Neither THQ nor Glukhovsky could make Metro 2033 work, and it makes me sad inside. Really, the premise of an underground post-nuke society is fantastic and is ripe with possibility, yet the book was just too philosophical and game isn’t philosophical enough.
Metro 2033 is the story of Russians living underground after the face of the planet was destroyed by nuclear war. They live in metro stations, being hunted by the mutated creatures that were at one time people like them. Needless to say, Metro 2033 is pretty eerie, as far as plots go. The problem is, with this level of eeriness shouldn’t it be scary? Roaming dark metro tunnels alone, knowing mutants could be in the shadows at any given moment should be a terrifying experience… but it quickly turns into tedium. This is just the first of many problems to plague Metro 2033.
The action is divided into “stealth”, “horror” and generic FPS gameplay. The reason I put two of those in quotes is because the game does a piss-poor job executing them, and barely wings the FPS genre. The stealth only occurs in maybe three sections (out of a couple dozen), and isn’t realistic at all. You step on a bone, it makes a little rustle, and all of a sudden every guard in the level instantly starts pumping shotgun rounds into you. As far as horror goes, the best I can give Metro is props for the atmospheric horror. When you’re roaming a dark tunnel, can’t see a thing, but hear the growls of mutants getting closer and closer, things get scary. But the issue is, things never elevate from that and eventually the atmosphere wears off. I think there was only one real jump scare in the entire game, and it was within the first two hours.
As far as the FPS mechanics go, they’re not exactly dated, but not very current. You don’t get to enjoy true FPS fun due to the fact the game is super hardcore about its premise and you’ll only get access to the sh*t guns that metro survivors have salvaged, which isn’t much. I rarely found myself using anything other than a shotgun and a pistol, a pretty blase` combo if you ask me.
Actual level design isn’t amazing, but it’s not terrible. The game does a good job providing you with ways to go about a level, and sneaking past an enemy is occasionally a worthwhile endeavor. My only issue with level design is that later in the game you come across floating warts that explode puss on you and they are downright cheap, which pretty much ruins the end-game tension.
The things that Metro 2033 does uniquely are nice little touches, but nothing to save this game from its own obscurity. You have to charge your flashlight manually, wear a gas mask on the surface of Moscow due to toxic radiation, and so on and so forth. It sort of brings you into the world of Metro, but not enough to actually make you want to stay.
Overall, I deem Metro a worthwhile dirt-cheap purchase if you’re in the market for some uber-realistic FPS-ing. If you want a good FPS, go play Syndicate. If you want a good horror/stealth game, go play a classic Resident Evil. If you want an eight hour adventure that kind of senselessly mashes together the genres I just named, Metro 2033 is the shooter for you.