They call it their flawed masterpiece. Released last year, 4A Games' Metro 2033 gave gamers a chance to experience a different sort of apocalypse, one untainted by Western views and culture. Metro 2033 was an apocalypse shaped by old world fears, and Russian ethos.
Based on the novel of the same name by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky and developed by a team in the Ukraine, Metro 2033 was a very different sort of game. In the first-person shooter you adventured and fought to survive in the warring factions that blossom in Moscow's metro system. The survival-horror tinged title made things more interesting by making your ammo also serve as your currency.
But, as THQ, the game's publisher, told a room full of journalists earlier this month, the game was not without its problems. The publisher described it as a cult hit with bugs. The sequel to the game, Metro: Last Light, hopes to correct all of the issues with the previous title.
The team worked on fixing the artificial intelligence of the game this time around, worked on weapon balancing, and strove to make the combat feel more exciting and tactical, we were told.
The segment of gameplay we were shown, they warned us, was stitched together from different parts of the still pre-alpha game.
The demonstration opened on a grand cathedral in ruin. A camera pans across the crumbling remains toward a strange noise, the sound of some sort of rat-like creature eating a corpse.
"Much has changed since the dark ones were scorched from the earth," a narrator says. "The air is not pure enough to breath, but sometimes we glimpse the sun or a bit of blue sky. But sadly we ourselves have not changed. War rages throughout the Metro."
In Last Light, the station-cities of the Metro are fighting for control of a "doomsday device" locked away in the military vaults of D6.
The camera moves on from the cathedral, slowly drifting across a Moscow in ruin, past a downtown area packed with abandoned cars, creatures skittering among the rusted hulks of automobiles. Finally the pan stops on two men opening a manhole, climbing down into a metro station. The screen goes black as the manhole closes above them.
Now it appears the game is being controlled by a gamer. The man he controls, Artyom, switches on night vision goggles. He's standing in a tunnel entrance, facing a thick layer of cobwebs. He reaches over and unscrews a light bulb, hiding as a large metal door at the other end of the tunnel slowly swings open.
Two men speaking another language, perhaps Russian, walk out to look around. They separate and Artyom creeps up behind one of them and decapitates him. He swivels and shoots the other guard with a strange, hand-built gun, a Geiger counter strapped to its side.
The player moves into the door, creeping along the edge of light case by a nearby cook fire. He shoots the pot over the fire, using its liquid to douse the flames. He shoots a nearby bulb, casting the area he's in, in darkness.
He works his way through the area, killing another guard as he makes his way to a command centre decorated with the word "Reich." The player gets into a gun battle, taking out enemies with a found chaingun. The Reich, it turns out, are a group of neo Nazis.
The player and another character, both on the same side, make their way into a large hall filled with men, women and children, all doing the Nazi salute to an orater at the end of the hall. When they're spotted the other character fires his gun into the air, sending people scrambling in every direction, and then the two of you run through to a rail car in another section of the Metro.
The two of you crawl into the rail car, a small armoured affair, and start rolling down the tracks. A gun battle erupts in the tunnels as your buddy handles the car and your fire at pursuing rail cars. Finally, you catch up to an armoured train and jump on board, taking out enemies as you hunt for a prisoner. That wraps up our look at the game in action.
Metro: Last Light looks sufficiently gritty and somber, though what we saw of it lacked any sort of sense of horror or suspense.
The team say they're working to bring multiplayer to the game this time around, something they tried to do with the original Metro 2033, but weren't able to finalise.
They also said they're tinkering with the concept of using ammo for currency. They want to preserve the notion of scavenging for resources, they say, but don't want to make ammo so hard to come by and so valuable you aren't able to get into the occasional firefight.
They are working on their core systems to figure out what works best, they say, it's still a work in progress.
Look for more details about the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as it approaches its 2012 release.