Denny Markovic
31 Mar, 2010

Metro 2033 Review

PC Review | Not that kind of 'metro'.
Dark, moody and depressing seem to be the top three feelings you get when playing your modern shooter. With most focusing solely on the ‘war’ aspect and a serious obsession with the colour brown, one can’t really expect much of a big difference when it comes down to comparisons, and let’s face it, shooters haven’t really evolved much for quite some time. But with that said, sometimes a shooter may come along and show us a bit of a discerning difference or take a different approach to things, and in this case it’s Metro 2033. Ironically enough, Metro also tends to follow the Dark, moody and awfully depressing trend, but in Metro’s defence, it’s rather unique in its experience and dare we say it, a step above other shooters in some aspects.

Metro follows its story through the eyes of Artyom, a man who has never really seen the outside world, as he’s been raised since birth in the metro tunnels of Moscow. This is due to the world above being a nuclear wasteland, littered with mutants and mysterious beings known only as “The Dark Ones”. Recent events implicating the imminent destruction of his home sends him on a rather difficult journey into finding a solution, and off he goes into what essentially boils down to a story about saving the world.

To the story’s credit, most of the narrative and the progression is quite well told. It actually begins close to completion, as Artyom essentially recounts the events prior, which is what you play through. Voice acting can be a little shaky at points, with rough Russian accents and broken English being thrown about sometimes with taste and other times with amateurism. Sometimes it’s a little difficult to decipher what exactly is going on and why you’re doing certain things, but for the most part, narrative incentive is quite good.

Alright..alright, I'll shake your hand for GETTING it on consoles.

Alright..alright, I'll shake your hand for GETTING it on consoles.
Thankfully with the solid narrative comes a compelling and enjoyable gameplay experience too, so players won’t feel cheated having a good story with shoddy mechanics. Metro ultimately plays out much like a standard shooter, but with its own bells and whistles flailing about wildly to enhance and set itself apart from other titles. Outside environments and many tunnels are uninhabitable, so a watchful eye on whether you need a gas mask on or not is always necessary; plus add in the fact that your air is limited in supply, and you have yourself a lifeline that’s stuck in the back of your mind throughout the whole game. It’s small, but effective in building tension in what is already, an incredibly intense game.

And this is what we think is the punch line of Metro; it’s a bloody tense and mostly unforgettable game. Atmosphere and immersion factors are at an all time high, and for a game that is based mostly in dark corridors and occasional (and absolutely gorgeous, mind you) outside environments, this is quite a feat. Attention to detail is everywhere throughout most levels, where you’ll suddenly hear scuttling and witness shadows on the wall that are simply infeasible that heighten the tension and fear factor of going through an extremely quiet tunnel. Lights will flicker on a random note and mutants and monsters will sometimes only watch you from afar, with you constantly on your feet, afraid that they might suddenly disappear and ambush you. There are many, many moments like this throughout the 12 or so hour campaign that will simply put make your spine shiver, with some later levels in particular really playing around with your focus and fears. It has an atmosphere that sets it apart from many shooters, but with that, comes its other flaws that bring it down.

The first issue that jumped out at us was the AI. While AI for monsters and such was quite solid and expectedly animalistic, human AI left much to be desired. Sometimes, enemies seem a little clueless and tend to just sit in cover, regardless of the fact that you’re behind them. Other times, they’ll have the eyes of a hawk and spot you in the dark from a mile away, or worse yet, hear the smallest of footsteps and instantly react to it with aggression. It’s an inconsistency that rears its ugly head in certain levels, which are mostly ones to do with stealth.

Don't take a Russian man's vodka. This is what happens.

Don't take a Russian man's vodka. This is what happens.
Which is another incredibly frustrating issue with the game. The stealth portions simply suck. Avoiding traps, noise-making objects on the floor and light is the easy part; it’s the combination of AI with automatic lock on devices and very cluttered level design that’s the infuriating part. Attempting to actually get through a section without being seen is quite an achievement in itself, as most of the time you’ll get tired of being seen for no apparent reason, and just go all out Rambo on everything. This, of course, isn’t the strongest of options considering the levels are usually closed in, and stealth sections have an ungodly amount of enemies, so either way, you’re in for a frustrating ride. With that said though, there are only two major stealth sections of the game, so you’ll thankfully not have to go through the pain of trying to be a stealthy assassin against lock-on AI.

