It's been a while. Sorry for my apparent disappearence from the planet, but I've been moving house. Moving one's worldly possessions from one place to another is a lot more stressful and time-consuming than you think, and has left me with little time to think, let alone game. But game I did. The lack of internet meant I've been playing games old-school. No online, no co-op, just straight gaming. Luckily, my latest rental from LoveFilm was exactly that, and I adjusted myself in my new gaming space (my living room) and awaited my internet arrival and killing time with a game that took me totally by suprise. Metro 2033...
Not in a long time has a game intrigued me this much. Absolutely fascinating. I'm almost scared to recommend it so fearlessly, as it's a bit shit. But then it's good. See? Look at the turmoil I'm facing within myself! This game has me flustered, to the point logic is taking a backseat. Let's get a grip, talk about the bad points first, and hopefully restore some kind of order.
The hit detection is shockingly bad. When you shoot a dude, they have to go through an animation before you can cause damage again. This leads to frustration, and approaching the game in an almost rhythym-action manner. We also have the level design being punishing to the point of sadism in parts, and god-awful Faux-Russian voice acting. Add to this uninspiring gunplay and a rather disappointing ending, and it's difficult to see why I'm writing about this game at all.
But it's the atmosphere that makes this game an intriguing little purchase. All throughout the game, you can see it's made for about 20p, but you can also see that it's less-than-average parts are held together by the passion, sweat and spit of the designers that made it. It bleeds honesty, and vision. You can tell this is a team who had grand, grand ideas, and were only limited by time. By setting the game in confined spaces, and dark environments, the game has given itself a headstart. They obviously didn't have the time or the money to make grand, open-air vistas. But this doesn't matter, as by setting it in narrow and confined spaces, even little pieces of grandeur seem absolutely decadent compared to the paranoia-inducing corridors of the rest of the game.
After tunnels of unspeakable evil and dank, empty halls, a settlement really is awe-inspiring, and you feel genuinely safe when you walk past the armed garrison, and into the safety of an occupied metro station. Metro 2033's greatest strength is it's dark, terrifying atmosphere. Even clunky story-telling can't mess it up. Metro 2033 plants a sticky grenade on Halo's neck, and watches it's saccharin-sweet innards brightly explode everywhere, as it sinks back into it's black tunnels, wiping the purple blood from it's tattered rags. An antidote to the sci-fi shooters of late that keep things 'kid-friendly'.
Indeed, I have not played such an atmospheric and scary game in some time. There really is a sense of desperation about the levels, due to both their shortness, and overall feel and setting. The sound design is also fantastic for heightening the tension. So much so that when you hear a monster shriek in the distance, you really do shit yourself. It instills in you a sense of fear, a sense of urgency, and a sense of dread. All from a sound. The art direction is also pretty excellent, with the guns and the thought process behind them being spot-on, and meticulously planned. Pneumatic Ball-Bearing rifles being a prime example of clever thinking, a rationale that as bullets have become harder to come by, the Russians have looked to other ways to make weapons to protect themselves.
So, Metro 2033. Shit but also exceedingly good. It's already £20, and I can see it going down even further. But trust me, you may just fall in love with it. The last time I was this suprised by a game was when I bought The Darkness. Best £3 I ever spent.