- Publisher: THQ
- Developer: 4A Games
- ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
- Genre: Horror FPS
- Pros: Amazing atmosphere; interesting setting; nice presentation; cool currency system
- Cons: Semi-clunky shooting; stealth sections; lack of polish
Metro 2033 is a new take on post apocalyptic horror that takes place in the underground Metro system of Moscow, Russia. Human survivors have built settlements in the stations, but in the darkness between lives mutants, monsters, and worse. You play as Artyom, a relatively normal young man who is tasked with delivering a message to a neighboring station, but is soon drawn into a much larger role in the fight for survival.
Metro 2033’s world is an interesting mix of horror elements. The first is darkness and the monsters that lurk within it. The second is claustrophobia, where the world feels very tight and constricted both in the tunnels as well as in the stations where the people are crammed together in the only relative safe places. The third is the atmosphere where, again, the horrors of the shrieking, gruesome monsters in the tunnels are offset by the equally frightening realities of survival in the stations. Metro’s stations are fascinating to explore because they are surprisingly realistic complete with families and children running around in the bliss of ignorance while in the dark corners and behind closed apartment doors you hear whispered conversations about just how tough their existence really is. The story and setting and atmosphere are really the stars of Metro 2033.
The economy system and the necessity to conserve ammunition are definitely interesting, but the shooting mechanics make it somewhat harder than it should. The shooting and movement is very loose and floaty feeling, and the guns are not only not very accurate, but the game does a poor job of letting you know when you actually hit something. The hit detection just seems a bit off. Mutants and monsters just keep on charging and human enemies keep plugging away at you even if you thought you hit them in the head. This leads to wasted ammo. I get that the guns are crappy and inaccurate and it fits the context of the story, but it also creates a less than stellar gameplay experience.
When everything works, however, Metro 2033 is a surprisingly fun game. Little touches like having to use a manual charger to recharge your headlamp or night vision goggles or having to change filters on your gas mask (or replace your mask entirely if it takes too much damage) really immerse you into the game. Likewise, having to look at your watch to check the condition of the gas mask or having your map and objectives scribbled in a journal that you have to look at via the flickering flames of a lighter are great touches. These things, along with the great story and setting and overall atmosphere, make the game worth playing even if the core gameplay is a little rough.
Graphically, Metro 2033 is a surprisingly nice looking game. The character and monster designs are only so-so, but the world is filled with tons of great little details that easily make up for it. The lighting is also very well done and a definite high point of the visuals.
The sound is also pretty decent overall. The voice acting is mostly okay, and the depth and variety of conversations you’ll overhear as you wander around stations is pretty amazing. You also have the option of listening to the Russian voice track, which is a nice touch. The sound effects are kind of generic, but hearing the howling and growling of monsters echoing down the tunnels is bone chilling.
In the end, Metro 2033 is a welcome take on the horror FPS that fans of survival horror and the post apocalyptic setting in general will really enjoy. There are some rough edges to the gameplay that might rub some the wrong way (sloppy shooting and movement and poor hit detection, mostly), but if you treat the game like a survival horror game first and a FPS second, they are easier to forgive. Metro 2033 is a game about being immersed in the setting and letting the overwhelming nature of the darkness and claustrophobia really take hold of you. When you do that, the whole package is much easier to appreciate. It is definitely worth playing. A tougher question is whether it is worth a purchase or not. I would say it is a solid rental, but if you love the setting or just want to support smaller developers, Metro 2033 is worth a purchase.