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Sep 04 2014

Quickshaves: Metro 2033 Redux

header_292x136One of the greatest things about the last console generation was the popularization of HD remakes; the chance to rediscover and explore awesome games that you didn’t get to check out the first time around (or wanted an excuse to go back to) but now with improved visuals and infrastructure. While the new consoles are still pretty fresh on the shelf, the remasters have already started coming with things like Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition back in February and the just recently released Metro Redux bundle. Now considering the fact that Metro Last Light came out only last year, it’s expected that Last Light Redux is only a marginal improvement over the original release, so instead we’re going to look at the Redux version of the first game, Metro 2033. An interesting but most certainly flawed game when it came out, its curiously ballistic concept of currency and masterful use of atmosphere kept it from being ignored. Metro 2033 Redux fixes a lot of the issues the original had in terms gameplay and manages to keep its fantastically dark tone intact and polished to an appropriately dusty and dull sheen.

Starting with the gameplay, everything has been more or less brought up to the standards of Metro: Last Light. The shooting feels far tighter than that of the original and the stealth has been improved and made smoother, though it feels like there’s less of a focus on melee stealth than Last Light had. Of course even that depends on how you choose to play the game, as it gives you the new option of playing in either “Survival” or “Spartan” style. The former is meant to act as more of a survival horror type experience, whereas the latter makes it more like a fast paced shooter; in practice though the difference really only shows up in terms of the amount of health (both yours and the enemy’s) and ammo availability. I played through the whole game in Survival and halfway through in Spartan and all the enemy spawn points and level design seemed the same. If anything this ends up making the Survival mode far easier than it should be because while you certainly won’t have as much ammo, it requires less to actually take down the enemy if you’re shooting with any accuracy. That said there is still enough of an ammo crunch to keep things interesting and the reduced health does mean you need to be somewhat careful. Combined with the tighter shooting and the unique way a lot of the guns in the Metro universe feel and act, this does make for a smarter and more interesting shooting experience overall.

Better lighting and improvements to AI make stealth a more viable and more interesting option.

Better lighting and improvements to AI make stealth a more viable and more interesting option.

The game is not without its flaws though, in looking through the forums for this game on Steam I saw more than a couple of people complaining about bugs and I certainly experienced my own share. One issue was particularly egregious, so let me present my experience with it in full: Around the middle point of the game you need to cross through a battle between the Reds and the Reich (communists and Nazis respectively whose ideologies have been reborn in the metro) passing from one camp’s front line to the other. Well I was having some trouble with this level, repeatedly trying to stealth it out, and dying every time. On one death though something funny happened, my freshly deceased corpse fell into another character who was doing a different animation and suddenly I wasn’t so dead, in fact I was now invincible. Unfortunately I didn’t have a gun anymore nor could I use any items, but I could still interact with and pick up ammo, so I just wandered around at my leisure, picking up everything I could, and eventually moving onto the next level, all while enemies from both sides futilely shot at me. A nice little respite to be sure but afterwards something still felt off. The next level was a turret sequence followed by a quick rail car ride and both seemed to go fine; I had my gun back but still couldn’t use my grenades or knife or anything, which I assumed was an intentional constraint of the level. Once I got booted off of the rail car though, the real terror of the bug I had encountered set in; despite having my gun back, my melee attack, all my sub weapons, my lighter, my journal, my medkits, and most importantly my gas mask were all completely disabled. My progress was utterly halted and I had to restart my playthrough entirely after multiple attempts at restarting the game and starting anew from various chapter checkpoints didn’t help. I also encountered a few small visual bugs like the ground flickering here and there but nothing as devastating as my taste of invincibility and the consequences that followed it.

Metro 2033's grotesque monster design only look more terrifying after a polishing.

Metro 2033’s grotesque monster design only looks more terrifying after a polishing.

Speaking of the visuals, things do look quite a bit better here. The whole game has not only been transferred over to the same engine as Last Light but they’ve gone to the trouble of remaking a ton of assets, lending things a sharpness but also a smarter design over all with minor elements being moved to more effective areas. It’s a lot of stuff you wouldn’t notice unless you played the games side by side (which at a point I essentially did) but it ends up making quite the difference. There’s some improved telegraphing going on in the level design and making clearer where you’re supposed to go next.  These redone assets are especially nice when it comes to the people in the game, they look less robotic and deep in the uncanny valley as they used to. Also of note is the work they’ve put into making some scenes feel a little more natural and cinematic; stuff that triggered somewhat awkwardly in the original has been choreographed into proper cut scenes here giving a smoother flow. Of course with the new engine also comes oodles of polish, impressive new lighting, and other standard pretty making techniques but the original version of Metro 2033 is only four years old so the bump in graphical quality is nice but not necessarily a dramatic jaw dropping improvement.

Despite a few hiccups, this is definitely a better version of Metro 2033 and if you’ never played the game originally then this is certainly the way to play it. For returning audiences, the improved mechanics and assets are certainly nice to have and the dual gameplay types (while somewhat shallow) offer a pleasant bit of choice. As for whether I personally recommend buying this release or not, it depends. If you’re a newcomer to the series or only played Last Light then definitely pick it up; Metro 2033 was and is a great game and this is the best version of it. However if you played it back in 2010, then I advise waiting for a sale, though if you own the original version through Steam you can already get Redux for half off which is pretty fair.

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