Metro 2033 is a game of survival in a post-apocalyptic Russia, where people live in underground metros and mutants rule the world.
|Console||PC/Mac/Linux, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|
|Publisher||THQ, Deep Silver (Redux)|
|Genre||First-person shooter, survival horror|
|Release Year||2010, 2014 – 2015 (Redux)|
|Purchase (PC; original)||Purchase from Steam.|
|Purchase (PC; Redux)||Purchase from Amazon.|
|Purchase (PS4; 2033 Redux + Last Light Redux)||Purchase from Amazon.|
Metro 2033 is a pretty unconventional horror game. At least, for me. Unlike most of the games I covered for this month, this game is actually based on a novel of the same name! Yes, that wonderful little masterpiece known as Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky…
Yep. I despised the Metro 2033 novel. I hated the story, I hated the characters, I hated the sloppy translation, I hated that shit job Kindle formatting, I hated the fact that nearly all 400+ pages of the story is EXPOSITION! I HATE HATE HATE—grk!
I made this no secret to anyone who brings up Metro 2033 as a topic. To me, the novel is so poorly written that I rather sit down and read Twilight in one go. FUCKING TWILIGHT, PEOPLE!
Buuuuuuut… I love the video game.
So wait, how is that even possible? How does Orion hate the source material but love the video game adaptation? Well, that’s part of the reason why you’re here, right? So, put on your gas masks and let’s journey to the surface. The shit blizzard was just beginning.
The World of the Underground
In Metro 2033, it is the year 2033 and Russia had previously went through a nuclear holocaust. Not only is the surface world poisonous to breathe in, but it is infested with powerful mutants that are much stronger than the common predator. So now, humanity is forced to live underground as it sinks lower into the food chain.
You are Artyom Alekseyevich Chyornyj, a Russian youth living in the underground metro tunnels of Moscow. You were living a cozy civilian life back in Exhibition station, until one day a group of mysterious creatures known as the Dark Ones attacked. After meeting up with a Ranger named Hunter, you decide to leave home and make a far journey to Polis to seek protection for Exhibition.
But along the way, you get caught up in skirmishes between bandits, a war campaign between Red Line communists and Fourth Reich Nazis, and invasions by hideous monsters from the depths of the metro.
Right from the get-go, this is a very interesting premise. And yes, while it’s loosely based on the novel’s premise, the difference here is the presentation.
My main problem with the novel is how it force-feeds you background information like it’s the only thing that matters. It doesn’t bother with character development. And the text is so heavily congested with pointless info and pretentious social commentary that you have a tough time discerning the plot. When you do something like that, you’re not writing a story. You’re writing a goddamn story bible, which is a very different thing.
In the video game adaptation, the exposition comes in at small chunks at a time and stuff actually happens in the present. Most of the time, you’re not just standing around to listen to someone’s boring story. The story is actually moving forward instead of standing in one place. That’s the biggest difference for me. And in my opinion, it makes the game much more interesting to sit through than the novel.
Never mind that the video game adaptation is much more action-oriented. Stuff actually happens! So there you go. I already like the game for this fact and it doesn’t even have to try that hard. But enough of my rants on the Metro 2033 novel. Let’s talk about what makes the game so good.
A Ghastly World Brimming with Life
When I first played the original Metro 2033 a few years ago, I was extremely impressed by the graphics. The human models seemed up to par with the latest game technology at the time, animations felt dynamic, and the environments are very well thought out. The lighting, the particle effects, and even staring at the cracks and moisture of your gas mask… it feels all so wonderfully realistic. Even when I recently played this game again, everything feels like they still hold up.
Just looking at Moscow in its disheveled state is a very impressive view. This goes without saying, but this is a VERY beautiful game. Despite Metro 2033 being 4A Games’ first title, these guys really know their 3D modeling.
Combined with some pretty good sound design, Metro 2033 is an amazingly atmospheric game. I actually got this game in a Humble Bundle years ago, and I wasn’t expecting a game of this visual quality to be included.
