2010?s Metro 2033 surprised everyone with its tight gameplay mechanics and engaging post-apocalyptic storyline - at a time when ?end of the world? settings were ten a penny, no less. But the game certainly surprised publisher THQ, as it realised at the last minute that it had a potential cult hit on its hands. The result was a muted launch.
But that?s all changed with Metro: Last Light
. THQ began supporting the action shooter sequel from the very beginning of development - a marketing push that continues even when the publisher collapsed and the game got picked up by Deep Silver. And rightly so, because after playing through a segment of the game, it has the chance to be one of the year?s more interesting experiences.
The story follows directly from Metro 2033
, in which Russian survivor Artyom destroys all of the known ?Dark Ones? in Moscow. They were thought to be threatening humanity?s survival, but now Arytom feels that he?s made a terrible mistake. Hailed as a hero of the Metro, he risks stardom (and his life, actually) when he discovers the existence of one last Dark One, that could just be able to help in this ruined world.
It?s a first-person shooter with thought. Weapons feel weighty but never overpowering, especially when faced with some of the mutant enemies that litter the landscape - wolf-like Watchmen, creepy spider-ants, oversized piranha fish... and not forgetting the patrolmen for every human faction in Moscow, with the city currently in civil war.
You can run in all guns blazing, but you can also choose to use stealth - and this is the first such game that I?ve played in a long time where such a feature appears to make sense. There?s nothing that feels arbitrary here, and it?s all down to a little light on Artyom?s wrist. If you?re bathed in light and can be spotted by the enemy, the light turns blue. If you?re in the shadows, it switches off.
This basic function lets you run past enemies and turn your back on them without having to worry about whether they will freak out and ?spot? you for no apparent reason. In most stealth games, I end up sneaking about, always looking at any and every enemy just in case they twitch, for that very reason. Maybe I?m just super-paranoid.
I largely went through the same stages that was presented to me by Huw Beynon back in December last year
. With the addition of traveling through tunnels between cities - which offer more gameplay value than just point-to-point corridors. Such areas offer optional exploration and basic puzzle-solving - opening station doors and crossing polluted sewer waters for example.
Beynon, now a global brand manager for the game?s new publisher Deep Silver, was able to sit down and chat about the final stretch for Metro: Last Light?s
development, THQ?s handling of the original game and the difference between this game and twitch-based FPS titles.
SPOnG: How does the team feel now that Metro: Last Light is nearly on store shelves? What?s the journey been like for you guys?
Well, there was a temporary delay. An interruption of the scheduled service, if you will. It was disruptive for everyone, but I think we?re back on track now. We?ve found a great partner with Deep Silver, who are really enthusiastic about the game and the opportunity it represents. As you can see, we?ve pulled no punches in getting the campaign back on track.
The transition has been disruptive for the studio though. There?s a lot of admin and paperwork involved when you swap publishers - you?re used to working with one QA department and all the first-party submissions and stuff [with one company], and all of that starts over. But, we?ve pushed the release date back as well, partly to allow Deep Silver to pull together a marketing campaign that the game deserves and to continue the great work that THQ started.
So on balance: there?s been a delay. But we?re back. The game is nearly done, nearly coming out. And actually I think May is a much more attractive release date anyway because... there?s nothing else in May!
SPOnG: Has it been a challenge for you, 4A and the rest of the team to build on the success of Metro 2033?
The whole story behind Metro 2033
is a really interesting one. It was in 2009 that the game had been signed, picked up and in development at THQ, but THQ at the time was going through one of those organisational upheavals, and Metro 2033
was... it was almost like, forgotten in a drawer. It was coming to market, but no-one was really working on it on the marketing side until far too late.
The summer or so before the game even came out, it was almost like a discovery. We realised that we had this game coming out the following March, and we hadn?t announced it or done any marketing for it. We looked in the books, and saw that it didn?t have a particularly high expectation [to do well] and therefore it didn?t have much marketing budget allocated to it. We thought it was a travesty - we ended up going all hands on deck in a last-minute scramble, with zero funds to play around with, to try and promote the game.
All we could do really was generate a little bit of PR for it. Nonetheless... I think the quality of the game gave it that word-of-mouth success. And for a cult hit, we actually clocked over four million players of Metro 2033
- over a million on Xbox 360, and close to three million on PC. A lot of those players came quite late, with the THQ Humble Bundle promotion and the Facebook thing. But that?s a healthy install base of people that we know have played the game.
I think THQ realised their mistake before even Metro 2033
came out. It just couldn?t do much about it. But, right from the start with Metro: Last Light
we were committed to the product, and that showed itself in many ways. From a greater focus from marketing and sales teams, to added assistance given to the studio. They spent significant money on Metro: Last Light
already, with the live action trailer before E3 last year and all the promotion behind that.
So there was already a sizeable campaign behind Metro: Last Light
. And Deep Silver have picked up the reigns on that. As you can see, we?re determined to continue that, so the game is going to see a much higher level of promotion that Metro 2033
ever did. We started from a much better place, people are aware of it, and we have a fanbase behind it. I?m hoping it?s going to be the success that the studio really deserves, and one that THQ couldn?t quite pull off for them at launch the last time around.