Review: Metro 2033 (PC, Xbox 360)April 19th, 2010 | Written by Josh Schwartzman | Topic: PC, Reviews, Xbox 360
Imagine a world reduced to rubble where humanity’s last citizens seek shelter in an underground metro system, clinging to the hope of one day returning to the surface and beginning life anew. Metro 2033 delivers this tale with stunning clarity, showcasing just what it would be like for humans to live out their lives afraid of what lies above them and scared for what lives with them below in the tunnels. While Metro 2033 exhibits an impressive visceral experience, there are some gameplay flaws that make this story frustrating at times, but overall it’s an exciting adventure that will have you playing till the very end.
Inspired by a book of the same name, Metro 2033 tells the story of a Russian land ravaged by the effects of nuclear war causing all of the surviving citizens to make the metro system below the earth their new home. You control Artyom, a citizen born in the metro system who is thrust into an adventure after a group of mutated beasts attacks his home. Artyom soon travels to different locations both above and below the earth in search of answers.
The story is one of the high points in the game, with a narrative that sets the mood of human turmoil and survival. Your world is broken, the areas in which you visit are always dark and gloomy and the creatures you meet are always mutated or incensed with anger. It’s a tough world to live in and the game does a fantastic job of making you feel like you could die with every step you take. The underground metro system is where Artyom will spend most of his journey as he ventures to the train depot Polis to ask for help with anyone who can help fend off the mutated beasts attacking Artyom’s home town of Exhibition. Much of the game is spent with Artyom making his way to Polis but he does make frequent stops above land to search for clues on how to stop the mutated beast threat once and for all.
These adventures above ground are in some ways more dangerous than being stuck below ground. For starters the air is still contaminated with radioactive materials so Artyom must constantly wear a gas mask to keep him alive. Wearing this gas mask is vital to Artyom’s survival so making sure you remain alert to your surroundings is necessary. The gas mask is not invincible however, and it will break on occasion during battles. When this happens, Artyom must find a new one to replace or else he will simply suffocate to death. Luckily most of the dead enemies scattered around the world carry an extra gas mask for you to pick up, but knowing when to remove your gas mask during battle so it doesn’t get damaged could determine just how easy your path ahead could be.
Because the world Artyom lives in was destroyed, supplies are hard to come by. There are several community outposts throughout the metro which Artyom can stock up on new weapons, ammo, gear and such but none of this is really necessary since you will encounter plenty of fallen enemies who will gladly give you the supplies they no longer need. The idea of these outposts is a great idea but in essence they serve only as a means to advance the story rather than give Artyom the tools necessary to survive.
Although the items you need throughout the game are heavily available for you, ammo is perhaps the one item that could potentially run out depending on how you use it. There are two types of ammo available, dirty and military grade. Military grade ammo are bullets which were made before the destruction and are of the highest quality. Because of such, they are also used as your currency and can be exchanged to buy goods. Most weapons use dirty rounds which are less effective and made by the people of the metro, but some of the weapons can also use the military grade ammo for better accuracy and damage. The choice is yours on how you want to defeat your enemies, because using dirty ammo will take longer and is less effective but military round will knock them down quick but reduce the amount of money you have to spend. It’s a tough decision and a solid gameplay component that affects how you play the game.
While most of the game is surprisingly well balanced, the one aspect of the game that falters is the combat. The enemies of the world all attack in the same manner, constant rushing. They will lunge, slash and bite you without end which will leave you fighting for your life in nearly every battle you encounter. To make things worse the weapons all lack any sort of accurate targeting reticule, cause sometimes looking down the iron sights usually fires in a direction opposite of where you are looking. Also, once you start fighting human enemies it seems their armor is almost impenetrable, sometimes taking upwards of twenty bullets to take one guy down. For a game that focuses on careful use of your ammo, these situations could become immensely frustrating when an enemy simply will not fall after five or so repeated shotgun blasts to the head.
The combat is not all broken as you can remain silent and try to kill your enemies with throwing knives and such, but it seems the enemy can see you across the room, in pitch black, without making a sound. We are all up for a challenge, but sometimes making certain situations daunting could make gamers frustrated.
Metro 2033 does sport some of the best audio sounds in a game of this style. Artyom’s constant breathing will let you know of his current state of mind, whether he is simply tired from running or about to die, in which case he will start panting heavily. The sometimes silent and somber atmosphere plays out well where you can hear water dropping, distant bellowing shrieks and sometimes nothing at all, which helps give out an almost chilling vibe. The voice acting is also pretty solid, with suitable Russian accents for all the characters and the bustling depot stations full of life and talkative chatter. The visuals sometimes have the same amount of tenacity as the audio, with never a slowdown and some impressively detailed areas, but the enemies lack a sense of originality amongst themselves and some of the areas above ground all look the same as composed to a series of tunnels that look different as you venture on through the game.
With only about ten hours of story and no multiplayer it might be hard to recommend asking price for Metro 2033, but the story and audio is solid enough for anyone to have an enjoyable time. The atmosphere is perfect for anyone who loved Fallout 3 and although the combat takes some getting used to and could be frustrating for some, Metro 2033 is an exciting adventure that will keep you hooked until the end.