Level design turns out to be a recurring issue for Metro 2033
, with it quickly becoming clear that the sophisticated systems the developers have sought to develop aren’t totally at ease with the setting they’ve chosen to ground them in.
The stealthy segments of the game highlight this conflict especially well, with players having to constantly juggle tactical considerations with an awareness of their environment.
Turning off all the lights will give you the cover of darkness, for example, but without your headlamp to navigate the suffocating landscape you’re likely to run into difficulties. Broken glass will crunch underfoot and give you away, while tripwires and traps will make short work of you if you aren’t careful.
Either way you run a risk of detection and quick death, so pre-battle prep can be quite tense.
Is that an incendiary round?
Unfortunately though the tension is undermined by the fact that you’re quickly funnelled into one of very few possible approaches and enemies are often grouped. The usual tactic of starting an alarm and then waiting by a chokepoint for enemies to wander through is especially valid since the metro is a tunnel complex; essentially just a series of chokepoints.
It’s an unfortunate and very real problem for Metro 2033
that, when all else and said and done, the fact that it’s set in a series of pitch black tunnels is capable of both making and breaking the game. On the one hand, some areas are truly scary and the game really does make you feel that you’re entombed beneath the earth and running out of ways to survive. On the other hand, tunnels aren’t much fun to fight in and if you couple them with the abundant scripting then Metro 2033
starts to feel oppressively linear.
Thankfully, there’s enough innovation and uniqueness spattered throughout to keep things semi-memorable. Little touches, like being able to charge your headlamp with a portable generator to give it an extra boost of illumination, give Metro 2033
a tiny edge. Our favourite little tweak is the journal you carry around with you, which you have to hold a lighter next to in order to read if you forget where you’re going.
What do you mean 'Out of fuel?'
It’s worth hammering home that 4A Games has avoided nearly all of the pitfalls which most other Russian or Ukrainian developers (especially GSC GameWorld) stumble into too. Metro 2033
is a very accessible game in many ways and players don’t need to worry about overburdening their character or shoddily translated dialogue. Narration is given at every load screen so you know exactly what’s going on and tutorials mean you’re not swamped by over-elaborate mechanics that suffer from zero introduction.
Still, though Metro 2033
is far from being a flat-out bad game
, it’s plainly not a great one either. The main thing it has going for it, aside from the lush visuals which are nearly always drenched in shadow, is the uniqueness of the setting and story. The actual gameplay fluctuates too madly between thrills and chills but doesn’t manage to pull either off especially well. The combat, which is what you’d expect to spend most of your time doing, comes in spurts that are rarely any fun and which reduce Metro 2033
as a whole into a very moody, but ultimately lack-lustre shooter. There are some clever ideas at work here, but that’s not enough to make us want to play it.