I got to play about an hour and a half of Metro: Last Light at PAX East this weekend. What I played felt like two different games.
The first game was a stealth game, at least in the way I decided to play it. You could always opt for guns-blazing if that's more your thing.
In this post-apocalyptic Moscow, you play as Artyom again, battling both the decrepit environment full of toxins as well as the internal threat of a civil war. As I kept track of my resources like oxygen and ammunition, I also kept track of my enemy targets. I skulked in the shadows, trading plain assault rifles for silenced ones as I found better weapons with better modifications that I looted off of dead guards. I tried to keep my lighter — fashioned out of a large calibre bullet — stashed away so I wouldn't reveal my position. I became a part of the background, blending in to train carts hidden in the darkness, rescuing women and men from their captors.
My silenced pistol was my best friend. I took guards out one by one with well-timed headshots. As one turned his attention to a corner where he couldn't view my target, I'd drop the guy right at that moment.
Jason mentioned in a hands-off demo that he felt the sneaking seemed strange:
Particularly strange: enemy soldiers can find bodies and suddenly go into alert mode, but you have no way of moving bodies around, so it's tough to cover your tracks.
It is strange. A lot of stealth games let you drag bodies around to keep on your stealthy path. But I actually liked it this way. It pushed me to run through rooms. It was higher pressure. It challenged me in a way that — if I ever find myself trying to infiltrate or escape a heavily-armed and guarded location — I would imagine is most representative of reality.
Of course, at times my playthroughs wouldn't be perfect and I'd slip up in some way or another, calling attention to my location and being greeted by what felt like zillions of assault rifle ammunition. How hospitable.
At this point my enemies would turn the gas up and put their masks down. Now I had to resort to sprinting and quick shooting. As I downed one guard and stole a node of oxygen from him for my own survival, I'd be scoping out the next enemy to mark for death. This stealth game quickly turned action-packed, as much as I tried to remain lowkey. You'll have to learn to adapt.
But if we want to talk about action-packed, we should really talk about the other, actual second game I played: the horror sequences. Undoubtedly familiar to Metro fans are the beast-like enemies that are the product of a poisoned civilisation. This part of the game had me navigating a train track grid, coming upon hostiles and wary travellers alike. I'd stop my railcar a hundred feet away and tread lightly towards people, carrying my scoped rifle to peer through the night vision since most of your travels here are in the dark.
But the railways are home to more than just human enemies. You'll be greeted with spiders and mutants, hungry for your flesh. There are quite a few high-anxiety moments in these horror sequences — with enemies crawling on ceilings and bursting out of burrows to attack you while growling and hissing — but I have to say I personally loved the stealthier levels more. As a solitary soldier against a wide variety of enemies — both those that you can see and those that linger in your head — it feels more appropriate to take it all on under the protection of shadows. When playing stealthily, I turned quick corners and hid out on high-rise platforms, bringing enemies down one by one and feeling triumphant about it. There's no greater satisfaction than watching as your prey scrambles in fear, wondering where the hell their attacker is or even what the hell their attacker is.
Unfortunately I didn't get to see much of the hallucinations that we've seen (hands-off) in other gameplay demos of Last Light. Or any of the choices we've been promised we'll get to make. These parts feel like they might be a large chunk of the game: representing the crippling world around our protagonist, as well as our role within it. But when I see tiny details being taken advantage of — like a cracked gas mask after taking a particularly heavy crash — I remain optimistic that those experiences will feel real. We'll just have to wait it out to see.
Metro: Last Light comes out on May 14 (17 for international gamers) for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.