Metro 2033 is actually based on a licensed property - the story is originally a novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky, first published online, later printed as a traditional book. The story is set in the ruins of Moscow, some time after a global nuclear war, with small pockets of humans struggling to survive underground in the vast metro network of the city. Even in this post-apocalyptic world, people are still split to competing factions that control different metro stations as if they were small nations.
218e The game story gets rolling as a new threat, "the Dark Ones", threatens the human population of the stations. Unlike your normal garden variety mutants that inhabit the ruins, the Dark Ones appear to have the ability to drive people insane and the losses they inflict are such that it is only a matter of time before the Exhibition Station, home of our hero Artyom, is run over. Artyom is given a mission to travel to Polis, the largest inhabited station in the whole Metro to warn others of the threat and to seek help.
With the network mostly in ruins and with the tunnels crawling with mutants and hostile bandit factions, it ain't a casual stroll to Polis, and that turns out to be only the first stop of a longer quest to end the threat of the Dark Ones for good. Ammo and equipment is scarce and you never know what you run into when you go around the next corner. There is also an ever-present supernatural twist to the story with unexplained anomalies and encounters with ghosts creeping you out along the way. Some of this is attributed to the psychic powers of the Dark Ones, with Artyom apparently being more resistant to them than most people, but a lot is left hanging as a mystery, reinforcing the feeling of a dark, scary world under the city ruins where every day is a fight for survival.
While the concept isn't wholly original, the atmosphere, attention to detail and constant twists and turns keep things interesting - to a degree that the action alone wouldn't have kept me playing to the end. It was the story that managed to carry the experience all the way. 4A Games actually employed the original writer of the Metro 2033 novel to adapt it for the game and while some of the dialogue is wooden - possibly due to the translation from Russian to English - the events and the overall story is better than the two-bit plots you find in most games these days.
While some of the marketing material might give you an idea of a non-linear adventure set in the vast network of stations in the Moscow Metro, in reality Metro 2033 is a completely linear game through scripted events and narrow tunnels, pretty much as if on rails. Yet you shouldn't dismiss Metro 2033 immediately - there are plenty of good first-person shooters with linear and heavily scripted maps and while I personally prefer games that give you room to improvise a larger area, within a set of rules and game systems, I can appreciate a completely story-driven experience when it is done well.
For a first-person shooter, there is actually surprisingly little shooting. Yes, there are some heavy action scenes and nail-biting fights for survival against hordes of mutants, yet they are just one part of the game. Pacing is important and Metro 2033 is very good at switching gears to keep you on your toes. Metro 2033 contains stealth aspects as well - you can shoot or turn off most light sources and sneaking past everyone is sometimes a valid strategy. To top things off, there are also a couple of vehicle sections and the ability to upgrade your equipment by scavenging or buying better weapons and restocking your ammunition. Interestingly, pre-war "military-grade rounds" act both as superior ammunition and as money that can be spent for improved weapons and supplies at friendly stations.
Metro 2033 is strictly first person at all times. HUD elements are minimal and fade away when not needed. There is no map - all you get is a notepad with your objectives and a compass that points towards your next goal - not that you'd really need a map as most of the time you have only one clearly defined path available to you. Some transitions include complex first-person animations and there are also a couple of simple quick-time events to test your reflexes when that proverbial shit hits the fan. Highly detailed levels combined with the firm commitment to showing the action from the perspective of Artyom pretty much at all times brings tons of atmosphere to the game.
Games: Metro 2033
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