It’s mortifying to be cheated and robbed by a hooker in a videogame. I mean, sure, if it happens in real life, I guess it’s to be expected. But when you’re playing a game where survival is a daily challenge, where ammunition is money and money is scarce, knowingly paying a whore for some sweet loving is kind of like inviting failure. It’s not my fault, though, I am a sucker for Russian accents. I even maintain a healthy crush on the Maiden in Black from Demon’s Souls, despite the fact that her face has been burned off. It’s the accent. I have to quit playing games from Eastern Europe.
Metro 2033 is from the new Ukrainian developer 4A Games, composed largely of GSC Game World (STALKER) expatriates. Based on the hugely successful apocalyptic novel from Dmitry Glukhovsky – an English translation of which is expected within a month or so – it sees the world decimated by nuclear war. For 20 years, the handful of surviving Russians have lived in the bowels of the Moscow Metro, a concrete-reinforced underworld explicitly designed to protect residents in the event of catastrophe. Here in the darkness society has rebuilt, with each Metro station representing a different state and ideology.
Glukhovsky’s novel is unabashedly anti-human, which I like. I hate humans. His perception of human ignorance and his satire of group sociology is spot on; his use of science fiction as his foundation brilliant. Metro 2033 the videogame does abandon some of that simply to reduce the preachiness and keep the action heavy, but 4A’s designers clearly understand the novel, understand what Glukhovsky was trying to do with the concept of “station states,” and include what they can.
A lot of people are mistaking this game for a STALKER clone. It is not. STALKER is an open-world shooter/RPG; Metro 2033 is a corridor shooter that shares more genes with DOOM than Fallout. Brutally hard, often terrifying, and steeped in the classic Eastern European nihilism of design that’s come to permeate the games of the region, fans of Russian gloom would do well to grab a copy. The level of handcraftedness you see in each station (admittedly, I’ve only been to two, but hey) is astonishing, and Metro 2033 is able to do something that STALKER is inherently unable to do: where the latter presents a world exclusively dominated by males, a playground of vice and greed, Metro 2033 is about the survival of all people: children, women, beggars, warriors, what have you. Life in the Metro is hard, but a combination of vodka and Russian can-do spirit is pervasive.
You are Artyom, born minutes before the nuclear fire but raised in the Metro, and inadvertently dragged into a horrific journey of social self-discovery when the normal mutant attacks take on a dangerous new shape. Your trip through the Moscow Metro will take you to some of the darkest and most frightening realms the human mind can imagine… and, of course, the tainted and deadly world above – snow-shrouded and toxic. Metro 2033 the game is as unforgiving as Metro 2033 the world would be; there is no HUD, no ammo count. You determine the amount of time left for your gas mask filter either by checking your watch or listening for labored, raspy breathing. You keep an eye on ammo remaining in the clip either by popping the magazine and checking, or by getting your head torn off by a monster when your gun clicks instead of banging. You mark your progress through the haunted corridors of the Metro with a pen and a clipboard. In the dark you use a lighter. If you want a brighter flashlight beam, you have to charge it with a POS homemade battery thingy. And, of course, every time you fire a gun, you’re firing money.
Hookers charge one bullet in Metro 2033. I advise against acquiring their services.
Metro 2033 is available on PC and 360; the brutal nature of combat and the need for precision headshots make this a game I wouldn’t recommend playing with thumbsticks. While the PC requirements seem scary, it runs fine on my Core 2 Quad 9450/Radeon 4870 rig with DirectX 10 features enabled. Owners of the kickassest of modern videocards can even crank to DirectX 11, highlighting Eastern Europe’s great love of new technology.
So far Metro 2033 is a scary, fast, well-designed game that I look forward to spending more time with. Will I revisit it again and again as I do with STALKER? Unlikely, but only because it’s not the same kind of game. What I see so far I applaud. Except the hookers.