Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Available for the PC and Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Published by THQ
Claustrophobia: claus·tro·pho·bi·a (klô’strə-fō’bē-ə) n. An abnormal fear of being in narrow or enclosed spaces.
If you suffer at all from the above-named condition, then believe us when we tell you — you want to stay as far away from THQ’s latest horror shooter Metro 2033 as possible. We’re not joking either.
To talk about Metro 2033, you must first understand what this property actually is. Back in 2002 Russian author and journalist Dmitry A. Glukhovsky published his first book, Metro 2033, on his own personal website granting free access to it to anyone in the world. The story was an instant sensation in his homeland, attracting thousands upon thousands of readers. Finally in 2005 Dmitry’s sci-fi/horror super hit was picked up by a more traditional publisher and has since become a best seller and a half. By 2009 over 400,000 copies of Metro 2033 were sold in Russia alone. Foreign book rights were sold to more than 20 countries. And now, dear reader, now comes a first person shooter that does nearly the impossible … it captures most of the things that made the tale so popular and throws you into it to experience all manners of post-apocalyptic horrors.
In the year 2013 a man-made apocalypse has scorched the surface of the Earth. Those lucky enough to survive took to the underground as the outside world had become a poisonous wasteland. Things had gone to hell in a hurry, and mankind had been forced into a new and frightening dark age. Fast forward two decades and whatever life forms that survived on the surface have been transformed into hideous mutants. Emphasis on the “hideous“.
But just like everything else … evil evolves as well. Along with the monsters who populate this nightmarish landscape, a new menace has reared its head. Known only as “The Dark Ones“, these creatures possess the ability to kill using only their psychic powers. That’s right. They don’t even have to touch you.
In the game you play as a young Metro dweller named Artyom, who ends up being the only person who can uncover the truth behind all of this bleak new world’s horrors. This is a very cinematic game, and to tell you any more about the story would end up spoiling it for you. So in the interest of keeping the many twists and turns of this tale intact for you to happen upon, let’s move on to what you can expect from the game itself.
For the sake of realism you don’t have much of a HUD, and everything the game makes you do is handled in a really organic fashion. For instance — Need to look at your map or consult your compass? There are no onscreen prompts or cheats. You have to take out your handy clipboard and consult it manually. But wait … you’re underground, and as you can imagine, lighting is kind of sparse. So, with your other free hand you have to light your lighter so that you can read. Don’t spend too much time doing so because with both of your hands tied-up, you can’t engage in the many scenes of combat waiting for you.
Speaking of which … while guns (both real and sensationalized) are in abundance, one thing that is not is ammunition. In fact, ammo is what the denizens of this brave new world use for currency. You’ll find yourself spending a lot of bullets to buy more guns, medkits, and of course new filters for your gas mask. Thankfully, the game’s setting is littered with corpses that you may loot liberally. Still, you’ll want to be trying for the quick kills via headshots whenever possible as a means to conserve that precious hot lead.
As you explore this startling yet dismal world, you’ll be traversing through mainly two types of environments: the underground subway tunnels and the frozen dead world that is the surface. Should you want to go topside, you’ll need that gas mask we just told you about. There’s one little thing to be mindful of, though … the filters on your mask don’t last forever so you’ll constantly want to be on the lookout for more via looting and of course buying them in the myriad of shops found strewn about the labyrinth of subway tunnels.
Two types of environments may sound kind of skimpy to you, but let me be clear … the graphics in this game are truly top-notch. Textures are spot on and sharp, and everything from the lighting cast by flickering bulbs or from the iridescent fungi that litter the tunnels creates an atmosphere so thick and so brilliantly horrific that you’ll be spending lots of time wanting to see what lies behind every corner even though your brain is telling you to do the smart thing. Stay the course. Maybe shoot out a light or two so that you can stealth your way past a creature. That’s another good way of saving ammo.
Metro 2033 offers one of the single most immersive gameplay experiences you’re likely to have all year. From the bustling towns that spring to life with activity to the many passageways that connect the settlements to the topside fallen cities, you not only play through the atmosphere of this game, you live through it. That’s the best damned compliment I think I can give it.
There are a few things keeping it from a perfect score, however. During some of the game’s more intense moments when the screen is packed with swarming enemies, occasionally there’s a definite dip in the frame rate. This is far from a deal breaker, though, as it never inhibits the otherwise silky smooth gameplay. Also, there are plenty of times during Metro 2033 when the AI will have you scratching your head and wondering, “What the hell are they doing that for?” Couple those minor annoyances with the fact that there are no multi-player options at all, and you’re left with a great game that falls just short of true perfection.
It should be noted that the book had a completely nihilistic ending. The game itself gives you two possible endings, but holy shit, are you gonna have to earn the more “hopeful” one if you want to see it. Just like Mass Effect 2 or Heavy Rain, some of the decisions you make while playing will affect your outcome. Not to mention possibly haunt the hell out of you the whole time you’re playing. This ups the replay value a bit, and that’s a very good thing.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, a breath of fresh air in a time when even the best first person shooters feel a little on the cookie-cutter side of the fence, then Metro 2033 is your perfect prescription. This could very well be the sleeper hit of the year.
Pack heavy. Shoot sparingly. Try to survive.
4 1/2 out of 5
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