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Metro 2033

 

Metro 2033

ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
 
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Author:

Publisher: THQ
Developer: 4A Games

Features:
Players: 1
2MB to Game Save
HDTV: 720p/1080i/1080p
Custom Soundtracks
In-Game Dolby Digital

A couple of months ago I had a chance to preview THQ’s Metro 2033. At the time I was left with some mixed impressions. On one hand, the visuals could be stunning at times, the storyline was engaging, and some of the intense moments during the first few chapters of the game had me on the edge of my seat. On the other hand, the lack of ammunition, problematic control scheme, and frustrating trial and error chokepoints had me questioning whether this original title would catch on with gamers across the globe. Well, Metro 2033 is finally out in stores and surprisingly some of the concerns I had when I originally previewed it seem to have been addressed. But is this worth your hard earned cash? After some extended playtime there is no doubt Metro 2033 is one of the most engaging and intense games I have played on the Xbox 360 in recent memory and I would say yes.

Visuals

Overall, Metro 2033 for the Xbox 360 is a good looking game and certainly much better than I anticipated. That being said, the games overall look is by no means Gears of War 2 or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 quality. In fact, Metro 2033 has a somewhat dated look but this is not a bad thing as I believe it has been done intentionally. Bottomline, there is no question the visuals lends itself to the creepy and nightmarish feel of the game.

The first thing that jumped out at me when I gave the final version of the game a spin was the level of detail in each of the post-apocalyptic metro cities found inside the ruins of the metro subway system. The labyrinth of underground rail has become a microcosm of human civilization and the game does a wonderful job presenting each city with its own identify, beliefs, and unique look. As you navigate your way through tight corridors and abandoned subway stops, the level design is incredible. You truly have to take your time when you travel across some of these areas just to appreciate the attention to detail the developers gave to each metro city. From the images of people listening to a hobo playing guitar to a couple arguing in a small closet sized room, the attention paid in bringing things like this to life with is simply stunning.

When you depart the relatively safe confines of the city-like environments and head into the metro tunnels, all of the sudden your sense of security vanishes and it is replaced with a claustrophobic and unsettling feeling. The tight dark tunnels and narrow walkways literally send chills down your spine. The overall look of the dreary ruined tunnels is very effective as it creates a very creepy atmosphere. Often the game can appear a little too dark at times; however, you can adjust the brightness in the options menu.

When you venture out into the tunnels you get your first extended look at the games enemies you will notice that while the features and detail of each of the enemies is decent, the lack of variety of such hurts the game somewhat. Far too often you run into the same enemy mutants over and over again. I would have liked to have seen a little more variety in this area. As for the games human characters, the designs and detail is impressive with lots of variety from one character to the next and there is also a lot of detail in their post-apocalyptic outfits. Clearly a lot of time was spent developing the human characters and it really shows.

The lighting and fogging effects is also something I was quite impressed with. The realtime reflective lighting is noticeable when the game changes from day to night. Everything from shiny surfaces to your vision correcting itself as you move from a dark area to a bright one was something I was quite taken back by. All in all, the games visuals are strong and 4A games should be proud of their custom graphics engine which was built from the ground up.

Sound

The audio in Metro 2033 is yet another great point to this game and all the sounds included in it make for an engrossing experience. First off, the soundtrack was perfectly matched for each level and pivotal to each scene I experienced. The music is somewhat melancholy and dreary, but it is perfectly suited for a game where characters have nothing left as their entire world has been reduced to a series of subway stops. Being a survival horror type game with some RPG and shooter elements, I expected some of those predictable or generic swooping orchestral tunes to be prominent in he game, but fortunately this is not the case as each track is original and suited for this specific game. Overall, I would have to give the games soundtrack top marks.

The voice acting utilized throughout the game's storey is also pretty well done too. A gigantic part of Metro 2033 is the narrative that unfolds and the voice actors and narrator with their Russian accents do a fabulous job conveying the storyline. For those who really want to get immersed into the experience, you can also play the game with Russian voice acting turned on and English subtitles displayed at the bottom. I preferred the English version with Russian accents; however, the Russian dialogue is a nice and rare option nonetheless for some of those hardcore gamers out there. In terms of the games voice acting I found the characters created the perfect atmosphere and you really feel like you are involved in the struggle with the people of the underground cities. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the voices added to the story unfolding in front of me. Nothing was cheesy or corny about the voice acting which is something we can’t say about too many other shooters already on the market.

As for the rest of the sound effects, they too are also first-rate. From the various 'homemade' weapons to the sounds of the mutant enemies lurking and echoing in the distance, each was specific to what it was supposed to be and nothing sounded generic. Explosions were also plentiful and very boomy too. It is also worth noting that the sound of the mutants getting slaughtered also caused me to wince one in a while. For those with a 5.1 Dolby Digital set-up you definitely won't be disappointed as directional effects are very evident throughout and the subwoofer will get a nice workout all the way through the game.

