|Metro: Last Light
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: 4A Games
ESRB Rating: M, for Mature
Grade: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
At the conclusion of “Metro 2033,” you were given a choice to make: hope or destruction. I chose the more positive route, relatively speaking, considering the apocalyptic nature of the story. But “Last Light” assumes I’m otherwise coldhearted and opens with the death-dealing nuclear-missile strike. Sadly, not long after the opening sequences you discover that the Dark Ones were not extinguished, thus thrusting you back into a desperate game of quiet, but intense, survival.
You continue the role of Artyom, once a lowly Russian survivor but now a trained killer over the course of “2033” and the time that precedes “Last Light.” The strength of the game lies in its narrative, and how it superbly paces you throughout the game. Rather than a nonstop barrage of room-clearing shootouts, you are given time to catch your breath and converse with other survivors. The small enclosures where bands of people are struggling to survive allow for interesting moments of levity and depth. This means when everything inevitably gets violent, you care a bit more about these people’s survival.
And yes, there will be guns and shootouts. The tight quarters of the underground subway system set the scene for creaky noises in the distance that put you on high alert, then trick your senses with potential sounds and movement in the shadows that may turn out to be nothing at all. Or you may flick your flashlight or lighter to the side and discover that a creature is about to rip off your face. Clearly, you should wait until 1 a.m. to start playing and let the atmosphere of the tunnels suck you in and appropriately scare you.
Thankfully, as survivalists you are given tools to survive. Fighting off Dark Ones with your bare hands would be futile, so guns are usually available. Unfortunately, ammo is harder to come across, which often leaves you with tough choices on how to proceed. You’ll likely choose darkness and stealth as your trusty companions, saving the bullets for larger encounters. Patience pays off for those willing to hoard bullets; an itchy trigger finger is not your friend.
Dark Ones are not your only foes. Other soldiers and survivors sometimes must see the pointy end of your blade. Environmental tricks allow you to shut off lights or create distractions to evade detection, and using them makes for smart gaming. One advantage is that the intelligence of the characters often mimics that of a rusty doorknob, so getting the advantage won’t prove terribly difficult.
You have to emerge and scour the surface for items and weapons, but just because nuclear fallout has left the landscape in desolation does not mean you get easy passage to your destination. Dark Ones scour the ruins as well, and when not fending them off you desperately hunt for new filters for your gas mask to keep your oxygen clean — because this isn’t exactly eco-friendly living. So the times you get to see the sunlight are precious and lovely to take in before chaos again shatters the silence.
Ignorant enemy AI and some closing chapters to the story keep “Last Light” from achieving legendary game status. But this survival-action effort is absolutely worth your time.