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Metro Redux Review

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Graphics:

Part of the work done to create the Redux versions was bringing both titles to the latest version of the 4A Engine. As Metro: Last Light is only a year old, the visual differences between the original release and the Redux are not obvious, if present, actually. Honestly, I could not tell you if there have been any graphical tweaks for Metro: Last Light Redux that were not the direct result of changes to gameplay mechanics.

Metro 2033, however, was released four years ago and its version of the engine is so poorly optimized that even the modern hardware of my computer was unable to keep high framerates at max settings. Four years is a long time for technology though, and the engine has matured very nicely as many screenshots and videos can show you, which is why I am going to focus on it for now.

The difference between the original and Redux versions is night and day, almost literally, but I will get to that in a moment. Character models have all been upgraded and updated, which did make for an interesting experience as I played, because I remembered how they looked in the original when they spoke their lines. To suddenly have a new face to the voice was weird, but also very welcome. It helps set the characters' identities as now some stand out from others much better. I definitely do not recall seeing many models being reused.

Not all enemies received the same treatment it appears, but there is nothing wrong with that. Some enemies, such as the Librarians, definitely got a makeover, making them much more hideous and intimidating, while others, like the Watchmen, seemed to at most receive a touch up. The Watchmen were already ugly in high resolution, so there are no complaints from me. (Knowing what not to touch can be as valuable a skill as knowing what to touch.) We do still have with enemies the rigid-body issue though, where their models would freeze in some pose upon death.

 

 

 

 

 

The reason I said that the difference is almost literally night and day is because of the substantial changes to the surface of Moscow. The lighting of the entire environments have been redone, illuminating much more of the world. My guess is that four years ago, fog and clouds were used to obscure distant objects to reduce how much had to be rendered in a frame. Now that the engine and hardware are more capable, the Sun is allowed to shine and reveal the beautiful ruins of Moscow. Perhaps beautiful is not the right word, but if it were not for the toxic air and man-eating monsters, it is an environment I could see people wanting to sit in and just stare at. (To put it another way, I am jealous of Frank and his 4K monitor, and anyone else with such a monitor, or a good projector system.)

Of course Metro: Last Light and its Redux version look largely the same, but it is at the same level of quality.

 

 

As wondrous as many of the environments are in both games, I did encounter quite a number of graphical issues. In the Library of Metro 2033 Redux there was a wall of web that at one distance was transparent, but as you walked up to it, the texture changed to become opaque. There was also at least one spot on the surface of the same game where snow was hovering a few inches above the ground. In both games I noticed texture layering issues, where areas would flicker between textures as you moved. I even spotted some interesting AI issues, like one character that got teleported ahead of where it should be, and started walking backwards before advancing again, as it should.

 

 

 

With the exception of the texture flickering, these issues are not very common, but it can be hard to not notice them.

The lighting situation of the two games is somewhat complicated. For the lighting itself, I have to say I am impressed. The developers wielded light masterfully to set the tone and it makes the games so much the better. Toxic mists and hanging fogs become so much more when they are lit properly. There are some screenshots that look like artistic renders because of the lighting!

 

 

There is a dark side to the lighting though, and that is both a literal and figurative statement for Metro 2033 Redux. For some reason the comments I am about to make do not apply to Metro: Last Light Redux. The compliment to any lighting in a game is of course the shadows, and for some reason the shadows cast in Metro 2033 Redux are actually kind of bad looking. Too often for my liking the edges of cast shadows were soft. The best example of this is actually very easy to see. Just look down at your own shadow, cast by your invisible body.

For another character, Kahn, I also noticed an odd shadow behavior. If I turned to look at him with my light on while we were walking, his shadow would seem to appear in front of his body if we were both moving. By 'in front of his body' I do mean it seemed to hang in front of his body and was not just being projected onto what was behind him. The moment I stopped moving though, it would return to his body. I only observed this in Metro 2033 Redux.

 

 

Time for fluids! All of this applies to both games. Water in both titles is mixed, but mostly good. Bodies of water look splendid whenever you look at them, though some examples of moving water do have imperfections. These are few and far between, though. If you shoot at the water or if enemies run through it, the water will splash up appropriately, which is good, but there is no response to you walking through it, which is not so good. That is a pretty big strike against the water of these games, but at least it is the only strike.

Fire, sadly, has not improved with this release. We are still looking at pre-rendered animations instead of anything procedural, which does hurt the visual experience. The worst part of the fire is definitely when you see it hang in the air without reason. It does make sense for flames to float a little when you set a cobweb on fire, but then there are times that the base of the flame is just hovering for no reason. Speaking of cobwebs, their behavior is the same as it was in the original release of Last Light with the texture just shrinking to nothing, instead of a more realistic behavior.

 

With the fluids covered, we can turn to performance, so here are my computer's specs:

  • Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
  • Cooling: Corsair H110
  • Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
  • GPU: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
  • PhysX: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
  • PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
  • OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit

Thanks to the newer engine, the 2033 Redux has considerably more in the way of graphics options. Instead of having the bulk of the options tied to presets with only a few other effects actually configurable, you have control of just about everything. There is the quality setting, SSAA option, texture filtering, motion blur, tessellation, and Vsync all on one page, with advanced PhysX on another.

For both titles I ran it with everything maxed, except SSAA and motion blur. Motion blur I routinely turn off as a personal choice. The anti-aliasing I turned off because of the severe performance hit that comes with it. Except at the odd 0.5x option that is, which is something I still do not understand the purpose of. Without any AA, both games ran very consistently at or near 60 FPS. With just 2x SSAA the framerate dropped to 30 FPS.

 

There were definitely times in both titles that the framerate did drop, but typically the drops were just by a few frames and short lived, so a minor stutter, but there are two exceptions. One was in a play session of Last Light Redux and I am not going to blame the game for it. The stutter felt much more like something in the background was taking resources. Other times when the games suffered a performance drop, the action seemed to slow down. I would not describe it as a smooth experience, but it maintained playability and lacked the jerkiness of stuttering. The most notable example of this was in Last Light Redux during a level when the metro you are in is being consumed by fire.

As it happens, that level in the original release suffered the same kind of performance hit, and because of an experience I had with another game since then, I decided to do a test. It turns out that the entire performance hit for that level was the result of PhysX. When I turned off the Advanced PhysX option, the gameplay maintained a solid 60 FPS (save a brief moment when the framerate stuttered a little, as any game can experience). This makes me wonder if the bulk of the performance issues I experienced throughout both Redux versions were caused by PhysX.

 

And like that, my suspicion has been confirmed for that level. How? Because the day after I finished writing this review, patches were put out for both games to fix the issue of PhysX being run on the CPU, instead of an NVIDIA GPU. The result was that fiery level playing without performance issues, with all of the eyecandy turned on. (It is nice to be right, but why do patches like these always come after I write a review?)

I am sure I could go on and on with graphical minutia, but instead I am going to let you watch some of the videos I recorded instead. That just leaves the wrap-up for this section, which is that both games have superb graphics and impressive performance, considering the quality of the visuals. Metro 2033 Redux does represent an amazing upgrade, while the year-old Metro: Last Light Redux does not appear to, but that is understandable. Of course both Redux versions do have certain blemishes and issues, but these are very few. The graphical experiences of both are just excellent.

 

Original Metro 2033 video




  1. Metro Redux Review - Introduction
  2. Metro Redux Review - Graphics
  3. Metro Redux Review - Gameplay
  4. Metro 2033 Redux Additional Gameplay Media
  5. Metro: Last Light Redux Additional Gameplay Media
  6. Metro Redux Review - Conclusion
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