Gamespot Metro Redux Comparison Essay

Metro: Last Light is a post-apocalyptic-themed, first-person shooter video game with stealth and survival horror elements. It was developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games, published by Deep Silver, distributed by Square Enix in North America for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in May 2013. A remastered version of the game was released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in August 2014 as Metro: Last Light Redux within the Metro Redux package.

A sequel to the video game Metro 2033, its story follows Artyom, a Ranger living in Moscow's metro system after a destructive nuclear war. Tasked with finding the mysterious Dark Ones, Artyom must venture to different parts of the metro system, and the surface filled with radiated gases, and fight against different factions and mutated monsters. The game improves on various gameplay mechanics of 2033, and introduces elements such as weapon customization.

Developed by a team of about 80 people, Last Light is a direct sequel to 2033, with franchise creator Dmitry Glukhovsky writing the game's dialogue and main story outline. Multiplayer modes were planned but were eventually scrapped in order to focus on single-player, which the developers hoped would "rekindle memories of Half-Life 2". Originally set to be published by THQ, which provided a very limited budget for the game's development, Koch Media acquired it after THQ's bankruptcy. A Wii U version was planned but was ultimately canceled.

The game received generally positive reviews from critics. Praise was focused largely on its atmosphere, world design, tone, graphics, and gameplay, while criticism was directed particularly at the artificial intelligence and technical issues. The pre-order bonus Ranger mode, marketed as the definitive way of playing the game, triggered controversy. The game was a commercial success, with its first-week retail sales in the US surpassing the lifetime retail sales of 2033. A sequel, Metro: Exodus is set to be released in 2018.

Gameplay[edit]

Like its predecessor Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light is played from the perspective of Artyom, the player-character. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro system, but occasionally missions bring the player above ground. Combat alternates between the player fighting mutants and hostile humans.[1] Areas are larger in Last Light compared to 2033, and the game encourages exploration by having multiple routes.[2] The game offers more freedom to players, allowing them to utilize different tactics to combat enemies.[3] It features destructible environments, in which certain objects, such as pillars, collapse after being shot.[4] Numerous diary entries, written by Artyom, providing additional insight regarding the game's story, are scattered throughout environments for players to collect.[5]

As a first-person shooter, Metro: Last Light features a variety of firearms, some fictional and some based on real weapons, which the player uses in combat. The game's protagonist, Artyom, also has the ability to kill an enemy directly with his melee weapon.[2] Artyom has three weapons slots. Players can put any weapon into these slots without restriction.[3] Players have access to four different secondary weapons, including throwing knives, claymores, incendiary grenades, and hand grenades.[6] Mutants do not possess weapons and tend to physically attack the player in swarms, while humans fight with the same firearms available to the player. The player can knock out or kill most human enemies instead of shooting them, using stealth to avoid detection. As enemies are inefficient in spotting the player character in darkness, players can turn off oil lamps and light bulbs to gain an advantage over their opponents.[7]

In the post-apocalyptic environment, ammunition is a rare and essential commodity. Pre-apocalypse, military-grade ammunition is used as currency. Players can avoid consuming all the valuable currency by using lower quality bullets made within the Metros.[8] Due to the scarcity of ammunition, a crucial aspect of gameplay is scavenging.[8] The player can loot corpses and the environment for spare ammunition, as well as weapons and other items.[9][10] The military-grade ammunition can be used to purchase other ammunition, weapons, and items within most of the Metro stations. Weapon attachments, such as scopes and silencers, which improve weapon efficiency, can be purchased with these bullets.[6]

The game's locations reflect the dark atmosphere of real metro tunnels, with added survival horror elements.[1] Paranormal phenomena, such as shadow figures, hallucinations, and unexplained noises are present, and, for the most part, the player has to rely on their lighter and rechargeable flashlight to navigate the darkness.[7] Locations will often have an intricate layout, and the game lacks any form of map or objective marker, leaving the player to try finding their objectives with only a compass.[11] The surface is more lethal than the metro system. Featuring a day-night cycle, and a dynamic weather system,[2] these sections are severely irradiated and a gas mask must be worn at all times because of the toxic air. The player must collect air filters for the gas mask. These last several minutes each, and are automatically replaced provided the player has more in reserve.[1] Players are also tasked to wipe off the dirt and blood splatter that collects on the gas mask.[12][13] There is no head up display indicator to tell how long the player has until the gas mask's filters begin to fail — rather, a timer on the character's wristwatch shows how long until the current filter expires. The watch also serves to indicate to a player if they have been exposed to enemy attention.[3] With every weapon, the bullets are (partly) visible, informing the player that their weapon is about to run out of ammunition and they have to reload.[14] Instead of head up display the game makes use of audio and visual cues to present information to players.[15][16]

