Metro 2033 - game review

Author: Przemysław Zamęcki
Date: 2010-03-23 10:26:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Due to the fact that the Ukrainian studio 4A Games responsible for Metro 2033 is largely composed of veterans with an unquestionable hit, which was the first part of STALKER , it might seem that this experience will result in an attempt to re-approach the topic of the open world . Meanwhile, the team took a loose adaptation of a novel by a young and promising author, the lion's share of the action of which takes place in the claustrophobic tunnels of the Moscow metro.

After the first leaks regarding the game on the Internet, there was information noise, the consequences of which can still be seen on forums and in players' statements. Metro 2033 began to be compared to the Shadow of Chernobyl , with all its consequences, i.e. sandbox gameplay and full freedom of decisions. So let's explain to ourselves at the very beginning of the review that Metro 2033, apart from the post-nuclear theme and the use of the Russian language by the characters, has absolutely nothing to do with the previous production. It is a completely linear shooter, which is much closer to the Call of Duty series or possibly Doom .

In the game we play the role of Artyom, a young man born shortly before the nuclear annihilation, whose misfortune was that at the time when hell ruled on the mountain, he and his father were several meters underground in the Moscow metro. This happiness was also shared by the multitude of other passengers - the only survivors of the global catastrophe. In the twenty years after this event, many micro-communities sprang up in the dark tunnels. People joined groups because it was easier, brighter and safer that way. The tunnels are full of all kinds of bandits, individuals convinced of the rightness of the totalitarian ideologies of communism or Nazism, and even mutated bloodthirsty beasts that sometimes threaten the existence of these oases, places of relative peace protected by concrete and rifles. It is the enclave in which Artem is staying, threatened with extinction due to the constant attacks of dark creatures, and our task is to bring help from the almost legendary Polis station, located almost in the middle of the metro line. The game begins with a scene of fighting bizarre creatures, taking place under the Ostankino TV tower (known primarily for its height - 540 meters - and the assault of putschists in 1993), then we go back eight days to find out the beginning of the story.

We wake up at the station, where we have the first opportunity to see the lives of its inhabitants. Narrow corridors, a lot of people crowded in a small area, running children, vodka and omnipresent weapons. I have to admit that already at this point the work of the developers made quite an impression on me. First of all - the station is really crowded. This is not Mass Effect, where three natives are chatting in the largest "club-cafe" on the planet, and two other people are propping up the walls. In one place, vodka is pouring, in another - by the fire (like in STALKER) an unfulfilled Wysocki plays the guitar, in a separate corridor you can see stalls with pieces of meat lying on them, and pigs croak in the boxes next to them. In the local market, the main goods are weapons, ammunition and supplies necessary for survival outside the station. Every society has its heroes. For these people, they are stalkers who have the courage to step onto a surface contaminated by radiation.

There is no state mint in the subway to produce kopecks. The hard currency is ammunition, which can be divided, like weapons, into two types. The one made underground and military, created in the times before the catastrophe. There are even special exchange offices where it can be exchanged. The rest of the necessary things can be found on the tables along the corridors.

I must admit that the authors brilliantly managed to capture the atmosphere and visual style of this place. The station does not seem to be created for the needs of a computer game, but it appears as a real area, transferred only by the hands of artists and programmers to the virtual world. Later, as the plot develops, we will find several similar stations, and in one of them we can even try to use the services of a lady working in the world's oldest profession. Oh, life.

After leaving the station and starting the proper adventure, most of the time we do not part with our weapons. Initially, it is nothing special, some kind of sawdust, knife, "cork" ... With time, however, there is an opportunity to use more sophisticated tools. The first of them is a familiar "kalach" or a six-shotgun, a little later a silenced carbine and a fancy handgun, which is extremely useful for silent elimination of opponents. But the most interesting thing is when you can try out the wonders of underground technical thought. For example, a gun that fires steel bolts or a pneumatic rifle that fires steel balls, requiring from time to time to be "pumped up", thus maintaining the highest possible pressure in the tank. The generator carried by Artyom also requires constant charging. Thanks to it, we illuminate dark corridors with a flashlight, and in the later stages it is a necessary power source for the night vision device. There are actually a bit more types of weapons, including machine guns permanently mounted on draisines or a flame thrower.

First aid kits are also essential to survive in the subway tunnels. The injury system advocated by the authors is a two-tier system. The character can handle any minor wounds without any problems. You only need to wait a few seconds for the situation to normalize. It is similar with heavy wounds, but when we are attacked by a larger number of opponents and we have nowhere to hide, our health does not recover and we die. In this situation, medications that are in the form of injections in Metro 2033 become necessary. After doing this, your health restores immediately, which is signaled by an increase in heart rate for a few seconds. The idea is also very interesting, and at the same time not invasive. Although the character can only carry five injections, I only had to use them a few times when playing on the normal difficulty level.

