Bleak has never looked better
Author’s note: this game was experienced solely on Survival Ranger Hardcore mode and is highly recommended for a more immersive and rewarding experience
While Metro Redux might not be the game you wanted to be bundled and remastered, you might be glad that it is. Its blend of nuclear post-apocalyptic Moscow and survival-centric FPS makes for a memorable, albeit sometimes frustrating, shooter experience. It’s quite a bargain, packaging both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light onto one disc with all released DLC and running at 1080p 60fps. If that wasn’t enough to at least pique your interest, then consider it’s also currently under $20 on Amazon. And believe me, it’s worth every dollar.
Based on the best-selling series by author Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro 2033 puts you in the shoes of Artyom, a young man who has grown up living in Moscow’s metro system, safe from the nuclear holocaust that has ravaged the world above ground. All is fine until one day, when a Ranger and family friend arrives and sends you on a mission of critical importance: get to Polis, and recruit help in stopping the Dark Ones. This brings you on a journey across the metro and, sometimes, into the crumbling city of Moscow itself.
Metro: Last Light picks up just after the events of 2033, as you do all you can to stop the warring remnants of humanity from destroying one another in a desperate bid to control the metro. The Dark Ones are integrally tied into the story, and since I don’t want to spoil 2033, I’ll stop talking about the plot from here on out. Not that it really matters all that much anyway, as the plot takes a bit of a backseat to the presentation, atmosphere, and game world Deep Silver has crafted for Metro Redux.
The true strength of these games is how well they can immerse you. The metro system is dark and unsettling, and the enhanced visuals and solid framerate help create a brooding sense of danger at every turn. To keep you on your toes, its tunnels are full of bandits, Nazis, and the occasional group of Nosalies, intimidating beasts that have evolved out of the nuclear fire. And when you venture above ground, the game manages to become significantly more suspenseful.
As Moscow is still a radioactive wasteland, you need to wear a gasmask in order to breathe out in the open. This puts a time limit on how long you can stay above ground, and makes you want to move quickly to avoid suffocating. The faster you move, however, the more easily you will fall prey to the many different nightmares that have taken over our world. From entire herds of the aforementioned Nosalies, to Demons that patrol the skies, to amphibious hunters that track you through disturbances in the water, the new world is one where we are no longer at the top of the food chain.
In regards to the gameplay itself, this is where my experience may differ from your own. This game comes packaged with two play styles, Survival and Spartan (the former just makes it so there is less ammo and equipment to scavenge). On top of that, you have your standard difficulty options to choose from: Easy, Normal, and Hardcore. Then there are the two DLC options, Ranger and Ranger Hardcore. While Ranger increases all weapon damage (for you and enemies) and takes away your crosshair, Ranger Hardcore removes the entire HUD and UI (it’s so hardcore, it even takes away the menus that appear when you hold down a button, forcing you to remember every single button combination).
Playing Metro Redux on Survival Ranger Hardcore mode is deeply immersive, and makes the game as gripping as it is challenging. Audio and visual cues become integral to your survival, and resource management becomes an absolute necessity. The game becomes much more stealth-oriented rather than your typical run-and-gun FPS, which I found to be much more fitting, given the world it takes place in. The above ground sequences are also that much more harrowing; trying to rush to safety so as to preserve my gasmask filters while crouching to avoid detection from the monsters can be painfully intense. I haven’t been so filled with anxiety playing a videogame since crawling through the ventilation shafts of the original Half-Life.
The only place you can feel truly safe is at the metro junctions, where groups of people have carved out a new civilization. One of the game’s cooler aspects comes to play here, as your ammo supply is also the in-game currency. Military-grade ammunition, which can be found on dead bodies and in weapons caches, can be used to buy gun upgrades, supplies, or be exchanged for other types of ammunition. Just don’t go shooting a hole in your pocket now, as some of those upgrades can prove essential down the road (er, tunnel shaft).
While playing stealthily can be more rewarding (your exploration will net you more ammo, and you’ll preserve your resources better by avoiding a fight), there are a few instances throughout the game where combat is forced upon you. Most of these moments come in the form of a Nosalis attack, which is annoying because these monsters can be hard to hit. Not only are they fast and lethal, but it often feels like their hit markers are off. Multiple times I would empty an entire SMG clip into a beast and hit nothing but air. For me, a lot of these ambushes boiled down to frustrating trial and error gameplay, running through different “hold my ground” strategies until I basically got lucky. But even though these moments can be frustrating, I must admit that when I felt the beat change and knew I was about to have my hands full, I was always filled with a strange mix of dread and satisfaction. Let’s just say I was always glad to have horded my bullets.
These moments are few and far between, however, as the game spends most of its time making you worry about an ambush. The atmosphere and detailed world, along with the added survival elements, make Metro Redux feel like a true post-apocalyptic experience. The supporting cast of characters not only help you learn ways to survive the metro, but also help you tap into the more spiritual and supernatural side of the world. Metro: Last Light in particular does an excellent job with this by creating moments of phantasmagorical clairvoyance as you “interact” with the shadows of past humanity. Throughout Metro 2033, you frequently become enveloped in a dream world influenced by the Dark Ones. The presentation of these different, vision-like events is mystifying, and without a HUD or UI to get in the way, the transition between them and the rest of the game is seamless and unexpected.
Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light certainly aren’t perfect games; the plot can be a little confusing at times, the voice acting isn’t great, and some of the combat can feel a little loose, but the atmosphere and overall gameplay more than make up for the shortcomings. The visual fidelity and consistent, smooth framerate only enhance an already eerie and exciting experience, and Ranger Hardcore mode provides a uniquely immersive challenge. As a package, Metro Redux provides some of the best bang for your buck, and in a world of microtransactions and full-priced multiplayer-only releases, this lengthy content-packed single-player campaign is a breath of radioactive fresh air.