Gameplay

Metro 2033 is based on the popular Eastern European cult novel of the same name from Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It has recently been translated into English and released onto store shelves the same time the game was released. As with the novel's story, the game takes place in a shattered underground subway in a post apocalyptic Moscow. In 2013 the world is devastated by an apocalyptic event which wipes out almost all of mankind and turns the world into a poisonous radiated wasteland. Those that survived took refuge into the depths of the Moscow underground subway system. Approximately 40,000 people survived the blast as the rest of civilization was decimated. Twenty years later, in 2033, an entire generation has been born and essentially raised below ground in Moscow's metro subway system. Each stop along the miles and miles of subway tracks has its own culture with its own views, ideologies, and agendas. In many ways these metro cities have turned into small states with their own belief systems. It is a unique concept as the people of the underground attempt to re-create their own civilizations and identity. Each of these individual areas seems to have its own little daily routines and visions, making for a story that is intriguing right from the get-go. While life goes on down below things are different above ground. On the surface mutant horrors patrol the radioactive and poisonous land and it is not a safe environment at all.

Metro 2033 is strictly a single player affair and does not feature any multiplayer component. During your adventure you take on the role of Artyom who was born just after the apocalyptic events final days. Given the time of his birth he was raised underground in the metro cities. Artyom has never ventured beyond the Metro Station City limits, but one event sparks a desperate mission to the heart of the metro system and so the adventure begins. I will have to stop here before I give anything else away.
That being said, there is also a mythical element to the story. The game features creatures called the “Dark Ones”. These beings do not attack physically but rather they attack one’s psyche. These foes affect characters in the game as they cast individuals into a weird state of dementia and it adds a whole new style to the genre. Trust me, once you experience it you will know what I mean

Overall, the storyline is arguably one the best and most engaging storylines I have played on the Xbox 360 to date. The story really immerses you in the game and very much reminds me of 2K’s Prey and or Bethesda's Fallout 3. The mythical elements where your character falls into this unconscious dream-like state greeted by an alien like figure was an intriguing aspect of the game's storyline. As you progress in the nature of these mysterious sequences is explained and certainly offers up a nice twist compared to some of the other run of the mill shooters already out there.

Although Metro 2033 is a linear game it does offer up a decent amount of exploration and depth. There are also some puzzle elements too. Some of the decisions you make affect the outcome giving it an RPG element, which again affects the overall linear feel of the game. There is also an alternate ending, separate of the ending found in the novel, which gives the game some replay value. In terms of the overall gameplay style, you will find that you spend the majority of the time blasting enemies and travelling from one city environment to the next. Although Metro 2033 feels like a typical shooter it has many distinguishing features which really separates it from the rest of the pack.

The single player experience takes approximately 15 hours. 70% of the gameplay takes place beneath the ground in the subway cities and tunnels while the other 30% takes place above ground in the mutant infested world. It is a perfect mix of environments and I found that given the linear nature of the game that 15-hours seems like just the right length. While there is some replay value (e.g. alternate ending, exploration, etc), most will likely trade this one in after they have completed the game. Yet for those who enjoy taking their time searching for ammunition, gas filters, health, looting dead bodies, and simply listening to the in-game chatter which goes on in the metro cities, then Metro 2033 might have you coming back for more.

A concern I had a couple of months back when I previewed the game regarded the sparse ammunition. At that time ammunition was in short supply which made for a frustrating experience. This seems to have been addressed in the final retail copy. Ammunition, while still sparse, does not feel as meager as it did in the preview build I played. Conserving your ammunition, which is considered extremely valuable to the underground people, is still critical to your success, but it is no longer a deal breaker per se. I found that I would still run low on ammo from time to time; however, with the easy weapon navigation system I was able to swap weapons with ease and see how much ammo I had left, and the overall feel of the rare ammo appearance was not as bad as during the preview. Mastering the knife is still one of your best main lines of defense, but no longer are you getting trapped with no ammo as enemies swarm all over you.

In terms of the games weaponry, Metro 2033 takes an interesting approach unlike I have seen in recent years. Many of the weapons in the game have been designed and built by the people of the underground so they are not as accurate or calibrated like those weapons built in the pre-apocalyptic world. It makes for an interesting twist in the game. The earlier levels and weapons take many rounds to down the enemies, but as you venture deeper into the game this changes. Some of these makeshift homemade weapons are quite cool and I found that there is a level of satisfaction in purchasing some of these raw weapons. As I traversed the early levels I was looking forward to a point where I would actually pick up a weapon which did some serious damage. I can say that by the time you hit the third chapter in the game, you get your hands on an automatic weapon which is rewarding to say the least.


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