There are certain subtle moral choices in the game that provide karma.[17] Good karma can be acquired by good actions, such as rescuing people from enemy characters, or sparing enemy soldiers. Bad karma can be acquired from evil actions, such as killing people randomly or stealing things. Karma affects the ending that the player experiences.[7]

Plot[edit]

Metro: Last Light takes place in 2034, one year after the events of Metro 2033, following the ending of the original novel in which Artyom's missile strike against the Dark Ones — mysterious beings that seemingly threatened the survivors of a nuclear war living in the Moscow Metro — occurred. The Rangers, a neutral peacekeeping force that operates throughout the system, have since occupied the D6 military facility Artyom visited during the first game. This is a huge, and not fully explored pre-war bunker, and Artyom, now a Ranger himself, remains unsure whether killing the Dark Ones was the correct decision. Rumors of D6's discovery, and its great riches, have spread around the Metro; rival factions, such as the Communist Red Line and Nazi Fourth Reich, hope to seize the bunker and its contents.

Khan, a wandering mystic, informs Artyom and the Rangers that a single Dark One survived the missile strike. Khan believes that it is the key to humanity's future, and wants to communicate with it; Colonel Miller, the Ranger's leader, wants to eliminate it as a potential threat. Miller sends Artyom to the surface, accompanied by Miller's daughter Anna, the Rangers' best sniper, to kill the Dark One.

Artyom finds the Dark One, a child, but is captured by soldiers of the Fourth Reich. Pavel Morozov, a captured Red Line soldier, and Artyom escape through the Metro tunnels and across the devastated surface. When they reach the Red Line, however, Pavel is revealed to be a high-ranking officer; he detains Artyom to learn more about the Rangers and the Dark One. Artyom escapes and races Pavel's forces to locate the Dark One and Anna, who has been kidnapped by Lesnitsky, an ex-Ranger and Red Line spy. En route, he finds a contingent of Red Line forces massacring the inhabitants of a station, supposedly to contain a mysterious epidemic. It was the Red Line that introduced the virus to the station – weaponized Ebola acquired from the D6 vault by Lesnitsky. Artyom finds Anna and frees her but they are exposed to the virus and are quarantined after rescue. Afraid that she will die, Anna seduces Artyom.

After they test negative for the virus, Artyom again encounters Khan. They locate the young Dark One, and in a series of hallucinatory flashbacks, Artyom recalls that he was saved by a Dark One as a child; he was psychically linked to the Dark Ones, intended to form a bridge between their species and his. Artyom vows to make amends by protecting the little Dark One, and the two travel to Polis, the Metro's central area, where a peace conference regarding D6 between the Rangers, Red Line, the Reich, and neutral Hansa is taking place. Artyom defeats Lesnitsky and Pavel during the trip. Along the way, the little Dark One senses that there is a group of hibernating Dark Ones in D6. After arriving at Polis, the little Dark One uses his telepathic abilities to make the Red Line leader, Chairman Moskvin, publicly confess that the peace conference is a diversion to enable General Korbut to seize D6. Artyom and the rest of the Rangers rush to the bunker to make a final stand against Korbut's army, but are incapacitated by an armored train ramming into their station. Red Line soldiers surround, and prepare to execute Artyom and Miller.

The karma the player has acquired determines the ending. In the "bad" ending, Artyom destroys D6 to prevent Korbut from using the facility to wipe out the remnants of the other factions and possibly humanity, resulting in the deaths of himself, the surviving Rangers, and the Red Line forces. Later, Anna is shown telling their son of Artyom's bravery. In the "good" ending, later revealed as the canonical ending, Artyom prepares to destroy the bunker but is stopped by the little Dark One, who, along with the awakened Dark Ones, defeats Korbut's army. Artyom calls the little Dark One humanity's "last light of hope". In both endings, the young Dark One leaves with the surviving Dark Ones to find safety, while promising that they will come back in the future to help rebuild the world.