On a technical note, Metro 2033 is quite a strong title, especially on the PC. Visually, textures are very highly detailed, artistically it’s sound, and the lighting/particles are stunning. Light will stream through the smallest of crevices with noticeable dust particles scattering through it, and this lighting setup is very much a big reason why Metro 2033 can be so immersive. Light is, and always will be one of the absolute make or break factors when it comes to immersing someone into a world, and Metro pulls the immersion off almost effortlessly with its light.

With that said though, the technical hoo-ha of the game is marred down quite a bit by its model work and animation. Model work, while mostly good (particularly if you run a DirectX 11 card for the PC, due to the new ‘tessellation’ technology), sometimes feels disjointed and ‘detached’ from the world, giving it an eerie sense of 'you don’t really belong here'. The animation further pushes it lower, with some stiff and badly timed expressions in many characters, which doesn’t help in bringing life to a character’s personality. However, unless one is very pedantic of these things, it won’t be a big hindrance from what is ultimately a very good looking game.


But with the looks, you require a lot of power, and Metro 2033 certainly asks for a lot. Running a Quad Core, 4GB of RAM and a Radeon HD5850 DX11 card, we were able to run Metro at ‘high’ with a resolution of 1920x1200 smoothly. The ‘highest’ setting was nigh on unplayable however, so for the enthusiasts wishing for the absolute top end clarity, you’d best start blowing a lot of money on an even more powerful setup. We also got to test out the Xbox 360 version of the game and the clear winner by a big margin is PC when it comes to clarity, the 360 one rivalling that of low settings, if not slightly higher. With that said though, it’s not ‘bad’ looking on the 360, but after laying eyes on the game in full swing on a high end setup, you may end up slightly disappointed.

Metro 2033 is likely going to spawn a cult following, particularly because it’s such an absorbing and unique title in its storytelling mechanics. You will be genuinely intimidated and at times, almost be ready to stop playing for a moment as things can get very, very intense. The scene is dark, moody and depressing but for all the right reasons, as it’s inspired, has a solid direction and has meaning behind its tone. And that is ultimately the kicker for Metro and what sets it apart from many shooters on the market. While not too different in its gameplay mechanics, Metro is an experience that probably won’t scar you, but can certainly leave an impression that you won’t soon forget. If you can look past its shortcomings, you’re in for a tense ride.
The Score
While some areas tend to fall flat and the world can sometimes feel a bit disjointed, Metro 2033 is a unique and unforgettable experience. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 years ago
Spot on review Denny. Some may say the game starts fairly slowly, and it does to some extent, but once it picks up it doesn't slow down. Most of the game is spent in darkness (which sometimes can be a bit frustrating, as you squint to spot items and enemies) and is probably the most suspenseful FPS for quite some time (System Shock 2 is still my all time favourite). The length is spot on, not too long and not too short, although some may complain about the lack of multiplayer (I didn't; not all games need multiplayer).

My grievances with the game were with a) the stealth parts, due to the dodgy human AI, b) the under utilisation of the weapon upgrade system, and c) the end part of the game.

If you have a decent PC, as the game scales fairly well, you'll have a more enjoyable experience on that platform rather than a console. Regardless, the game should not be skipped.

And for those wondering how it plays like, I felt it to be a mix of F.E.A.R. and Half Life 2.
4 years ago
After my initial install failed (a physx issue - not sure why but there are many people who seem to be in the same boat) I was a little worried about the quality of the game. But once I got it up and running, the game is worth playing icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
Oh yeh, I had the same problem trixSTAR. A quick Google points you towards the solution, but still, not a great first impression icon_wink.gif
4 years ago
Denny wrote
and for a game that is based mostly in dark corridors and occasional (and absolutely gorgeous, mind you) outside environments
That's pretty much the only thing holding me back from getting this. Did you get sick of going through tunnel after tunnel by the end? I'm sure the atmosphere, immersion and setpieces go a long way in alleviating that feeling, but did the repetitive environments bother you?

If it's not an issue, I'll definitely get it. It looks exactly like the type of shooter I love, where story, atmosphere and immersion are at the forefront.
4 years ago
I finished it last night, I didn't find the environments repetitive at all, really. It's not at all "same environment over and over", the game is constantly changing and shifting to a different style and themed environments and enemies. Not once did I go "oh great, ANOTHER tunnel". Hell, I would've LOVED another 10 hours of it!
4 years ago
yeah, but a little eerie too. The silhouettes of apparitions.. spooky.
get a big HD screen, dark room and surround sound speakers. Very immersive.
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Australian Release Date:
  18/03/2010 (Confirmed)
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