setting which helped offset problems like lackluster A.I. and strictly-linear mission design. You can read what Alec thought of 2033 and what Jim thought of Last Light.
Full disclosure: I only half-finished the original Metro 2033 and I'm only three-quarters finished with the Redux version. Additionally, I never played the original Last Light, and I'm only about halfway through the reissue.
Considering that the remastered version of Metro: Last Light, in developer 4A's own words, "does not represent as significant a change over the original," we should probably begin with a look at Metro 2033 Redux, which does. 2033 has been rebuilt using Last Light's game engine and retrofitted with a number of LL's features.
Most notably, the stealth in 2033 Redux is now blessedly stealthier. Just because one enemy detects evidence of your skulking doesn't mean every single one of them will psychically know where to pinpoint you from then on. Even after blowing a stealth run, you have a chance to melt back into the shadows and reposition, or quickly neutralize the enemies who spotted you before they can alert the others. It makes for more satisfying sneaking and the A.I. is both better and more forgiving.
I booted up the original 2033 this week and found it still looks plenty good: not surprising since it's only four years old. Still, the Redux version looks noticeably better in terms of models, textures, details, and lighting. It really looks fantastic. The NPCs appear much more alive than they originally did, too, though you'll occasionally come across a distractingly weird one with too-bulgy eyes and a rubbery face.
2033's cutscenes are now all presented in the first-person perspective, which is a welcome addition, and the menus, inventory, and many of the game's animations have been upgraded as well. Essentially, Redux creates a more uniform experience across both games by overhauling 2033 to match Last Light. Instead of original and sequel, it now feels like they're two different parts of the same game.
You can play both Redux games in a couple of different modes. There's a survival mode, which makes ammo and mask filters more scarce (if, for example, you want to bring the original grueling 2033 experience into Last Light) and a spartan mode, where you'll have plenty of ammo for a more action-packed experience (if you want to bring Last Light's extra-shooty feel with you into 2033). Beyond that, there's also Normal, Hardcore, Ranger, and Ranger Hardcore, which give you varying degrees of difficulty by minimizing (or removing) HUD elements and providing more realistic weapon damage for both you and the people shooting back.
Since Last Light only came out last year, there's not much in the way of changes for this new edition, other than some small improvements to the engine, some new animations, and the game's DLC bundled alongside. So, what essentially sounds like a patch for Last Light is being treated as a new game, sales-wise, for reasons the developers describe as "technical." There are discounts, at least: if you own 2033 on Steam you'll get half-off the Redux version and 25% off the bundle; likewise for Last Light. If you own both already, you get 50% the bundle.
Is it worth it? Well, if you enjoyed Metro 2033, I strongly suspect you'll like it even more on the new engine, especially since the options for a grueling, hardcore experience are still there despite the revamped stealth and improved AI making things a little easier for you. Even if you enjoyed Last Light, however, I'm doubtful you'll notice much in the way of changes in the Redux version. If you've never played either game but are suddenly keen to... I'm not sure what to suggest, actually. The originals are cheaper and still perfectly playable, but I'd probably go for the Redux. They're prettier. Call me superficial, but I think looks are worth a few extra bucks.
If you didn't think much of the games initially, there may not be enough in Redux that will change your mind. Stealth is better in 2033 Redux, definitely, but stealth isn't an option when you're forced to stand your ground against swarm after swarm of identical mutants. Lame turret sequences may look a bit nicer, but they're still lame turret sequences. All the graphical improvements in the world won't improve the experience of carrying an annoying, weird-voiced child around on your back as he points out monsters and holes far too late to help you avoid them. And, the brief and beautiful outdoor excursions, while more beautiful, are still just as brief, which is far too brief. There are some things even the nicest paint job can't fix.
Both Redux games are running very well for me on my still-hangin' in there PC (i7 2.8GHz, Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti) with the settings almost cranked up all the way. 2033 Redux crashed once -- immediately, the very first time I tried running it -- but it's been smooth, responsive, bug-free sailing since, in both games.