When a bunch of guys left STALKER developer GSC Game World a year before that game's release, they formed 4A Games and got to work on a first-person shooter set in post-apocalyptic Ukraine. Sound familiar? Well, it is and it isn't.
Metro 2033 is that game. It launches later this month on Xbox 360 and PC. On the surface it bears considerable resemblance to STALKER, but dig beyond the setting and you'll realise this is more of a linear FPS in the vein of Half-Life.
So what kind of gamer will get into Metro 2033. We've picked five reasons why you'll like it; if your tastes match with the majority of these reasons, chances are Metro 2033 is a game for you.
You might like Metro if:
You dig a grim and tense atmosphere... As soon as you start the game, a sense of ruin and decay is evident. The world of Metro 2033 is a world in decline and humanity’s survival balances precariously on a razor's edge. The sound of the Moscow Metro tunnels runs the gamut from haunting wails emanating from rusting pipes, to the disorienting low-level roar of hundreds of voices all talking at once in a very small, very reverberant space. Even the lighting reinforces the sense of lack and scraping to survive. Your torchlight is a stingy and grimy beam, illuminating in an all-too-small radius. To keep it at its brightest a hand pumped generator is your only recourse and naturally, you can’t be powering up your torch batteries and shooting monsters at the same time.
You value immersion over realism... Metro 2033 may never be praised for its realistic combat simulation or accurate physics modelling, but it does try hard to get out of the way of the player and let them inhabit the world. Gas masks – vital for survival outside the safety of the Metro tunnels – crack and shatter as you sustain blows and, while worn, make your breathing audibly laboured and heavy. Certain guns visibly display how many bullets are left in the cartridge on the model itself, and a minimalist HUD displays your precious counter of bullets. Reloading seems to make your weapon enlarge and envelop the screen – impractical in the middle of a firefight, but forcing you to focus on the operation, much as you might with a real firearm. It’s another small way the game tries to immerse you in its world and it reminded me a bit of Far Cry 2 in that respect.
You like psychological elements… If you enjoyed the tension of STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl’s underground sections, filled as they were with invisible assailants and mind-bending mutants, you’ll find plenty to keep you awake and sweating late into early hours of the morning. At the risk of spoiling one small moment from the first few hours of the game, you can expect to encounter a ghost train reminiscent of a scene from Ghostbusters 2. Unlike the relatively benign spectral locomotive of the film, however, the spectres of Metro 2033 are much more dangerous.
You like foreign language films… Expect to be able to play the game with all of the dialogue in Russian. As long as you’re willing and able to juggle between reading onscreen subtitles and scrounging around for bullets, hearing Metro 2033 in its native Russian-speaking voice actors is well worth the trouble.
You didn’t enjoy running all over the map in STALKER… If I had to describe Metro 2033 to someone who had never seen anything about the game before, I’d say that it’s STALKER without the inventory management or the running back and forth between shops and missions. What it does is keep the bleak Eastern European apocalypse aesthetic and add a heavy emphasis on environmental exploration and immersion. Expect to scour every nook and cranny of the Moscow underground (and some of its aboveground) for every last bullet. Metro may not be as go-anywhere as Fallout 3, but it manages to feel significantly more like an apocalypse.
Metro 2033 is developed by 4A Games and published by THQ. It will be released on March 18 for Xbox 360 and PC (RRP $109.95).