Don’t call it a comeback. Well actually, yes, do call it something of a comeback. Metro: Last Light might not be the true sequel to Russian post-apocalyptic novel Metro 2033 - that honour goes to follow-up book Metro 2034.
But it is a follow-up nonetheless, starting off from where the Metro 2033 game (and book) left off. It’s the video game equivalent of the Japanese Ring films, with Ring 2 having nothing to do with actual novelised sequel, Spiral.
The comparison is kind of apt, in a way, because THQ is refreshing the Metro brand (although it was keen to stress that Last Light is not a reboot) and focusing a lot of energy on psychological horror. And a little bit of ‘jump out of your seat’ horror too. Part of this re-imagination comes in the form of a live-action trailer, which you can see below. Go on.
Not much has been revealed about the story as of yet, but you will still be assuming the role of series protagonist, Artyon, as he adjusts to life in the underground Moscow Metro system. He’s there - along with a nation of fellow survivors - because it is the only truly safe place left following a devastating apocalypse some years prior. Going outside leads to suffocation, madness and a mauling by a vast number of demented mutant beasts.
As in the previous game, exploring the outside world takes a brave sort - as well as a juggling of valuable resources. Air, shelter and light are just a couple of important commodities to constantly bear in mind. Finding additional masks while you are outside will allow Artyon to prolong his survival, but when swapping over you’ve got to make sure that there aren’t any creepy spiders crawling about that want to bite your face off.
The hands-off demonstration I saw highlighted a couple of things - the first being that Artyon’s past will likely be explored in some detail in Last Light. Just before he sets off into the outside with a pal, the game shows a flashback to Artyon as a kid on the Moscow Metro. I wonder if we’ll be seeing more of his memories as you progress through the game.
Secondly, THQ are keen to blend combat, stealth and survival horror together in one big package. Upon stepping outside and overcoming the blinding light, it’s clear to see that a lot more effort has been placed on the post-apocalyptic Earth side. Artyon will be traveling outside often, and most of the world above will be haunted with cries of the dead.
In this particular demo, Artyon investigated a crashed plane, and along the way kept seeing spooky apparitions and creepy optical illusions. Creeping around here is probably a good idea, as you never know what will be around the next corner (although with an air supply in check and torch batteries to worry about, you shouldn’t sneak around too slowly).
Shortly after Artyon gets a vision of how the plane crashed, he comes to and discovers his friend slumped on the floor, going mad with his mask off. These “Tombs of the Dead” is an example of the game’s greater play on the Supernatural and the idea that ghosts and demons can co-exist. The dynamic weather effects only adds to the eerie atmosphere that the world is soaked in.
Flying demons and packs of wild boars also highlight the survival horror-style combat that is likely to happen whilst exploring the scorched earth. It all comes together to support a brand new story that was written in consultation with Metro 2033’s author, Dmitry Glukhovsky. Above all else, THQ tells me it wants to provide a single-player story that really engages, in an attempt to combat what it calls “FPS fatigue”. We’ll see if it’s on to something when we get a proper hands on, soon.