After a year of silence we finally got another look at THQ’s Metro: Last Light, and it’s every bit as creepy as the first game. The demo started out with the first person view from a child's height as your character reached up towards a subway advertisement for ice cream and a motherly voice said “we’re here” a couple of times. Snapping back to harsh reality you hear a man in a clear Eastern European accent say “we’re here” as you push an ice cream advertisement-plastered metal sheet out of your way and move forward.
Luckily you aren’t a kid in this tough environment but an armed and dangerous adult searching for supplies with a similarly equipped friend. Something I noticed quickly was how the ammo clip was a skeleton so that the number of bullets inside was clearly seen. It’s an obvious reminder of just how precious your resources are. You and your partner in (survival necessitated) crime loot the room you come upon for anything useful including ammo clips and a couple of gas masks.
Donning the gas masks you venture outside into the rain which your partner comments he hasn’t seen in years. A watch tells you that you have five minutes until your mask is useless and needs to be replaced. Walking through the debris in order to remain hidden from (as of yet unseen) threats you come upon a wrecked plane which has been there since the disaster that started all this mess. Apparently it was flying to Moscow and crashed right at the door of a theatre. During the journey you catch glimpses of wolf-like creatures running just out of sight, and the foreshadowing is palpable.
Working through the remains your character appears to start losing his mind. Shadows without a source blink in and out of view and the airplane’s long deceased residents come to life for brief moments of screaming and panic. Clearly this isn’t a place the living are supposed to be. When the duo comes upon the cockpit an even more forceful hallucination appears of the pilots’ last moments.
Flying along without issue into the city they begin panicking when smoke starts to obscure their view after a bright flash of light. Once they descend past the smoke cloud they see that the city is not only launching missiles but is also the target of even more missiles. Explosions are tearing through the landscape all around until one lands too close to the aircraft and the cockpit windows shatter. All you hear is screaming until you awake from a daze and find your partner panicking without a gas mask on, talking about how he can’t breathe because of all the smoke.
Of course he’s hallucinating and the reason he can’t breathe is because he took off his gas mask. Not long after you save him he returns the favor when a giant flying monstrosity takes you kicking and screaming into its clutches because of a few misplaced shots from your high powered rifle. The duo run for their lives to the underground tunnel system and beg the guards at the gate to let them in before the pack of monsters tears them apart. The doors open and two men armed with flamethrowers cleanse the area behind them as they gratefully dive into safety.
Before the demo started the representatives from THQ mentioned that they were hoping Metro: Last Light would be a bid to combat shooter fatigue and that they were particularly proud of the attention to detail in Metro: Last Light, and I’d have to agree on both points. I loved how every weapon was obviously cobbled together rather than professionally assembled, how the flashlight kept its juice via a hand crank, and how the gas mask required the character to wipe it off when things got bloody and intense. More than any of that, though, I loved how the sense of scrounging and making do with little in a nightmare scenario was so prevalent. Survival horror games are few and far between these days with mainstay series in the genre eschewing the slower gameplay required for Survival Horror in favor of more action oriented gameplay. Everything is limited in Metro: Last Light, even the air you breathe, and it’s ironically a breath of fresh air.
The original Metro was an admittedly fantastic concept with some buggy moments and general polish issues keeping it from true greatness. If the developers can tighten up these faults then they’ll have a true gem on their hands. Here’s hoping they succeed.