Video games have tackled the post-apocalyptic scenario many times over its short history, but none have attempted to make that experience an immersive and somewhat realistic simulation of doomsday events. That is one of the goals for developer 4A Games in their upcoming title Metro: Last Light. And from what I’ve seen of the game so far, they’re doing a pretty damn good job at it.
Some might find aspects of such a simulated experience trivial, but you would be hard pressed to argue that they don’t contribute to the game’s immersion factor. Necessities such as refuelling your gas mask to enter outside environments, manually pumping your torch to avoid it flickering out and wiping your visor when too much moisture builds on it, make the experience all the more real.
Even the guns themselves have been realistically designed down to even the most minute detail. Reload your gun before the round is empty and the bullets you didn’t fire will still be visibly loaded. Don’t believe me? Why don’t you try one of Metro’s coolest new features by slowing down (or speeding up) the action to a ridiculous speed. One particular scene captured the exact process of reloading the gun. When the bullets slowly hit the ground those that had been spent made a hollow sound while those that hadn’t thumped heavily. Another section saw narrative exposition fast forwarded so that the following shoot out could be quickly reached. While this feature is only running on PCs at the moment there are plans to bring it to the console versions too.
Little things like this don’t just add to a realistic simulation though, they also provide a convincing and compelling atmosphere that equates to a living, organic environment. When Metro’s hero, Artyom, emerges out to a swamp infested Russian city wasteland, he stumbles upon rats and birds feeding on a decomposing corpse. He continues on to an abandoned straw hut where a snake lies coiled, hanging down from its foundations. Pass by without killing the critter and you’d better expect some lightning fast reflexes. After poking around the swamp a bit longer, Artyom attracts the attention of a giant armored insect (think a dark mutated depiction of the Pokemon Scyther). Endangered by the critter’s sharp claws and a distinct lack of ammo, Artyom is lucky when the mutant gets distracted by an attacking pterodactyl-esque monster. The creature’s movement animations are unnervingly realistic; like 4A have motion captured the animal’s individual attack patterns.
Beyond the game’s enemy animations Metro: Last Light looks incredible. When Metro 2033 released in 2010, it became a benchmark title to test out high-end PC’s. The same rings true for Last Light, so expect it to give Crysis 3 a run for its money. We saw it on a mid-range graphics card (Nvidia 500 series) and it looked simply stunning. Objects are finely detailed and environments depressingly beautiful.
So what’s been improved from the gameplay side of things, I hear you ask? Global Communications Manager, Jeremy Greiner told the group that the major improvements to the game have been in enemy AI and control mapping. “I was in the sewer and shot a guy who fell down into the sewer with me. When other guys came to have a look, they saw the body there and I didn’t realise it, but the body then triggered the AI system to go on a flanking route and went all the way round the map, down into the sewer and came behind me,” he said. Stealth sections have also seen much needed advancements,. There are now four different alert states and not every enemy on the map will know your location once you’ve been spotted.
Other neat additions include fire that can spread to particular objects and enemy armour that echoes a clink if you shoot at it – prompting the player to find the bodies soft spots. On top of that, enemies take more bullets to kill once they’ve been alerted because they’re pumped full of adrenaline. Metro’s covert choice system that affects how minor events play out also returns and hardcore players will be delighted to hear of the reappearance of hunter mode, stripping the game of all its HUD elements.
It goes without saying then, that next year simply can’t come soon enough.
Metro: Last Light has an expected release date of March next year and will come to PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.