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.
Great. Fantastic. I’ve been planning to buy this game. Screw humans. And Russian nihilism? Yeah, sounds good to me. I was waiting for someone to say they were playing this damn game! You’ve made it sound even better than it looks.
High time I join the fun. And by fun I mean the horrible, horrible terror.
I really wasn’t expecting Metro 2033 to be as you describe, I thought it would be much more like STALKER (comparisons are inevitable).
It does however look very good, but regrettably I’m snowed under with games at the moment. I’ve Zelda and Metroid to finish, Battlefield Bad Company 2, Penumbra, and Mortal Online to test!
Buying it, as it’s from the STALKER team……they do know how to CREATE a sense of dread and hoplessness in their games.
Seems to have a good story for a shooter…from the little that is being revealed….
Good to know that it’s running just fine on your C2D/4870.
I should be fine with my 4850…:-)
Just curious..is there a HUGE jump in gfx going from Dx10 to 11?
Welcome to Tap, Amit.
Reduced cash flow will prevent me from buying a new rig to witness this anytime soon. It looks bloody great.
Anti-human? East European nihilism? Russian gloom? Shiny pigs? Count me in.
I loved the trailer I watched sometime ago with the kids running around, that instantly distanced it from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for me. You don’t see kids in these sorts of games so that was a nice surprise and it really underpins the sense of a struggling remnant of humanity.
Call of Pripyat and Metro 2033 are the first games to use DX11, and it’s my understanding that there is a reasonable improvement in detail. However, as with DX10, the detail we’re talking about is pretty small stuff: scratches on helmets and distortion effects, for example. It will be a while before developers really get the hang of using DirectX 11’s more advanced features. While I plan to upgrade my gfx card sooner or later, I’m in a holding pattern right now because I want to see what the next generation looks like before I spring. Offhand I’d say Metro 2033 looks good enough under DX10 that you needn’t bother upgrading right now.
Okay, I must be about as far as you were when you wrote this, then– past 2 stations and moving onward.
That first major firefight against other people, in tight quarters in the dark, was tense and vicious. I hesitate to call this a stealth shooter, because it clearly isn’t, but like most of my other favorite games (Stalker, Thief), it punishes you pretty thoroughly if you try to play it all run-and-gun.
The atmosphere is fantastic. The events are very heavily scripted– more so than Half-Life, even, which is otherwise a very easy comparison. There’s nothing wrong with that, though, as long as they pull it off well, and I think they have. It’s claustrophobic as heck, too.
I think you’re right, Solipsistnation. I probably misspoke when I said the game had common genealogy with DOOM… Half Life is much more accurate. The scripted, cinematic nature of many scenes (and of course the in-engine cutscenes) are very Half Life.
I’ve been very impressed by the atmosphere, particularly the audio. I originally tried to play the game in Russian with subtitles, but I was missing out on too much background chatter, so I switched to English. Good call on my part. The acting is fine and hearing that “color” text in in the various stations makes a huge difference.
I’m eager to play more. This is a really nicely put together game – so far, at least!
Okay, I just played a chunk of it this afternoon and I have just reached Chapter 4: “War.”
The game is great so far. The graphics are ridiculous, I had to change the settings to Normal just so my supposed super-computer could handle everything going on; and it still gets a little heavy in the crowded metro market areas full of people. I read from the few reviews that have dribbled out that the game is plagued with bugs. So far I’ve only discovered two: when I’m using the shotgun and check my wristwatch the screen goes blurry, like some gas mask effect but used at the wrong time clearly; the other was, at one point I decided to take a hit off a hookah and after apparently becoming retarded (my controls were inverted) I got stuck on some terrain, but was able to crouch out of it after a moment. Not too bad.
All in all it’s an excellent shooter thus far. Controls are tight for the most part, the weapons feel right (though sometimes with the assault rifle it’s hard to tell if shots register when mutants are jumping in your face and clipping through your body). The Thief-inspired light and darkness hiding mechanism doesn’t work as well as it’s meant to– or I just suck– as several foes, human and mutant alike, have picked me off while my watch light was either green or completely off.
