Review: Metro 2033

Screenshot: Metro 2033’s underground society coming together around the fire, listening to music and hearing stories.
Written By: Elijah Moon Blackwell

Darkness consumed the tunnel. I could hear the sounds of monsters running about. I was ready to react. All of a sudden a horrendous beast begins to charge me. Behind it, a horde of creatures rush to aid the pack leader. No amount of preparation was enough, my hand still shook and my whole body jolted.

Somehow I kill the beasts while only taking a small amount of damage. I continue down the derelict subway tunnel, eventually meeting fellow humans. In the back of mind I remember fighting bandits and other scum of the underground. I couldn’t relax, even if these guys were being friendly.

That’s Metro 2033.

Released in 2010, I didn’t play Metro 2033 till a few years later. It wasn’t till my brother visited that I got truly exposed to the game. He was playing it on his Xbox 360.

I was amazed by the game. The atmosphere, the graphics and playing as Russians instead of them being the enemy was truly fascinating. I had him drive me to GameStop so I could get the PlayStation 3 version. I was devastated to find out that Metro 2033 was not on PlayStation 3.

It wasn’t till I got a gaming capable laptop that I was able to play the entirety of Metro 2033. The wait was worth it. Today, the gem proudly sits somewhere on my Top 50 games of all-time list. I should publish that one day.

2010 was smack dab in the middle of PlayStation 3’s life span in North America. By this time I had played Fallout 3 so much that I could quote 90% of the game on the fly. Fallout: New Vegas came out in 2010, which I got at a midnight release event at my local GameStop. Red Dead Redemption and Dead Rising 2 both came out in that same year as well. I have a giant grin while typing this because 2010 was such a good year for releases.

Open world games was the trend for me. Before 2010 I had played Saints Row 2, the Saboteur and the best the forgotten exclusive Infamous. My teenager self wouldn’t give a game a second glance if open world wasn’t in the formula. Ridiculous, I know, but I wasn’t alone. It seemed that every big game being thrown in your face was either a Call of Duty or some open world game. The games being discussed at school were also one of the two.

I missed out on a lot of classics including Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. Today open world games do not have the same effect on me. Maybe it’s because I don’t have time to play them or maybe it’s because open world games over saturated the industry and make me tired. Regardless, in 2010 I was an open world fiend.

Metro 2033 is not open world. It follows the events in a novel of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The novel expands into two sequels. The English translations of the books took some time. For example, the novel Metro 2034 did not get an English edition till 2014. The original Russian version was published in 2009.

The story is quite simple at the beginning. Russia got nuked and, to escape the desolate radioactive surface, the surviving population stayed underground. The metro tunnels were populated with differing factions and people. Not only is the radiation a problem, but mutants were spawned after the explosions. These mutants are violent and relentless. Without spoiling any more of the plot, fellow humans also become a problem for the main protagonist.

The player will carry out specific objectives each level. There are weapons you can find, but you can buy weapons from vendors in particular settlements. The currency is high grade ammunition. Use your cheap bullets so you can buy from vendors or use your currency ammunition to guarantee a quick kill. Me personally, I always hoarded my currency ammo.

Because the video game is an adaptation of the novel, the developers probably took the linear route to stay true to the original work.

However, the linearity does not feel restrictive in terms of gameplay. Take a Call of Duty game. The setting is often times in a city or village. As a kid I’ve always wanted to explore the area but there was always a path you had to take. So many buildings and areas I wanted to run through but nope, an invisible wall blocked me from proceeding. In Metro, however, the surrounding world and lore sort of explained the linear route. Collapsed subway tunnels makes a lot of sense and explain why you can’t just go anywhere you want.

It brought back a new reason to seek a linear experience instead of being addicted to the new open world norm.

There is no tacked on RPG element, just you and your weapons.

The horror element is atmospheric with a touch of intensifying encounters with man and beast. Not many jump scares, just pure horror. Among the monster horror you have terrifying moments such as running into a room full of cells holding malnourished prisoners. You will never expect some of the horrors that lie below Russia.

You do travel to the surface but that is an experience you need to try for yourself without much spoiling.

Last Light would be the next game released and it was pretty good. By this time the initial shock sort of wore of and I knew what to expect. The game did dish out some surprises, but for the most part, I knew what was coming.

In February, Exodus releases. Sadly, the game is taking an open world approach this time. It could be a good addition and the developers may have made it a unique experience but we can only speculate for now. Also, Exodus takes place mainly on the surface this time judging by gameplay demos. Both factors stray away from the whole reason I fell in love with 2033. Again, only time will tell. Maybe I will enjoy it more than the previous games!

Lastly, the terrible fate of Metro: 2033. Yes, even though I praise this game there is a downfall. There was a weird period of gaming where newer games were getting “redux” or “definitive” rereleases. From Sleeping Dogs to Metro: 2033 and Last Light there was quite of few games getting rereleased.

In terms of Metro: 2033, the game did get a huge overhaul. It wasn’t just a cash grab; the game was completely remade in the new version of the 4A engine. Not only were the graphics different, but the gameplay and overall mechanics were altered.

Simply put, 2033 got all the additions Last Light received.

This does sound good doesn’t it? Unfortunately it did not pan out as well as I expected.

Generally, the community seems to be okay with it. On Steam, the game has very positive reviews. If you were to read the reviews, you’ll notice that it’s either people who’ve never played the original or those who say it’s a great experience, but still prefer the original.

I must say I agree. The redux version isn’t bad by no means, but there is some minor pet peeves that drive me wild.

One in particular is the graphics. The original graphics were atmospheric and dark. The new graphics seem brighter and almost cleaner. On top of this, the post processing effects give the game what I like to call Battlefield 3 syndrome. This is where the lens flares, light shafts and other graphical “enhances” add a more Hollywood action movie style feel.

The below two photos show a difference in NPC appearance. Why this was a conscious decision I do not know. The top one is Metro 2033 while the bottom is Metro 2033 Redux.

2015-01-25_00005

2015-10-27_00023

The game does look better if you are seeking a more gorgeous experience, but the dark and dry graphics of the original iteration add so much more to the horror element.

Weapon customization was also added. Seeing as the original didn’t have room for it to begin with, it just feels tacked on and honestly useless.

The biggest crime, however, is the replacement of voice actors. Some of the original voice actors are replaced with newer ones. The most notable are the children. The redux children do not have matching voices. It is quite odd and breaks immersion.

For me, the redux version is also easier. Shadows during stealth segments are even more powerful, rendering you practically invisible.

Sadly, the only way to play the original is with a CD-ROM or with a Ps3 or 360. The redux version replaced the originals on Steam. If you purchased the original before the redux treatment then you can install and play it.

Whether it’d be redux or the original, the game is still an incredible masterpiece that continues to be overshadowed by more popular multiplayer or open world games.

This October, do yourself a favor and play the amazing Metro: 2033.

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