Metro: Last Light is the sequel to 2010's Metro 2033. Set within the underground train stations of post-apocalyptic Moscow, Metro: Last Light will feature an atmospheric, story-driven campaign as well as the all-new addition of online multiplayer. Digital Spy looks at the gameplay overhauls made to the sequel and recounts some of the more action-packed moments on offer.
As far as post-apocalyptic games go, Metro 2033 was pretty unique. Thanks to its Russian setting and dark novel source material, it was an extremely bleak affair. While other franchises such as Fallout revel in humour and their ability to let players soak up the end-of-days scenario in their own time, Metro's story was designed to be a linear, cinematic and highly atmospheric experience, not an open-world one. It was a well-received game but far from perfect, a fact that publisher THQ knows all too well, so much so that it's been labelled as its "flawed masterpiece".
Screenshots: Metro Last Light's varied locations
Building upon a "flawed masterpiece"
Keen to deliver that same memorable experience without compromising what made it unique, developer 4A Games is planning a number of small, key changes for Metro: Last Light. For one, it's free from the confines of its novel source material - hence the move from its initially-named Metro 2034 to Last Light - allowing it to sculpt its own unique story, but one with the blessing of author Dmitry Glukhovsky. In terms of the game world, little has changed since last time; while the skies are clearer and the Dark Ones have been vanquished, scores of people still survive in underground areas decades after a nuclear war, divided by political differences and in-fighting.
Several strides have been made to make Metro Last Light more improved. The original's poorly-implemented enemy intelligence is to be ripped out and rebuilt from the ground up, while the combat will be adjusted to make it feel new. While 4A Games is keen to retain Metro 2033's slow-paced gameplay, the contentious bullet currency mechanic will be adjusted, providing the opportunity to up its weapon count for more explosive set pieces, with plans to place a similar survival mechanic elsewhere. As part of retaining those cinematic values, 4A Games is building upon the original's visual prowess in a bid to make it the best looking game respective of its platform, by adding more dynamic lighting, destruction and fire effects. Elsewhere, there's the addition of online multiplayer. While details were scarce, the feature was something the developer wanted to include with the original but lacked the resources, and will now provide some much desired legs to an otherwise single-player package.
Screenshots: Metro: Last Light's Moscow in ruins
A first look at Metro: Last Light
Watching a live demo of the game, those claims to make it a visual powerhouse aren't too far removed from the truth. Formed from several different areas of the campaign to provide a varied yet impactful first look, it began with two men scurrying overground in a bid to rescue a prisoner from an opposing faction. Controlling one of the men, the demonstrator climbs into a vault and removes his cracked visor and hastily hides in the dark as a sentry enters through the newly-opened vault door ahead. Yet to be spotted, the enemy passes round the corner before the demonstrator sneaks after him and slices his neck. While opportunities to deploy stealth in Metro 2033 were few and far between, in Last Light it's designed to be a viable option at all times.
Using darkness to your advantage, it's possible to twist bulbs to disable them, or as seen in the next area, shoot them out from a distance. This naturally caused some undesired attention; guards appeared on the above walkway, but as they were unable to see the pitch black room below, several quick headshots pacified the danger. As more guards approached, a full-scale firefight broke out, with higher degrees of destruction playing to your advantage as it's possible to chip away at enemy cover points with rounds of fire. Ducking around a suspended train carriage and a camp-fire, the demonstrator ran up a walkway, grabbed a rustic mini-gun and easily cleared scores of enemies flooding in through the below vault. Switching to a hefty hand-cannon, the weapon accurately disposed of lone guards who lingered upstairs as he pressed onwards and upwards.
Video: Metro: Last Light teaser trailer
From fighting in the shadows to a high-speed train chase
Meeting up with your friend from on the surface, the pace changed as you happened on a hallway draped in long, red banners, packed full of people saluting to a distant speaker on an above platform. Blending in with the crowd, you pushed your way to the front, before your comrade shot a few pistol rounds into the air and fled through a side curtain initiating a chase sequence, ducking through scaffolding and past innocent bystanders before sliding underneath a rapidly closing gateway. With the player injured, noted by the blood-splattered first-person viewpoint, you watch as your comrade uses a human shield that becomes riddled with bullets. Clearing the way forward, you both jump into a railway cart that pulls out into a tunnel, just as more soldiers arrive to witness your apparent escape. As scripted as the section is, it was certainly a breath-taking, close-to-the-bone few minutes.
From there, it devolves into a customary rail-cart sequence, popping shots at enemies on the opposing track as they weave forwards and backwards, before you catch up with a train that's carrying the prisoner you're after. With a well-timed (but seemingly scripted) leap, the player lands on a carriage and makes his way through by ducking round crates and firing bullets at soldiers, as loose materials whip in the air and tunnel lights whizz past in a break-neck blur. It's one of the section's more stunning moments, topped off with an explosion that tears through the carriages ahead that catches up with the player, leaving him what we assume is for dead, ending the demonstration on a cliffhanger. Although we're mindful that it was a carefully crafted segment, Metro: Last Light certainly looks capable of delivering both tactical slow-paced stealth sections and high-octane moments in its campaign.
> Metro: Last Light announced for 2012
> Feature: Going Underground: Metro 2033
Metro: Last Light will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC sometime in 2012.