Imagine a world where nuclear war has turned a city you once loved into a dangerous wasteland. A place where domesticated animals have been mutated into vicious monsters too powerful for humans to combat. An area so immolated from radiation that even going to the surface requires a gas mask and automatic weapon. Living on the surface is impossible, and so the only chance of survival is to take shelter in the ruins of the Moscow underground metro system. This is the world of Metro Redux.
Metro Redux is a remaster of both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. In both games you play as Artyom, a resident of Moscow’s underground metro system. As Artyom you are immune to the psychological side effects of “Dark Ones”, the humanoid residents of the surface. The Dark One’s fate as well as your own are entwined over the course of the two games culminating in a dark adventure with themes of redemption and atoning for past mistakes. It is a sophisticated narrative that is unfortunately hampered by some awkward voice acting and writing.
Both Metro games create a dark nuanced atmosphere, with classic eastern European horror aesthetics. The tunnel system is old and run down due to years of neglect, tree roots from the world above permeate the ceilings and water from burst pipes pools in low areas. Stations are now overcrowded villages divided by miles of dangerous track filled with bandits and monsters.
In stark contrast to the damp and claustrophobic feel of the underground tunnel system, the world on the surface is bright and open. And although this is the case, it contains some of the single most isolating areas in both games. While on the surface the player must wear a gas mask and constantly keep track of how much time they have left before needing to change the air filter. Air filters are limited throughout the game and they deteriorate quickly. If you run out of them while still in an irradiated area you run the risk of suffocating to death.
Because humans have been forced to live in the metro for 20 years the weapons they use are old, and a lot of them homemade. Revolvers and submachine guns are common place, but finding an actual AK-74 is considered a treasure. Other weapons such as the Helsing, and Tihar rely on pneumatic air tanks to fire homemade arrows and ball bearings. These pneumatic weapons must be manually pumped full of air before they can be used, adding a unique dynamic to using them in combat.
Weapons can be sold, traded, and modified at the various vendors in the game. There is a wide array of attachments available for each weapon, and some can augment certain weapons for extremely specific situations. For instance, in Last Light you can modify the Lolife pistol to become a mid-range silenced rifle while still using pistol ammo. I used this weapon a lot to pick eliminate enemies at mid-long range before they were aware of my presence. Modifying a weapon in a transformative way can become necessary to conserve ammo.
The currency Metro uses is a little unorthodox in the realm of video games. Instead of standard gold or cash, you pay for things using bullets. These aren’t normal bullets however, they are pre-war military rounds The player can choose to either keep them for weapon upgrades and items, or use them in their assault rifle for a damage boost. This adds an interesting dynamic to the game, as ammo is often scarce at the best of times and you may need to use these rounds to survive.
The gunplay in 2033 has been improved from the original version, but unfortunately that doesn’t make much of a difference due to the combat encounters feeling outdated and ill-conceived. Last Light largely features the same gun mechanics, however it is elevated by the fact that the combat encounters are better designed throughout the game.
Certain situations in both games encourage you to take a more stealthy approach, which allows you to use silencers and night vision attachments for your weapons. Unfortunately the areas in 2033 just don’t seem to be set up properly for this sort of thing. On the other hand, Last Light’s stealth segments make the player feel like a knife in the dark among enemies. Using the darkness to your advantage will become a needed skill, and it’s augmented by the advanced lighting engine implemented in these games.
For me, these were among the strongest segments in Last Light. At one point in particular you are given a rail car to advance through the tunnels, along your journey you encounter a group of refugees from the communist regime. Choosing to help these refugees gain safe passage, you are tasked with clearing outposts on the rails up ahead. Before each outpost, you can stop your vehicle and shut the lights off allowing you to take a stealthy approach. Some of the outposts have back entrances you can advance through and catch your enemy off guard using close range knife take-downs or longer range silenced shots.
Encounters are not always that satisfying, as the Nosalis enemies are spongy and come at you in packs. At certain points this seems to be used as a way to deplete the player’s ammo before entering a station, causing them to spend military rounds to replenish stock. I could just be overly cynical about that, but it seemed to be the case for the majority of 2033, and a few times in Last Light. These encounters were tedious, with the enemy only focused on attacking the player character and never any surrounding NPCs. If you let more than one Nosalis get too close to you it can mean certain death while just trying to reload one of the many clips you will be dumping into each group. As stated above this was more of an issue in 2033 than it was in Last Light, which doesn’t use this enemy type as often.
There is a moral choice mechanic that determines one of two possible endings in each game, but the player is never told of it’s existence. This may lead to some confusion when starting Last Light after 2033 because there is only one canon ending that Last Light takes into consideration. On my playthrough of 2033, I was completely unaware of this system and wondered why the game made me choose between some things, never getting an explanation. Its not like the system needs to be completely telegraphed, but even the slightest hint would have given me a better understanding.
The newest additions to this package seem to be new play styles the player can choose before starting each game. The two new play styles are Survival, and Spartan. The former of which plays more like a survival horror game in the vein of the original 2033, with the latter playing more like Last Light. I experimented with both and found that the Spartan style was more in line with how I tend to enjoy shooters, but survival will be fitting for people who appreciate a struggle. Add to that the return of the classic Ranger difficulty mode and you will find a unique and immersive challenge that will test the survivability of even the most storied fans. If I had one complaint about these playstyles it would be that the descriptions aren’t quite clear on what they will be before starting the game, and unfortunately once you have chosen there is no going back. The difficulty however can be changed at any time.
Ultimately Metro Redux is the best way to experience each of these games. Last Light stands out as the star of the package providing a well paced journey of redemption through the dreary and isolated world. In spite of it’s vast improvements, 2033 just doesn’t hold up as well and can feel like a slog due to tedious encounters and repetitive enemies. I would recommend playing them both but if you have to choose, go with Last Light. The story does a good job of recapping 2033 and it is a much better game.
This game was reviewed on PC.