Development[edit]

The Ukraine-based lead developer 4A Games made the game with a team of more than 80 people.[18] A sequel to Metro 2033 written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, Last Light, is not related to his next book Metro 2034. Instead, it serves as a direct sequel to the first game, with the majority of the ideas created by 4A Games. According to Huw Beynon, head of communications for of THQ, the team chose not to make a video game adaption of 2034 as they thought 2034's tone was drastically different from its predecessor. He described it as an "art-house thriller", and believed that, unlike the first game, it could not be converted successfully into a video game.[19] However, Glukhovsky offered creative input to the project and wrote a brief outline of the game's story, as well as the game's dialogue, which used 3,000 spreadsheet cells in Excel.[20] The team chose the bad ending of 2033, as they believed that it offered an interesting beginning for Last Light, and is consistent with the novel's dark and depressing tone.[21] Glukhovsky claimed that the story would explore the theme of redemption, people repeating their mistakes, and the idea of having a "second chance".[20] The Artyom character also shifted to become more mature and experienced.[18] However, he remained a silent character as the team thought that having him speak would not contribute to his character development and would interfere with the atmosphere and morality system.[22]

One of the key goals of 4A Games was to improve and refine numerous aspects of 2033 which THQ described as a "flawed masterpiece".[22][23] The strong focus on atmosphere was retained, but the team overhauled numerous gameplay mechanics.[24] The game's shooting mechanics were improved, and the firearms featured in the game were no longer underpowered.[18] The animation system was reworked and more visual effects were added.[25] The game's artificial intelligence was also refined to become more responsive to players' actions.[26] After hearing from players about 2033's bullet-based economic system, the team decided to keep the feature in Last Light but improve the explanation about how it worked so that players would not be confused by it.[22] In addition, the team revealed that they would not westernize the franchise to attract a larger audience. Instead, they would overhaul the game's controls to make it more accessible.[26][27] The team also drastically improved the game's stealth sections. The core philosophy in designing these sections was "fun"; players would not be punished too harshly if they made any mistakes, such as making too much noise. As a result, the alertness of the artificial intelligence features several different levels, making the game more realistic.[21] A competitive multiplayer mode was originally planned that was said to be unique to the Metro series, and would not simply include typical multiplayer modes like team deathmatch or Capture the Flag.[28] However, it was eventually cancelled; but the possibility of having a multiplayer mode remained, and it could be developed after the game's release.[29]

"This isn't a play for a super mass market Call of Duty beater. We're not trying to be Transformers: The Movie. We're trying to be District 9. Something with a little more artistic credibility. It was important we let the studio continue to deliver their vision and ambitions for the game."

— 4A Games communications lead Huw Beynon

Another of the team's goals was to make players feel unsettled after playing the game, and present gameplay moments that would make them worry and feel vulnerable.[30] The team incorporated survival horror elements into the game, which were also used in the first game.[18] The game was described by THQ as their own "bid to combat shooter fatigue" using its heavy single-player story focus.[31] According to Beynon the game's philosophy is the complete opposite of the Call of Duty franchise, which was described as short, linear, and filled with "filler content" that would only be a tutorial for the multiplayer content. The team hoped to have most moments featured in the game "narrative-driven", and that all the enemy encounters in the game are designed to be different from each other. They hoped that by offering a unique experience with each encounter, they would be remembered by players. They hoped that the game would "rekindle memories of Half-Life 2".[27]

The world is created to be believable. Glukhovsky included numerous side stories in the game, and different kinds of dramas surrounding the game's four factions. He hoped that through this approach, the game would have more depth than typical first-person shooters, and make the game feel genuinely realistic.[20] Moral choices return in the game. According to 4A, these choices are very subtle, so that they would not "gamify" the concept.[25] It is a method carried out by 4A to create a sense of verisimilitude to the world, which will then make the decision more "genuine".[7] To achieve naturalism, Andrey Prokhorov, the game's creative director, intentionally removed most aspects of a typical head up display as they considered it a barrier preventing players from immersing themselves into the world, and that having it would destroy the game's atmosphere. Prokhorov noted that adding numerous graphical and audio cues required additional time and effort, but he claimed that should they have sufficient time, the team may not make any head up display at all.[14]

