Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Metro 2033 for Xbox 360 and PC

Metro 2033 is a game with a whole bunch of cool and interesting ideas, that don’t quite come together into an entertaining whole. There’s so much done right in Metro 2033, but it’s not quite enough for it to escape it’s glaring flaws.

Metro 2033, an adaptation of a Russian sci-fi novel, takes place in Moscow following a nuclear war. The survivors have made a new home in the Moscow Metro, safe from the toxic fumes which cloak the surface, but under constant threat from the hordes of deadly mutants which regularly assault their stations. The protagonist of Metro 2033 is Artyom, who after learning that new mutants known as the Dark Ones threatens their station, embarks through the metro to Polis, a capital of sorts, to gain help against the new threat.

The clear star of this game is the Metro itself, and there’s an impressive sense of atmosphere. The scary moments between stations are incredibly tense, although the moments on the surface don’t work quite as well. Metro 2033 is a very linear game, but when exploring metro tunnels that linearity makes perfect sense; when bought outdoors this is much more jarring. I was very impressed with the occupied parts of the station, with these parts having an impressively ‘lived in’ feel to them. The constant hum of conversation makes these areas feel like places people would actually exist. Metro 2033 has worldbuilding not far from Half Life 2 and BioShock in quality, but is let down by its poor gameplay.

The story isn’t particularly interesting, and isn’t helped by Artyom’s silent protagonist nature. He does narrate during the loading scenes, so the lack of speaking during the actual gameplay is baffling, and only serves to drag you out of the narrative. There’s an interesting element of moral ambiguity introduced in the latter half of the game, but nothing is really done with this. Perhaps the sequel explores on this further, I don’t know, but Metro 2033 doesn’t quite succeed in telling a compelling story, despite how interesting the world is.

Metro 2033 is an FPS with survival horror elements, but doesn’t do either particularly well. The shooting is very clunky, and not particularly satisfying. The stealth option is usually more fun, and are better implemented than in most games (I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed III), but after playing games like Dishonored and Mark of the Ninja my standards for stealth have raised. The AI occasionally does something clever to keep you on your toes, but more often you’ll catch them running blindly into a wall.

Metro 2033 does have interesting ideas though. The outside areas are toxic, so the player must wear a gas mark which will crack as the player takes damage, eventually needing replacements. There’s not a huge amount of depth to this mechanic, but it helps build the immersion. Probably the most interesting innovation of Metro 2033 is the use of high grade ammo as currency, which leads to a great risk/reward dynamic; this ammo does much greater damage against enemies than the regular stuff, but you are literally shooting money. Still, the interesting ideas here aren’t enough to raise the gameplay above mediocrity.

The voice acting goes for the questionable approach of having the characters speak in English with varying Russian accents. Some of these accents are great, some are utterly terrible, and in the worst cases can utterly break the immersion. Still, this is at least a great looking game, with an impressive level of detail. Little details like the lighting help to build the tension and immersion; Metro 2033 is a game which attempts to get by on its looks but doesn’t really succeed.

Metro 2033 is a curious game, and considering how cheap it is these days, if the concept particularly interests you it may still be worth a go. I can’t recommend it very highly though; this game is frequently frustrating and often just not that much fun. Metro-2033-Logo


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