An important element of the equipment is a gas mask and the filters it uses. Both in some tunnels and on the surface, the air is so polluted that wearing a mask is absolutely necessary, otherwise Artyom will not survive for more than a dozen seconds. What the Ukrainians did with this element of the game deserves the highest recognition in my opinion, because this famous immersion is absolutely complete. Quick movement or any effort causes the condensation of water vapor to freeze on the mask, which can significantly reduce the field of view. In addition, the filters wear out quite quickly and we hear Artyom's heavy breathing almost all the time, which calms down for a moment only after replacing the filter with a new one. As a result of the attacks, the glass mask may break and the only way to get rid of the crack is to find another one somewhere. The time remaining until the filters use up is monitored with a watch, which is worth checking out from time to time. I do not remember that the authors of any other production devoted so much attention to this piece of equipment. You can fall into an even greater illusion by turning off the aiming cross in the middle of the screen in the options, only the horse with a row to whoever hits the first time throwing a knife at the back of one of the guards. It is also worth mentioning here that both the bolts and knives are reusable and after using them you can pick them up again from the ground or tear them out of the corpse.

The alarmed enemies react quite consciously and during fire they move between different covers. However, they are rather slow and their hustle and bustle is a bit pointless.

The lack of any HUD also serves to increase the immersion. The mission objectives are simply written on a piece of paper with a kind of compass attached to it that shows the direction in which to go. In the dark corridor, you can use a lighter to read the objective of the next mission, which additionally increases the atmosphere. And this one is at times thick like jelly.

Artyom hardly ever traverses the tunnels alone. Although he himself, like the hero of Dead Space, does not speak at all (except for the only time when a good curse is falling from his mouth), the people encountered during the journey chatter almost constantly. By the way, I recommend that you turn on Russian dubbing instead of English dialogues, which is much better and, at the same time, great for creating the atmosphere. Unfortunately, supporters of the "STALKER method" and fans of Mirosław Utta's voice will be disappointed. They only have the text to read. In this case, however, you have to defend the Polish distributor for such a decision, because there are so many dialogues that even the best voiceover would unnecessarily drown them out and thus destroy the atmosphere of the presented world. In the game, even during sharp threshing, the characters spit what they salivate on their tongue. And while the main character is completely colorless and might as well remain anonymous, the other inhabitants of the tunnels are flesh and blood. Maybe they fall into banality at times, but even so, it is worth reading what they have to say. People who know Russian as such should sometimes crouch somewhere and listen to the voices of the background. The monologue of the politician explaining the Marxist-Leninist philosophy at the front to the soldiers of the communist faction is masterful here. And there are more such pearls.

It can of course be explained that many games follow a similar course, that behind the technological orgy there is a complete lack of potential to serve a convincing plot. The more that we are dealing with an ordinary shooting. You can, but should you turn a blind eye to the game itself? I do not think so.

The second issue is wasted potential. The authors assumed that the player would be deprived of any freedom, even in places giving the impression of a bit of freedom. These are locations where we are left alone for a while, and where there are enemy guards in front of us. Following the process of creating the game and watching the first gameplay videos in which the developer talked about the nuances ruling the underground world, I had the impression that an original shooter would soon be in my hands, in which great emphasis was placed on stealth elements. And yes, but woe to you, Dear Player, if you stray at least one step from your path. One mistake, a little inattention is enough and we have all the guards on our backs. Who always know where the player is hiding, they always know where to shoot and never, ever think of the fact that he could get into the scattered glass, let's say, a cat. And this way we end stealth, because even if we stand on our head, the guards will not give up on showing who and what remains, only a sharp exchange of fire.

Hands up, who heard about the wonders and wonders of the Moscow metro station. About the fact that they are covered with marble, that there are huge candelabra hanging from the ceiling, that they are full of socialist realist graffiti depicting the leaders of the USSR, about their spaciousness, and so on and so on. In the game, we will not see anything similar, apart from the five-second drive through Polis. Only dark, narrow tunnels, like some ditches between dugouts. Let the Americans eat their fill of architectural splendor. There is only a ford, a stench and poverty in Moscow. I absolutely do not write this to make anyone feel offended, just the authors themselves issued this type of testimony. And let's leave it that it's more realistic, twenty years after the Holocaust, that people actually have a hard time. I, sitting on the other side of the monitor, would like to see more than just lichen on the walls and collapsed corridors.

Nice graphics come at a price. And this will be another objection to the authors. The game is very poorly optimized. Admittedly, it looks nice on medium details and will work quite decently, but if you want to enjoy the eye with fantastic effects, you need a powerful computer. This objection is even greater because the actions are scripted, so the processor is relieved of the AI behavior, and the levels, as I wrote earlier, are tiny. At times it is very spectacular, at least to the extent of the best Western productions, but at the cost of really high requirements.