This actually makes the world feel like it’s worth exploring. The metro tunnels can be warm and bright, but they can also be cold and murky. Corpses are a common sight, whether they belonged to that of a man or some hairy creature. Though the surface world does have some small human colonies, you have to wear a gas mask to prevent radiation poisoning.
Though you do come across some human enemies, the mutants themselves are easily distinguishable.
It’s Dangerous to Go Alone. Here, Take This.
Metro 2033 is actually among the more unique first-person shooters I ever played. It’s definitely not one of those games where you can go out in the open and go Rambo on everyone’s asses. Instead, it plays more like a tactical shooter where you must conserve your ammo and use hiding spots wisely. It’s a game where stealth matters, so staying hidden is highly recommended.
Unfortunately, the actual stealth mechanic is broken as hell. Enemies spot you IMMEDIATELY and they won’t let up as soon as one of them sees even a goddamn polygon from your body. Fuck, I sometimes lose cover when an enemy sees me through a wall!
It’s so fucking ridiculous that having stealth at all in this game is nearly pointless. It doesn’t help that there are many traps, such as cans hung by the ceiling or grenades set off by tripwires, that will immediately blow your cover. There may also be small piles of broken glass on the floor. Once again, stepping on them will immediately destroy your cover.
I like the IDEA of the stealth mechanic, but areas crawling with enemies are simply not designed with this idea in mind. It’s extremely difficult to find the right way to bypass these areas without triggering a single enemy, so it’s very likely that you’re going to enter all manners of dogfights in this game.
Overall, I do like how the combat is more realistically paced and that you need to rely on cover quite often in order to survive. Guns tend to have a nasty kickback to them, so you need to be extra careful with aiming.
However, it can be so annoying to have to go through entire groups of bandits and enemy soldiers just to get to the next chapter. It wouldn’t be so bad if the stealth mechanic isn’t nearly non-existent.
A major part of this game is collecting military grade cartridges. In the world of Metro 2033, these shiny, high-quality ammunition function as currency. So to buy everything from new guns, upgrades, health kits, gas mask filters, “dirty rounds,” etc., you need to collect a shit ton of military grade cartridges. You’ll barely find enough as it is, so my recommendation is that you hold off on buying gun upgrades and just pick up whatever upgraded guns you find on the ground. This is much more cost effective in the long run.
However, you can also use military grade cartridges… as ammo. But why the fuck would you want to shoot your money at monsters anyway? The payoff isn’t worth it. Just don’t bother.
Another notable gameplay element is that you occasionally have to journey up to the surface world, right into the wintry landscape of Moscow’s ruins. In these sections, you have to keep your gas mask on at all times and you need to constantly supply yourself with gas mask filters. This adds a nice amount of depth into the gameplay since even the gas mask itself can be damaged. And if the gas mask takes too much damage, RADIATION POISONING! At that point, you best pray that there is some corpse with a spare mask lying around. Otherwise, RIP lungs.
The final thing to note is that the game has a hidden karma system, also known as the Moral Points system. Basically, by exploring the world, eavesdropping on conversations, being generous to civilians, and discovering hidden ammo caches, you gain Moral Points. This is indicated when the screen flashes and plays an echoed sound effect. The purpose of this system is to unlock a second ending, which is decided by a specific choice you make.
But most of these things are very much common sense, so unlocking the alternate ending is fairly easy to do.
The Adapted Story
As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t fond of the novel’s actual plot. While some places and characters are named differently, the game’s plot differs from the novel’s.
For one thing, the novel placed a heavy amount of emphasis on the actual politics of the world as well as the ongoings of the metro. Unlike the heavy amount of action that goes on in the game, the novel only spent a small portion discussing the mutants and even the Dark Ones—the main antagonists. As a result, the novel felt really underwhelming when its main plot gets the least amount of development compared to the subplots. And when the actual climax comes in, it just resolves far too quickly.
However, the game’s plot feels more focused. Let me explain.
As mentioned, you are Artyom and you have decided to go to Polis under Hunter’s request in order to enlist the city’s help to protect your home station. Along the way, Artyom learns more about the mysterious Dark Ones, an intelligent race descended from mankind that possess strong psychic powers. Stuff like bandits, communists, and Nazis are secondary.
