Metro 2033 4-Years Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* - June 17, 2014
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With Metro 2033 we have survival and first-person-shooter combined to bring about gameplay that you probably need to be prepared for before jumping in. The biggest aspect to take note of in that regard is that spray and pray will hurt you in the long run. Ammo is not altogether common, so if you are not careful to make sure your shots count, or to just avoid firing altogether, you may come to a situation where you have nothing to fight with but your knife. Mutants have something sharp too, called teeth, and they are sharper and more numerous than what you have. You can also run low on medkits and gas mask filters if you are not careful, so be resourceful all the time.
Believe it or not, but this does not hurt the gameplay, but it does shift your focus. Instead of being an action-hero saving the day with explosions going off behind you, Artyom just needs to be the hero, even if he stays in the shadows and avoids every fight he can.
The stealth mechanics of Metro 2033 work, but it is difficult to say much more than that. They are not harsh and they are not forgiving, they just are the stealth mechanics of an action game. Naturally standing in front of an enemy will expose you. Crouching helps, but unlike some other games, it does not make you invisible, so you still need to use your environment and the shadows to your advantage.
Be careful when moving around between shadows though. One thing the stealth system really does take into account is sound. Cans and glass are throughout the game to alert your enemies to your presence, and when they hear you, it may take a long time before the AI calms down and just forgets about it. Obviously silently killing enemies can help, but if the bodies are found, they will know you are around. Sadly, silent kills do not always work quite right now. In some areas I managed to silently kill an enemy, in another room from his friends, yet they were still aware of my actions and proceeded to come after me. Fortunately in some sections you can find a path that lets you avoid almost all enemy contact. When you do need to kill an enemy silently though, many of your weapons can silently dispatch them, or variants of the weapons can. The knife you carry cannot silently kill an enemy in one attack, which is something to be aware of when you are sneaking around. Also, shattering lights to hide in the darkness will alert enemies to you.
In all out battles, you may still want to go for a more stealthy approach, to avoid being hit and perhaps save some ammo. Of course that only applies to human enemies. Mutants do not care if you are stealthy or not. Crouching just puts the tasty meat closer to the ground.
You will need to be aware of your weapons because they can have very distinct advantages. The handgun can do a good amount of damage, and the version with a silencer, scope, and stock is very useful, but with only six shots you probably will not want to pull it out in active combat. Unless you are trying to get around a long reload time. Basically they fill the role of a handgun very well, but can also become the stealth weapon-of-choice. The assault rifles more or less fill the role of assault rifles, though there are silenced versions for when you need multiple shots to take down a target quietly.
The third weapon slot is where things really get more interesting. This is where the double-barreled shotgun, auto-shotgun, heavy automatic shotgun, pneumatic rifle, pneumatic speargun, and volt driver can fit. Each one of these has one advantage or another to it, so you have to be careful when deciding which to pick up. The double-barreled shotgun can fire both barrels at once, which is devastatingly effective, but two shots is someone limiting. The auto-shotgun carries more ammo but takes a long time to reload and actually does less damage per shot. The heavy shotgun is not common in the game and does the least single-shot damage, but with its high rate of fire and long belt, can be the most powerful weapon in the game.
Both pneumatic weapons have the advantage of being silent, but must be pumped up for use. The speargun carries less ammo, but its bolts can be recovered while the metal balls of the rifle cannot be. Those balls are also the ammo of the volt driver which is one of the most powerful weapon in the game. One shot from it can take down many of the enemies in the game, but it can be hard to aim well, as it lacks any scope and has a low rate of fire. It is, however, the weapon I used for the majority of the review playthrough.
One thing that would have been nice to have is the ability to modify weapons, instead of just having to purchase new weapons that have already been modified. (That is one change that may come in the Redux version.)
Knowing your weapons is very important because some weapons are just more useful than others. The volt driver may be able to one-shot a lot of enemies, but its low rate of fire can make many of the other weapons more effective. This was definitely the case for me when I had to deal with the brains.
Remember when I mentioned in the graphics section that the gameplay only really suffered once from the performance issues? The brains would be that example. These are small enemies that look like brains inside an orb of mucus and all they do is spawn, roll up to you, and explode. The explosions not only do damage but throw up enough goo to obscure your vision, so you really want to kill them before that. The problem there is that they are pretty small, have to be shot in the center, and can move pretty fast. Only after I reduced the graphics settings to improve performance was I able to get past them. They are genuinely annoying to the point that, honestly, they potentially represent the greatest challenge of the game.
That is not to say anything else is trivial compared to the brains. No, everything is lethal, and some are more lethal than the brains, but they are less annoying. Take the Librarians, which are one of the two biggest enemies in the game, both literally and figuratively. Killing one of them is practically a fool's errand because of the ammo it will require, but thankfully their AI was designed with an exploit. They will not attack you, so long as you look at them. Navigating the library without looking where you are going is somewhat awkward, especially when you have to open doors, but it is easier than trying to kill one of them.
One thing I have not touched on yet, and really must be covered is the ammo situation. You have two types of ammo at your disposal. The most common is dirty ammo that has been made in the metro, since the surface was devastated. Military grade ammo is less common and more powerful, but is also the currency. If you want to purchase new weapons, more dirty ammo, medkits, etc. you will need the military grade ammo, which often is found in the ammo chests you can find and on dead bodies. Yes, you will be taking items off of dead bodies, because that is what it will take to survive.
I played on normal difficulty for this playthrough, which leaves Easy below it, and Hardcore, Ranger Easy, and Ranger Hardcore above it. The Easy and Hardcore settings follow the standard difficulty patterns in other games while the Ranger modes not only increase difficulty, but remove UI elements for a more realistic experience. Higher difficulties also offer less ammunition, which is more to the point I am getting to.
Only once or twice did I really run into a problem of ammo on Normal difficulty. Of course I have played the game before, so I did kind of remember where to some ammo is, and knew to look for it and alternate, stealth paths. The point still stands though that if you are careful, the limited number of supplies will not often disrupt your gameplay on Normal. On higher difficulties with fewer resources, definitely be more careful.
The game took me just 7 hours and 59 minutes to complete on this playthrough. Again, I knew what I was doing and where I was going, so that probably saved some time by cutting down on exploring. If you are new to the game, I would expect the playtime to be closer to ten hours, but how much closer is hard for me to say.
Altogether, the gameplay was fun and at times tense, even for someone who has played it multiple times already. Watching humans that will gladly kill you on sight and having mutants leap out to attack you is definitely stressful, but part of the fun of the game. It definitely has many well designed aspects to it, but there are some that could use some tweaks. Mostly those would have to do with the stealth mechanics and they are just tweaks. Truly, it is just a fun experience that will entertain you and one you may try again and again, at high difficulties.