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Posted by moonhead on Apr 1, 2010
Review: Metro 2033 / Xbox 360 / THQ

Review: Metro 2033 / Xbox 360 / THQ

It’s Bleak Underground.

We here at G4A have championed Metro 2033 as one to watch for a little while now as it looked like it had a bit of star quality to it. So does it hit the highs suggested by the dark plot and gorgeous screens?

At the moment the gaming world is straining under the huge number of identikit FPS games. Metro 2033 at least tries to be a little different (Okay so it bears some similarities in theme to the PC smash Stalker but as yet that has not made the jump to console).

All of the ingredients are here, for starters it is based on the novel of the same name written by  Dmitry Glukhovsky which is apparently a bit of a cult smash on the internet and the authors native Russia. Mr. Glukhovsky has also been heavily involved with the development of the game, working closely with the new development team 4A Games during the making of the game.

So lets start with the story, it is as the title suggests set in the year 2033. Russia and the rest of the world has been laid to waste by a nuclear war and what’s left of humanity is scratching a living deep underground in Moscow’s Metro system. The colonies are under constant attack by horrific mutated creatures and also a new unknown enemy that is threatening to bring about their complete destruction. You play Artyom a young man who was born and bred in the Metro system so has never know the outside world before the war, but it would seem he is fated to be humanity’s saviour. It all sounds good so far but the storytelling mechanic is so poorly implemented as to be almost completely broken all you really get is chunks of spoken narrative as you start each new chapter by a very poor actor, whilst in-game you get badly acted poorly scripted dialogue that seems to have nothing to do with the story unfolding. What advice Mr Glukhovsky had during the game’s development was either completely ignored or just not up to scratch as surely he would have wanted more for his own literary work.

Graphically the game is more than competent most of the time but there are some clipping issues and frames being dropped. In fact at the start of one level I turned round to pick up some weaponry only to turn back and find my arms floating mid-air in the tunnel  and still holding a AK 47. The floating disjointed arms even blocked my way and I had to crawl under them.Poor, very poor.

The one thing that does really shine through with the graphics the lighting effects which are truly stunning and add a real atmosphere actually making the game world look a lot better than it actually is. The soundtrack and effects are good and support the game’s atmosphere very well, but are let down by some shocking voice-over work and poor dialogue. The voices are very authentic and Russian sounding but the acting is abysmal, some of the worst I have heard in a while now if I am honest.

On the plus side Metro 2033 offers up some really interesting gameplay mechanics that show flashes of what this game could have been. First up is your torch which is powered by a kind of Dynamo Battery that you have to wind up yourself to keep powered. You really need to keep an eye on this as the torch is desperately needed in the tunnels between stations, it is a neat touch and adds to the sense of urgency and claustrophobia . Another addition is the gas mask which you will need to traverse toxic areas or anywhere above ground. When using this you will need to keep a check on the filter which you do via a watch type device strapped to your wrist and when it runs low change the filter. Be warned if your are attacked and the gas mask breaks or the filter runs out you will die. The on-screen visual effects when either of these happens is clever and adds to the tension. You also carry a lighter and journal which help aluminate your way should the torch run out and also helps keep you going in the right direction.

Sections of Metro 2033 require you to use stealth, and this works very well which is something of a rarity in a FPS. In some levels you can actually completely bypass enemies by stealth alone. Whilst doing this however, you have to beware of tripwire’s and primitive early warning alarm systems devised of cans hanging from string if you knock them its game over.

All of these gameplay plus points though are let down by the shooting mechanics and enemy AI. The guns seem to carry no weight and feel weak and ineffective, whilst the enemies are just complete bullet sponges that take an age to  put down. I have actually stood point-blank in front of a human enemy and unloaded 3 rounds from a rather chunky looking auto shotgun and the bugger still managed to turn round start shooting and kill me, it is just not right! Add these shooting mechanics to slightly sloppy loose movement and aiming controls and it adds up to be a little bit of a mess. As for the AI it just is not consistent an enemy 30 yards away can spot you whilst one that is merely a couple of foot away cannot see you when he is staring you straight in the face. Unfortunately the combat faces similar problems.

So it all sounds a bit of mess doesn’t it? Well it has a couple of things that really do save it from the mire. And that ladies and gentlemen is atmosphere and tension. This is one seriously tense spooky game and that keeps you interested and playing. The game absolutely oozes atmosphere, the feeling of desperation and bleakness is completely tangible and you really feel for the people leading this sad desperate life. Also whilst in the heat of the moment trying to sneak by a group of Nazi’s or bandits unseen and unheard you will feel the hairs on the end of your neck stand up and your heart starting to race. This also goes for being above ground scrabbling about in desperation for a new Gas Mask or Filter as you start to hear your breathing get deeper and more laboured, the tension can be almost unbearable.Very few games manage to get you involved in this kind of way and it is completely to the developers credit. In fact other developers should take note as Metro 2033 is the game to take your cues from if you are looking to revive the survival horror genre.

So as I said it’s not all bad and it’s definitely superior to a lot of the generic FPS turd we have had to put up with of late. It is just a shame this was not given more time as I feel that with a little more play-testing and polish this really could have been very special indeed. I have to applaud début developers 4A Games and publisher THQ for trying to give us something new and refreshing. I’m also guessing  that their next game will be Metro 2034 as the book is out and apparently going down a storm in Russia and across the net, if this is the case guys a bit more spit and polish and play-testing and you really could be on to something.

Rating 6.5/10

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2 Responses to “Review: Metro 2033 / Xbox 360 / THQ”

  1. Alex Hetherington says:

    Loved it at ONLY certain parts but the overall game for me was a let down the set paths just hemmed you in even more, even up top you still felt trapped!!!! Give it a 5/6 out of 10 am being generous lol

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