The Quiet Moments In Metro: Last Light's Apocalypse

Mood is such an important thing in a nuclear apocalypse; a detail that is so easy to forget. That’s something that’s painfully palpable in the first hour of Metro: Last Light

Yes there are telepathic, radioactive creatures. Yes, there is shooting and stabbing. But what really sticks to my ribs more than anything are those tiny, nigh invisible moments of quiet — those tiny glimpses when you see someone frittering away time and simply being a human being.

Early on in Metro: Last Light, you wake up from a horrible nightmare into a subterranean military base in the bombed out metro of subterranean Moscow. Walking around, you’re greeted by your compatriots in their off-time — A man playing a mournful song on his guitar in a bunk bed for his friends, a soldier repairing his gun and someone with their headphones on, playing an air drum solo. People are unwinding, training and making due with best they have in a grim situation.

There is something oddly touching about it. American games often like to pretend that the end of the world might be a fun and bombastic place. We enjoy the cavalier, gallows humour of mocking Duck and Cover and other Cold War relics. We harbor a love for the nuclear wasteland like it's some kind of neo-cowboy playground. On some level, it’s our way of coping with the depressing, horrible prospect of a nuclear war obliterating everyone and everything you love.

But I’ve always found that Russia, the Ukraine and other former Soviet Bloc countries historically have had a more sober approach in their speculative fiction. Movies like Tarkovsky’s Stalker (and by extension the loosely affiliated S.T.A.L.K.E.R.) and the Polish O-bi, O-ba - The End of Civilization, understand something basic about nuclear fallout: that if society is blasted back into the loam, if everything is burned to ash and we are forced to live like moles, all we will have left are our tiny, half-remembered creature comforts in a savage, dead and uncaring world. Metro seems to understand that on a profound level (for more, read Kirk's full review).

The people in this game are living for their yesterdays, holding on desperately to the remnants of what made them human. "I remember so many random, unnecessary things" the protagonist, Artyom, reflects in Metro: Last Light's intro "yet I don't remember the most important one — my mother's face."


Comments

    Hopefully this game sells well and EA learns a thing or two about replacing the atmosphere with loud noises.

      Is Michael Bay at the head of their development team?

      I doubt the majority of CoD's playerbase care about atmosphere... Metro and CoD have vastly different (I'd even go so far as to say "opposite") goals. One feels like a tired old veteran who's just tired of all the fighting and wants it to just stop; the other is an eager new recruit looking for glory in battle. They each appeal to completely different demographics, and as much as I hate to say it, EA's has wider appeal, because people generally don't like to dwell on consequences or collateral damage, especially on a global scale - it's basic human nature. If people did, we might not have had to ever worry about nuclear war becoming a real possibility.

        You know EA have nothing to do with COD, don't you? I think he may have been referring to Dead Space 3 which was made by EA, but I could be wrong too...

          Yeah, I was talking about Dead Space 3. Which ignored the niche horror playerbase and any other players that may have been swept up by the franchise so that they could try to desperately appeal to the Dudebros who would never know the game ever exists.

          *facepalm*

          My mistake; EA and Activision are somewhat blurred in my mind (might be their business practices, might be my sleep deprivation :3). Replace CoD with Battlefield - principle's pretty much the same for their single-player campaigns (seeing as we're talking about atmosphere). Although MoH tried to portray war properly (I think), and Dead Space... well, it tried, too.

    The focus on "atmosphere" is starting to become a nuisance is modern video game design. With all this environmental detail, your game does not even have to be good or remotely interactive. Look at interactive experiences like Journey and Gone Home that focus exclusively on atmosphere but almost ignore any meaningful interaction. Last Light's combat serves as the only interaction with the game, which wouldn't be a problem if it was actually well designed (but that's a different discussion). One of the above comments attacks Call of Duty and its fans as if Last Light was somehow more worthy because it is wrapped in (admittedly inspired) atmosphere. In the end both games are about shooting things and if anyone tells you otherwise they are lying. What I am getting at is that developers should focus more on the interactive elements than the purely visual/audio (passive) ones.

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