However, I must level my largest complaint at a recent (as in the last decade) trend in gaming: the lack of a quick save feature in favour of the infamous, console-ish checkpoint system. I absolutely abhor this system and I really thought PC gaming was a last bastion for the dying quick save. Apparently that too is lost. If works for console, third-person shooter games like Gears of War and such; I don’t know why, there’s just something about those games that doesn’t really make you care to save. But in a game like Metro 2033, where item collecting and ammo levels and whatnot is all very particular, and constantly changing (because you are constantly looting), the quick save is a necessity. Gamers like me who have mild OCD really need to be able to save our progress constantly! Do you hear that, developers? If I pick up one clip of bullets, you’d better believe I’m quick saving. Make a great silent headshot? Yup, QS. Make a mad dash across a room and shut off a lamp to submerge myself in darkness? That’s a QS, baby.
The comparisons of this game to Half-Life are fair, very fair indeed. I would say Half-Life 2 in particular, just because they have a similar “underground railroad” feel about them. But the difference is that after every single combine soldier that I toasted, I was hitting F5. I suppose not being able to do that in Metro 2033 does make me play a little more cautiously (I’ve only died three times so far), but I don’t care. I can still be immersed in a game even if I save it every 45 seconds: at least the former of the two gives me the choice.
Okay, I’m done ranting, phew! With all that said, I really am enjoying Metro 2033. In terms of sheer quality, while not on par with the genre classics, it definitely approaches that second tier where I’d place shooters like No One Lives Forever 2 and Max Payne. Perhaps even System Shock 2, with which it shares some similar moods. It has a nice minimalist soundtrack too.
P.S. Just to clarify, there is no manual save feature at all, so that was not just a nitpick about the lack of ability to quick save, but to make my own saves in general.
I mean to play today, but Final Fantasy is holding my attention and I still have about three minutes of Call of Pripyat left to finish. So much to do!
Hey xtal, have you had any difficulty getting the flashlight charger to work? I think I wasn’t paying attention when the instructions on how to use it appeared, because when I bring it out it just sits there. Can you help a brother out?
Ya gotta left click, man. 🙂
Every click you’ll see the gauge refill a tiny bit, so I just keep clicking for a good 7 or 8 seconds and it fills up. It’s really handy too, because when that flashlight gets low things get scary.
Left. Uh, yeah. Click. Yeah. I, uh, I knew that. Totally. Tell me something I didn’t completely ignore during the tutorial. Jeez.
Left click. Who doesn’t, uh, know that? Everyone knows to left click. Er.
Banned. Banned! 😉
Sounds awesome! I’ll have to add it to the list. Great review as always, Steerpike.
And xtal, I’m with you. I quicksave about every three steps. I just don’t WANT to reloot those bodies, or open that same door.
I am with xtal and Marquez… I am quick save/save madman. I do it constantly. In certain portions of “Half Life 2”, I saved after each and every jump, just so I wouldn’t have to do it again. I am about half-way through “Mass Effect 2” and already have over 100 saved games.
I hate having to do things over again. I find it really irritating. I am all for not being able to save in the middle of a fight and having to re-do the battle over and over until you get it right/figure it out, but having to slog through a bunch of stuff to get back to that battle is just too much. It’s one of the reasons I dislike “Demon’s Souls” so much.
I can totally see where the lack of a save makes things more tense and make you play much more cautiously/reaslistically, but having to do things over and over out weighs those benefits for me.
Imagine my surprise at installing a game from ‘Games For Windows’ package and seeing the Steam account manager pop up. They must have had a little tussle over that late in the day.
I’m having a hard time distinguishing between areas when I should be shooting and areas when action is about to be interrupted by a movie. Did I waste all the ammo I used in the tunnel to Riga? I don’t mind repeating sections, but some times it’s necessary to back up a little bit to do a section a bit more efficiently.