As far as the game’s plot goes, it’s not among the greatest I’ve seen but I won’t deny that it’s still pretty interesting. The worldbuilding is pretty spectacular, giving you a sense of what humanity is about to lose and how badly things can fuck up.
While the majority of the characters aren’t exactly memorable, they’re at least reliable and insightful in their viewpoints. They do bring up some good points in regards to the state of humanity and what bleak future awaits. Even though Artyom himself doesn’t have dialogue (though you do hear him narrate before each chapter), the plot does in some ways feel like a coming-of-age story for him. After all, he is taking up a rifle and traveling through all sorts of places in order to find a way to save his home station. So you do at least get a sense of what you’re fighting for and what you should be doing to protect those around you.
So with that said, I don’t mind the game’s story too much and its social commentary is certainly not lost on me. So even if I hate the novel, I can at least give some appreciation to Dmitry Glukhovsky’s magnum opus.
And so, I pretty much talked about what I needed to talk about. Except one more thing: Metro 2033 got an update in the form of Metro 2033 Redux. And you might be wondering if you should get Redux over the original game. Well, let’s see what the differences are.
Metro 2033 Redux
Well, the most obvious difference is the aesthetics. There are different textures/bumpmaps, character models are redone, some voices are redubbed (though I question why they got an adult voice actor to voice the kids), and the atmosphere is different overall. If you have played the sequel, Metro: Last Light, you will notice the visuals of Metro 2033 Redux match up pretty closely. The lighting in certain areas is brighter in general, compared to the original game’s more ambient lighting. Cutscenes are also either redone or extended slightly, not that they make too much of a difference. Overall, Redux looks and feels different from the original. But these are mostly subtle changes, so you wouldn’t notice unless you played the original game.
Metro 2033 Redux also seems to be better optimized compared to the original, keeping the framerates fairly consistent through the entire playthrough.
But by far the best change in Redux is the improved gameplay. Unlike the original game, the stealth mechanic actually works favorably here! However, the enemy AI seems stupider now. Even if you’re standing in front of them in darkness, they won’t see you. It’s pretty awkward when you’re crouching right in front of them and they just stare at you as if they just got lobotomized. And then they walk away.
Redux also has a few more additions that make it a slightly better game. You can now pick up journal entries scattered in each level, which are basically narrations of what Artyom thinks of the situations he’s been into. At the very least, these entries do give Artyom a more defined character.
You may also find safes containing supplies and a lot of military grade cartridges. To open them, you need to find a key (which is typically close by). Because of this, you can easily get better weapons with plenty of upgrades.
You can also choose what kind of gameplay you want to use for Metro 2033 Redux. Survival mode closely resembles the original Metro 2033 gameplay, making reloading slower and using cover as a necessity. Spartan mode closely resembles the Metro: Last Light gameplay, emulating standard FPS gameplay. But for the sake of the experience, I much prefer Survival mode.
There is also one part in Redux where you face off against Spiderbugs, which were prevalent enemies in Metro: Last Light. These enemies never appeared in the original Metro 2033, though this particular section is very short so it doesn’t matter too much.
In the end, the original game and Redux are not too different. But if I were to personally pick between the two, it depends. I would say the original game is better for immersion and Redux is better for gameplay. Even though the original game is more frustrating to play through, it has a darker and more sullen atmosphere compared to Redux.
So if you want to play Metro 2033, it doesn’t really matter which version you play. You’re not missing too much on playing one over the other. To conclude this review: hated the novel, loved the game. If that’s not enough of a reason for a purchase for you, then I don’t know what is.
- The graphics are some of the best I've seen in a first-person shooter.
- The survival-based gameplay is a nice break from the typical Rambo-style FPS games that oversaturate the market.
- The sound design is pretty strong overall, combining ambiance with the foreboding grunts and howls of mutants.
- The loose story adaptation is pretty decent and gets you in the right mood to kill mutants and Nazis.
- In the original game, stealth is broken. This is amended in Redux, however.