Metro Redux Review
When is too soon for a re-release? Is a year enough time for players to digest their first helping of a game, before you ask them to shell out for the same game again? More than ever, gaming’s back catalogue is being ransacked for the next game to be tarted up and put back on the new release shelf, and the Metro series is no exception. I have food in my freezer that’s older than Metro Last Light, so it’s a little concerning that a developer was tasked to remake it already. Harsh words right out of the gate, so for now I’ll dial back the cynicism and give Metro Redux a fair shake.
Metro 2033, the first of the two games included in the Redux, is based on the book of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Following the nuclear war of 2013 (glad that didn’t pan out), the remnants of humanity scratch out a living in the underground train stations of Moscow. Twenty years on in 2033, the player fills the shoes of Artyom, leaving his home station after making a promise to a friend, kicking off an odyssey that sees Artyom fighting through mutant creatures, otherworldly beings and deadly radiation along the way. Metro Last Light picks up a year later, with the aforementioned otherworldly Dark Ones taking centre stage as the game’s driving narrative. Each game’s plot is compelling enough, but where they excel most is in world building. The stations feel lived in, especially at the beginning of Metro 2033. Whilst essentially following a linear path from point A to B, that path oozes character. The stations are dark, damp and cramped, but are bustling too, with the player catching snippets of conversations as they make their way through the subterranean market square. Beyond them, in the train tunnels and the world above, a sense of desperation pervades throughout, having to clutch at scraps of ammo as well my favourite mechanic; wearing a gas mask just to go above ground, adding claustrophobia and hostility to the outdoors.
This was all present in the original releases, and Metro Last Light Redux loses none of the original’s power, with little visible difference from its first release. Things are different for Metro 2033 Redux’s significantly updated graphics however. Even at the time of its release in 2010, Metro 2033 wasn’t much of a looker, but, controversially, it worked for the game. The world wasn’t glamorous, and its graphics matched that tone. This isn’t blind nostalgia talking; before this review I’d not played either of the games, but after a side by side comparison I feel the original’s graphics are the better fit. At times murky and a little aged, but that’s how a post-nuclear war world should look. The Redux is nicer to look at, sure, but should Metro 2033 be a pleasant game to look at? Personal preference will decide.
The Metro Redux package comes with some nifty options not found in the originals. Play Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light and it’s not hard to see differences. The first requires the player to constantly be on the look out for supplies, since ammo and health packs are in short supply, not to mention a number of other features pushing the player to play cautiously. Metro Last Light, on the other hand, is more generous with its supplies and forgiving with its combat. Far and away the standout part of the Redux package, since the graphics don’t tickle my fancy, is the choice to play Survival or Spartan mode in each game i.e. Metro 2033 or Metro Last Light mode. If you wanted some Last Light in your Metro 2033, or vice versa, Redux has you covered. To some it may be an unnecessary addition, but the ability to be able to tailor how the game is played in such a significant way is much appreciated. What isn’t appreciated however is the control scheme overhaul in Metro 2033 Redux (except the ability to do melee stealth kills, which actually irons out a particular niggle of mine in the original). No matter if the game is played in the Metro 2033-flavoured Survival mode, if you’re using a controller the Redux uses Metro Last Light’s control layout and interface, including the immersion-breaking, and frankly unnecessary since it worked without it before, radial menu for using equipment, which is off-putting for those of us trying to lose ourselves in the game.
Whether this game gets a recommendation or not comes down to specific criteria. If you own the originals, there aren’t enough reasons to justify buying Metro Redux, but new players to the series will find a lot to love here. Personally, I’d stick with the original Metro 2033, but follow up with Metro Last Light Redux, which may sound odd, but they are what I believe to be the best version of each game. A well put together package, but one I’d hesitate to call definitive.