Last Light is powered by 4A Games' own in-house engine, 4A Engine.[32] Beynon claimed that with the engine it was the best looking game currently available on the market, especially for personal computers.[33] The team also worked to improve the game's lighting and destruction system and introduced a larger variety of color palette.[34] The game was originally set to be released for Nintendo's Wii U, and the title was included in the Wii U show-reel, though THQ has since stated that the game may not be released for that platform.[35] Regarding the possibility of the game coming to the Wii U, 4A Games chief technical officer Oles Shishkovtsov said the Wii U has a "horrible, slow CPU".[36] His colleague, Huw Beynon, reiterated the sentiment, telling NowGamer that there would not be a Wii U version of Metro: Last Light, because the studio "couldn't justify the effort required" and they "just figured it wasn't worth pursuing at this time".[36] According to THQ, 4A experimented with the Wii U development kit, but later gave up this version of the game during its early stages of development.[37]

THQ was the publisher of the first game, but the studio put little effort into helping the game's development, leading to numerous technical issues and a lack of polish. However, the game's sales surprised THQ, and as a result, the publisher considered the first game a missed opportunity, and began to treat Metro as a franchise.[38]Danny Bilson, then CEO of THQ, promised that the company would offer 4A more support and dedicate more resources in both the game's actual development and its marketing.[39] Former THQ President Jason Rubin offered details of extremely difficult working conditions and demands put on the 4A Games team while completing the game. Their office was freezing due to frequent power failures, and the team was forced to smuggle computer equipment into the offices to avoid corrupt customs officials. Rubin added that the publisher offered an unreasonably small budget to the development team, accounting for only 10% of its competitor's budget and that their workspace was so crowded and small that he compared it to "a packed grade school cafeteria", and an "[underutilized] gym at EA Los Angeles".[40] Rubin praised the team for producing a game that successfully achieved high critical praise in spite of the harsh working conditions.[40] According to Andrew Prokhorov, Rubin was the only THQ president that to visit the studio. He noted that the team "deserve the ratings [they] get" and "need no indulgence" from consumers who do not care about their working conditions.[41]

Release[edit]

Last Light's title was first leaked as Metro 2034, a name used by 4A Games internally. THQ officially revealed the actual title in May 2012.[42] In November 2012, THQ announced that it had delayed the game's release until March 2013 in order to give the development team more time to polish the game further.[43] In December 2012, the game's original publisher, THQ, entered Chapter 11bankruptcy. Metro: Last Light, along with other THQ properties and studios, went to auction on 22 January 2013. GameStop temporarily removed the game from its store to prevent customers from being misled by the game's uncertain release,[44] The auction did not affect the progress of the game's development significantly.[45] Clearlake and Koch Media, the latter of which was originally set to distribute the title in Italy and Spain, participated in the auction.[46] Koch Media eventually acquired the rights to the Metro franchise for $5.9 million. Koch was interested in the title as the game was already playable at the time and they were familiar with the development team, whose members worked on S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, a game published by Koch Media's label Deep Silver.[47] After the auction, Deep Silver announced that the title would be released on 14 May 2013 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.[48] It was released for OS X on 10 September 2013,[49]Linux on 5 November 2013, and the title was bundled with Valve Corporation's prototype of Steam Machine.[50]

Players who purchased the game via Steam got a free digital copy of Metro 2033 the novel.[51] A digital graphic novel titled The Gospel According to Artyom, which tells the events that take place between 2033 and Last Light, was published by Dark Horse Comics and was a pre-order exclusive.[52] A novelization of the game, written by Glukhovsky, was released as Metro 2035.[53]

Downloadable content[edit]

Those who pre-ordered the game received a limited edition of Metro: Last Light that featured a code for the downloadable content (DLC) Ranger Mode, a setting for greater game difficulty, as well as a unique gun and in-game currency. Ranger Mode encompasses the same campaign, but with the lack of a HUD or cross hairs, while the plethora of ammunition and resources has been reduced severely, making the player feel fully immersed in the game's world. It was marketed as "the way [the game] was meant to be played".[54] The game's implementation of Ranger Mode caused negative reactions in the gaming community.[55] Deep Silver responded by saying that they were required by retailers to provide pre-order exclusive game content, and that Ranger Mode was the best choice as only the most loyal fans would likely pre-order the game.[55]

Additionally, four DLC packs were released. The first pack, the Faction Pack, was to be available in June 2013,[56] however the release date was pushed back to July 2013. This pack contains three bonus single-player missions, with the player playing as a Red Line Sniper, a Fourth Reich 'Heavy' soldier, and a Polis Ranger in training, with new weapons not found in the main storyline.[57] The other three packs were released within 60 days of releasing the Faction Pack. The second pack, the Tower Pack, gives single-player challenge missions that have online leaderboards. The third pack, the Developer Pack, features a shooting gallery, a combat simulator, an in-game museum, and a single-player mission titled "The Spiders' Nest". Finally, the fourth pack, the Chronicles Pack, features three additional single-player missions that contain three characters from the main storyline, Khan, Pavel, and Anna, adding in extra background story information about the world.[58][59]

