We've always considered Metro 2033 one of the previous generation's most underrated games. Sure it had its share of problems; the stealth aspect could definitely have been better and the user interface was a bit too messy for its own good. But Metro 2033 did a better job than most of the competitors to get the player to truly become one with the world that the game presented. It was neat, exciting and had an unbearably dense atmosphere - a perfect example of the phrase "a diamond in the rough".
The sequel Metro: Last Light was even better with somewhat tighter gameplay, a much more intuitive user interface and more focused storyline and at the same time it took advantage of all the things that the predecessor did so well. We enjoyed and still enjoy being down in the terrible, Russian underground. That left us more than willing to relive the radioactive horrors yet again, this time on the new generation of consoles in Metro Redux.
Let's get this out of the way first; the game is good looking. Both titles were incredibly impressive for their time, and they look even better in Metro Redux, as it should be when it comes to new hardware. The PC version is, unsurprisingly, the visually strongest version of the three but the console versions aren't far behind in terms of visuals. Both the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (we've mainly been playing the Xbox One version) runs the game silky smooth at 60 frames per second and didn't notice any drops in framerate. On the Playstation 4 the adventure is enjoyed in 1080p while the Xbox One unfortunately has to settle on just a bit lower resolution, 912p. This is something the average player won't notice, and the game is incredibly delicious no matter which version you choose to settle on.
But the improvements go beyond the graphics, the mechanics have also gotten a couple of upgrades. Of the two games it is the original Metro 2033 which has received the biggest lift by being rebuilt using the engine of the sequel. This means that you got rid of the original unwieldy system for handling weapons and tools, and replaced it with the much easier and intuitive counterpart from Metro: Last Light. We cannot overstate how much such a seemingly minute thing makes for the experience and it eliminates much of the issues with had with the original game.
Metro: Last Light does remain very much the same game as it was when it was released last year, which in itself is not a bad thing at all. We thought it was awesome back then and the graphical tweak the game has gotten with this re-release makes it even easier for the player to fall in love with the radioactive wasteland. As we mentioned above, we have always appreciated how immersive the Metro games are. The use of the gas mask is a good example of this. When strapped to your face there is condensation on thevisor and when you slay a mutant up close blood splatters on the screen and a cliick on the left shoulder button lets you wipe the visor. You'll also want to keep an eye on your watch so you know when the filter needs replacing. If you take too much damage, you get cracks in the visor that can obscure your vision and then you quickly need to find a new gasmask.
Your flashlight needs to be recharged periodically, pneumatic weapons need to be pumped up to reach full power and with the lighter you can burn pesky cobwebs or help illuminate your notebook in which you find your current objectives. If you get lost and need a nudge in the right direction, the compass will come in handy. All of this happens within the game world and there is absolutely nothing that pulls you out of the experience. It feels like you're actually there and fighting tooth and nails to stay alive.
The weapons of this Russian underworld are ugly and appear homemade, and that's exactly why we find them charming. The recoil is at times sever and some of the old muskets may overheat. Even the ammunition is homemade when "real" bullets have become rare since the apocalypse and they are therefore used as currency. The result is an interesting choice in the heat of battle; save your hard-earned bullets to buy new weapons and accessories, or should we load them into the magazine and receive significantly more effective firepower for a moment? All weapons in the game have distinct roles and looks, and you will definitely find personal favourites throughout the game. We tended to stick to a gun with silencer and shoulder support, an AK-47 with red dot and laser pointer and a shotgun with an extended barrel - but these are just examples.
We can comfortably say we enjoy living in this world. The environmental design is exquisite and often reminiscent of places like Rapture or the USG Ishimura in that one would not necessarily like to reside there but still it feels somewhat realistic. We buy the premise of the underground stop as places people reside in. The monster design is also magnificent, one can easily imagine what kind of animals they were before they fell victim to the radiation and they look awesomly intimidating. Two of the worst monsters you will get acquainted with are known as "Demons", who would swoop down from the sky to pick you up and drop you from a great height, and the comically named "Librarians" that one must keep eye contact with if you do not want to become monster snack.
If it's not apparent we really do like these games. But all is not milk and honey with Metro Redux, and the time has come for some whining. The story involves a supposed threat from a new intelligent breed that people in Metro refers to as "the Dark Ones". The whole thing is based on the fact that you initially don't really know what they are, and nothing is more frightening than what you do not understand - so far, so good. But the story is somewhat sloppily narrated. We're still not sure what "The Dark Ones" are and how the protagonist Artyoms special bond with them is working. Additionally his romance with Anna, if you can even call their interactions romance, comes across as extremely forced and unmotivated.
There are also some really nice pieces of music, but it feels very monotonous at times and grows repetitive as you roam the tunnels. Facial animations have not aged as well as the rest of the graphical aspects and the voice acting is in its worst moments quite horrific - something that is especially true for the children you'll encounter. Maybe it's because everyone speaks English with an exaggerated Russian accent so it is perhaps best to turn on the Russian voices provided one is able to read the subtitles while playing. And speaking of voices - we're still annoyed that Artyom only speaks in load screens and this has the tone of the narrator rather than a starring role. His silence often makes dialogues a bit weird and it had really helped the narration if the developers allowed him to speak in the game.
But these things are just minor complaints about two awesome action games. Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light boasts stunning graphics, awesome gameplay, a world that truly immerses you and a story that, despite minor problems actually feels engaging. Games that encourage and reward exploration and support several different styles of play. Whether you like frenetic gunfights or tactical stealth, you will find what you need here.
In Metro Redux we also find the absolute best version of the original Metro 2033 and with its relatively affordable price it gives the fans of the series a good reason to revisit the games. But it is above all those who have not been acquainted with this world who get a golden opportunity to finally do it. You owe it to yourself to give this a chance now, for Metro Redux is really worth your time. A warm recommendation has hereby been issued.