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Metro: Last Light E3 2011 In-Depth Preview

As game journalists we’re all nihilistic and depressed. This is probably why we love post-apocalyptic games so much and Metro 2033 fitted in with our bleak world view perfectly. Its gameplay was gripping and challenging, offering something much darker than the ultra-generic shooters that currently dominate the market. Could this follow-up recapture that same atmosphere and threatening sense of survival that permeated every pixel of its predecessor?

Metro: Last Light

Sitting in an ominously lit abandoned train carriage for our hands-off demonstration, we were excited to learn that everything that was shown was live gameplay. Thankfully, Metro: Last Light did not disappoint and proved to be one of the most jaw-dropping experiences of E3. The follow-up takes place directly after the events of Metro 2033 and the ruins of Moscow are still a ravaged wasteland, but changes are beginning to take place. The ash cloud is beginning to gradually lift, the world is becoming less irradiated and the air is no longer toxic.

These developments were artfully shown with a flythrough of the devastated cityscape featuring some new small mutants feeding off the corpse of a Ranger and the return of the terrifying Demons swooping overhead. The already impressive graphics engine seems to have been improved upon and the exterior locations look far better than in Metro 2033. After detailing this changed apocalyptic landscape the camera focused on two individuals lifting a sewer cover before switching to the traditional immersive first-person the series is renowned for. Descending into the darkness was particularly tense and instantly brought back the claustrophobic feelings invoked by the last title.

Metro: Last Light

4A Games were quick to emphasise that this E3 demonstration was deliberately action packed to highlight the new advances in the combat. Fans of the series need not fear that the tension will be lost and there are going to be plenty of more subtle, chilling sections in the game that will hopefully be showcased in the future. After arriving at the bottom of the ladder, returning protagonist Artyom found himself in an underground tunnel. The way ahead was blocked by an enormous web covered in mutated, hairy spiders. Using his trusty bullet shaped cigarette lighter to ignite the creatures and burn the silk away he advanced to an ominous looking steel door which slowly began to open.

Acting quickly he silently unscrewed a nearby light bulb plunging the tunnel into darkness. Emerging from the opened door came a small patrol that began to search the tunnel, forcing Artyom to hide behind some boxes. This stealthy section was almost unbearably tense as the torches swept back and forth, almost detecting the crouching protagonist. Waiting for one of the men to turn his back, Artyom walked up behind him before brutally executing him leaving the remainder of the patrol none the wiser. Switching to a silenced pistol, he proceeded to dispatch several others with swift headshots before turning his attention to the steel door.

Metro: Last Light

Before heading through into an industrial checkpoint area that was manned by several enemies, he proceeded to begin to create cover in order to increase the odds in his favour. Shooting out several lights increased the darkness in the entrance and allowed him to advance right into the doorway. However a camp fire was still casting too much light to allow Artyom to progress, prompting him to shoot several rounds into a cooking pot suspended above. These caused the liquid inside to splash over the edges and extinguish the fire, which took everyone watching by surprise. Hopefully there will be more of these interactions in the game and this level of detail in creating a better environment for stealth.

Carefully making his way into the new area, Artyom patiently waited for guards to move away from their compatriots or get distracted. Once they had been separated he moved in for the kill while using several tables and crates for cover. However, this did not go entirely to plan and an enemy inside the guard checkpoint quickly became suspicious leading to a large-scale, very intense shoot-out. Artyom struck first, shooting the sentry in the head through the glass before he had time to react. Dashing inside, pausing to fire a few more shots at the opponents circling the building, he made it upstairs and recovered one of the highlights of the demonstration: a minigun.

Metro: Last Light

Grabbing this enormous weapon he quickly headed outside and opened fire, causing sheer devastation. The gun was so powerful it tore through the concrete cover his enemies were hiding behind, which was a great illustration of the new destructible terrain 4A Games have implemented. Even a wave of reinforcements couldn’t stop Artyom as he ripped through their numbers, setting fire to boxes and sending concrete fragments flying. As the last few enemies hit the floor this portion of the demonstration ended and it could not have made a bigger impact.

As the second portion loaded up, it was immediately clear that the factions inhabiting the Moscow Metro in Last Light would be returning. Artyom and a mysterious compatriot were seen trapped in a Neo-Nazi fascist station that was all too aware of their presence. Choosing to “hide in plain sight” the two brazenly walked through the corridors trying to avoid suspicious glances and being stopped to talk to. This was an unbelievably tense section, even more so than the previous stealth one, and was unlike anything that we’ve seen in a videogame for some time.

Metro: Last Light

The two eventually found themselves in a gigantic hall crammed full of fascists listening to a speaker preaching from a podium. This was so chilling that it created a sense of utter silence in the preview room and barely anyone seemed to breathe. As they slowly filtered through the crowd, jostling people out of the way and pushing forward people began to get more suspicious and turn and stare. Just when the tension couldn’t build anymore, Artyom’s partner suddenly fired into the air causing everyone to scatter leading to a death defying chase sequence, heavily reminiscent of “Armoury” section from Metro 2033.

Dashing through corridors while taking shots at the Nazis to keep them back had a lot of impact and a sequence in which your partner helps to carry you to a commandeered rail runner was particularly memorable. The next section seemed especially challenging and took the format of a, literally, on-rails shooter. Having to fight off various fortified trains packed with fascists was eye-watering and Artyom had to administer stims to restore his health in the same manner as the last game.

Metro: Last Light

A few new weapons were shown off, including a strange combination between a rifle and a sub-machine gun which was highly effective in mid-range shooting. Once enough of the fascists had been taken out, Artyom jumped onto their train leading to a close-quarters series of encounters that were truly brutal. Wielding a new pistol that fired shotgun rounds, Artyom fought his way through the train, one carriage at a time. This gun was so powerful at close quarters that most enemies were finished off in a single shot and pieces of the scenery went flying. It was a battle that not only showcased the improved combat but also the new particle and lighting effects.

The final area of the preview was again very different and demonstrated another characteristic aspect of the Metro universe: the mutants. Taking place in a dark cave littered with bodies and discarded weapons, Artyom faced off against a gigantic, 4-legged beast. With a bloated stomach and large forearms the creature smashed through scenery while attempting to crush him, forcing him to keep on the move as he unloaded clips of ammunition into it. Before much more could be glimpsed of this encounter, 4A Games faded out the picture and promised more at a later date.

Metro: Last Light

Metro: Last Light was a truly fantastic experience and was easily one of the highlights of the week. With so many other first-person shooters being unveiled and showcased it was even more impressive that this title managed to emerge as one of the best. The tension and claustrophobia invoked during the playthrough was truly superb and the improved combat options available provide even more player choice. While the playthrough was overwhelmingly action-orientated, the shooting seems definitely enhanced and we cannot wait to see more of the subtler, atmospheric side of the title. There aren’t many games at E3 which felt that they could supersede their predecessors but Metro: Last Light was undoubtedly one of these.

Metro: Last Light

evilgiraffeman | 15th June, 2011
Jessica's picture
Fantastic preview, Giraffe! Are there any other previews left to do?

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