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Apocalypse wow!

tech-reviews Updated: Apr 20, 2010 18:53 IST
Utkarsh Waghmare
Utkarsh Waghmare
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Global warming, rogue meteors, zombie viruses, alien invasion... let’s face it: a nuclear war seems like the most logical reason for the inevitable end of the world. Metro 2033, the latest post-apocalyptic shooter from 4A Games, once again brings the horror of a nuclear war-ravaged world to your desktops and televisions.

The game is set in Moscow, most of which is uninhabitable due to nuclear radiation and dangerous mutant creatures that roam the wastelands. For many years, the surviving population has taken refuge in the vast underground subway network which is mostly free from radiation but not without its own fair share of problems.

Superb atmosphere
The premise may sound like a cross between Fallout 3 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. but the game itself feels more like Half-Life and its sequel. Much like Half-Life, the game’s biggest strength is its fantastic atmosphere. This is a bleak world in all its harsh glory. The many train stations which now form small pockets of civilisation are amazingly detailed.

You play as Artyom, a young man raised in the subway tunnels who is given the task to prevent his home station from being overrun by mutants. Artyom is a typical silent protagonist who speaks in monologues while the game loads a level. The story is well told, moves along at a great pace and features many interesting characters along the way. Everyone speaks with a thick Russian accent but the voice acting is pretty good.

Although Metro 2033 is largely a linear romp from point A to B, some levels offer opportunities for exploration. Perhaps the game could have benefitted from a slightly non-linear structure where you’re allowed to do missions in the order you choose while also freely exploring areas. The game employs some pretty cool effects. For example, when you have the gas mask on, your vision becomes restricted and your breath mutes the gunfire. Which brings me to a slightly disappointing aspect of the game — the gunplay.

Damp gameplay
While the “hand-made” guns look great the shooting itself is not all that satisfying. Enemies in Metro 2033 can be pretty relentless at times. You'll face various types of mutant creatures, well armed humans and some of the supernatural variety. At various points the game encourages stealth over direct confrontation, especially when dealing with a large number of human enemies.

But the stealth aspect is useless thanks to the troublesome AI. This is made worse by the lack of a save anywhere quick-save option. The game saves itself only at checkpoints, so if you get spotted you can't just quick-load a previous save. Proper stealth mechanics and better AI would have added a lot more depth to the game.

However, all these issues are overshadowed by the brilliant atmosphere of the game. Whether it's the populated stations or the deserted tunnels of the Metro, each aspect reeks of attention to detail. Metro 2033 has a strong horror element which is subtly maintained. There are some genuinely creepy moments but instead of monsters jumping at you, the scares are provided by tense set pieces, smart lighting effects and sound design.

It's fair to say that Metro 2033 is one of the best looking games in recent times. You'll need a powerful rig to run it in it's full glory, but it still looks decent on medium settings. The texture work is impressive and the lighting adds to the atmosphere. If your GPU has PhysX capabilities, you'll get the most out of the environmental effects. The character models, however, look like they're from 2004 and feature some stiff animations. I also experienced a few crashes and black screens. But those aside, Metro 2033 is a very impressive game technically.

What we like
* Brilliant atmosphere
* Decent story, interesting characters
* Great voice acting
* Impressive visuals

What we don’t
* Broken stealth mechanics and bad A.I
* Gunplay underwhelms