Metro 2033 (PC) Review

Post-apocalyptic games have become the new black in the games industry over the last couple of years. Most of them are not worth mentioning, however, thanks in part to poor quality control. Nevertheless, the ones that are good are extremely good. Metro 2033 is yet another game that depicts the vision of a post-apocalyptic Moscow through the words of Dmitry Glukhovsky, a Russian author. It does so with such friendliness and comfort that it feels like an old friend is recounting strange tales he heard from his travels abroad. The book’s Russian version has sold hundreds of thousands of copies; it is available in English as well. The game itself was made by 4A Games, which is composed of STALKER alumnus, who skillfully transferred the words of Glukhovsky to the bits and bytes that you can see and experience on your computer screen. Yes, the game is good, though it has some rough edges.

The game, staying true to the book, follows the exploits of Artyom, a survivor of the apocalypse, who was raised in Moscow’s underground tunnels after the world above was destroyed by a nuclear holocaust. Moscow’s Metro system is the humans’ last refuge and is host to various feuding societies who fight each other as well as horrible mutants. The Dark Ones, creepy shadows that are referred to as “Homo Novus” early on in the game, join the fray with their psychic attacks. We follow (around) a week in Artyom’s life as he takes on bandits, Nazis, mutants and other horrible things as he travels from station to station to fulfill his promise to a certain someone.

Death and decay are the foundations upon which the world of Metro 2033 is based upon. The Metro is shown to be a decaying, filthy place with people living in cramped quarters. There appears to be dust and excrement everywhere, people smell of sweat and fear (overactive imagination does that to you) and almost every object in the world has a grimy, grungy appearance. The world outside the stations is worse: dead bodies are littered across the dark, dreary railways and corridors; bridges and metal structures are breaking down from disuse and non-maintenance. While all this may sound bad, it makes for an interesting world to experience. Children cry, people sing and chat about daily life, men barter for food – all these give the stations a sense of humanity and life that is ever-so-void in other games in the genre. It also makes them feel like home, as if somewhere you could actually live if nuclear warfare suddenly became real. It also makes them appear safe as the world outside is harsh and cruel: the Metro is infested with mutants and the world above is a frozen, poisonous wasteland that is home to even more horrific mutations.

The surface is played out interestingly in the game. Once you get to the surface, you have to put on a gasmask to survive. This induces yet another bout of claustrophobia as the mask reduces your vision and the constant breathing reminds you of your vulnerability outside. The game is very linear and this linearity is shown best when on the surface – the game renders a huge map, but sets you on a path that feels almost like a corridor despite the environment looking so expansive. This linearity is good in the sense that it has given the developers tight control of what you get to experience, and what a glorious experience it is! One memorable experience I had was early on in the game where you accompany three NPCs to a nearby station on a manual carriage. Everyone is knocked out by the presence of The Dark One except you, and it is up to you to defend the others while waves of mutants slowly descend on the now-stopped carriage.

Gameplay is standard shooter-fare. You can load a certain number of guns which handle just the way you would expect them to. Metro 2033 is unique in the sense that it provides you two options to kill bad guys: you can use prewar military rounds or home-made “dirty” rounds. Money has been made obsolete due to the world being wiped out, so the new currency is the very rare military rounds that deal more damage to humans and mutants alike. “Dirty” rounds are made after the war and they are of poorer quality, dealing lesser damage. With prewar ammunition you can buy other important things such as medkits, gasmask filters and so on. Ammo can be found on corpses littered throughout the world, but prewar rounds are very rare. It is up to you to decide which type of ammo you will be using.

Artyom isn’t a superhero by a long shot, which means he won’t be able to survive for long when under fire. This calls for a stealthy approach in certain missions. Of course, there is always the option of going Sylvester Stallone on everyone, so action purists can also have fun. The stealth sections are frustrating as I felt they had not been developed to their full potential. Despite this, a change of pace is always welcome. On a related note, another frustrating aspect is the way you can view objectives and the way you should go. You can’t hold your weapon and view the compass at the same time, and switching back and forth felt cumbersome and slow.

Metro 2033 is a sight to behold. The post-apocalyptic world is rendered beautifully. Enemies and NPCs are both executed well and animations are good, if not great. The decaying walls, the grimy guns, the smoke that hangs in the air after you shoot – all these tiny little details add to the experience. Light and shadows are placed brilliantly to immerse you completely into the arid, cancerous world.

4A Games has done very well for its debut title. While there are obvious shortcomings, they are trounced by the way they have manufactured such an interesting world that is so full of life and danger. If you want a shooter that guides you through a memorable and cinematic experience then this is definitely the game for you. Otherwise stay clear and stick to your multiplayer shooter of choice.


  1. Pingback: M2033 Review Link | BDGamer

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