Players can buy a season pass, which gives them all 4 DLCs at a discounted price. It also contains a limited edition, in-game automatic shotgun called the Abzats,[60] and a light machine gun that was previously only available via pre-order from select retailers, the RPK.[61]

Redux version[edit]

A new version of the game for the eighth generation of consoles was not originally planned. However, on 22 May 2014, a remastered version of the game was announced.[62] It was released on 26 August 2014 in North America and 29 August 2014 in Europe for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.[63]Redux adds all the DLC and graphical improvements. The compilation package, titled Metro Redux, included both the remastered versions of 2033 and Last Light.[64] A demo of the Redux version, which allows players to play through the first third of the game, was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 2 June 2015.[65]Last Light Redux was released as a DRM-free game on GOG.com in May 2015.[66]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Metro: Last Light received positive reviews from critics, with most complimenting the graphics and story, but criticizing the linear sequences. The game was nominated for Best Shooter for Spike's 2013 VGX game awards,[82] and Xbox 360 Game of the Year by GameSpot.[83]

The gameplay was generally well received. Critics praised 4A Games for fixing the apparent gameplay missteps featured in its predecessors, and noted that the combat was improved, satisfying and riveting.[70][74][76][79][80] Jeff Marchiafava noted that the gameplay is on par with its competitors.[74] However, some noted that the game lacked innovation and was generally too conservative.[70] Many applauded the game for allowing both stealth and a more aggressive approach towards missions,[73] and that stealth and gunplay were described as tense and challenging respectively.[71][75] The game's more accessible nature received mixed reviews. Some thought that it removed the frustration featured in the first game,[75] while some criticized it for being too simple.[70][77][80] Rich Stanton in particular criticized the game for compromising in order to attract a wider audience,[71] though Patrick Klepek from Giant Bomb thought that the charm of the first game remained undiminished in Last Light.[76] Many critics considered stealth the definitive way to play the game as it matches the overall tone.[8][79] The bullet economy system was praised for being "unique".[77] Some journalists also noted several technical problems with the game, singling out the Windows version,[8] and many criticized the artificial intelligence for being unrefined.[70][75][77] The boss battles were also criticized for being frustrating.[79] The monster characters attracted criticism for not being threatening in terms of their appearance, and too difficult to defeat,[73][74][77][80][81] with Rich Stanton from Eurogamer describing them as creatures from "a poor man's Doom".[71] Some critics criticized the presence of invisible walls and inaccessible paths, which led to frustration and annoyance.[75][80] The game's audio was also praised for being coherent with its graphics,[70] gameplay,[74] and atmosphere.[71]

The story received mixed critical reviews. Some critics believed that the story was excellently-written, with interesting characters, and meaningful character interactions, which added additional depth to the game's world.[75][77] According to Phillip Kollar from Polygon, the game successfully allows players to have "real sympathy" towards its characters,[8] but Artyom was described as an "empty shell" by PC Gamer's Marsh Davies.[80] Some felt that the story was intricate, compelling, engaging, and interesting, with some genuinely touching moments,[70][74][75] while others criticized it for being predictable,[80] uneven,[77] and confusing.[81] The ambient dialogue was described as the game's "best stories" by Stanton, though he noted that they are easily missed.[71] The voice-acting received mixed reviews. Some critics called it "top-notch", while some called it "bad".[74][75]

The game's world design and atmosphere received great critical reviews. Many critics agreed that the game had successfully built up tension through the game's conversations between characters and the resource management mechanics, which enables players to feel threatened by the state of the world.[75][79] The world was thought to be more "alive" than its predecessor, and critics praised the development team for creating distinct locations,[8] and turning typical gritty colors featured in many games into something refreshing and stunning.[70] The depiction of the world and 4A's vision of an apocalypse was applauded for delivering a sense of sadness and desperation.[80] The game's attention to detail was widely praised,[73][77][80] and the surface area, in particular, was applauded. Critics thought that these sequences offered visual variety, and some "genuine terror" moments. Jim Sterling from Destructoid singled out the game's multiple flashback scenes, which he described as "harrowing".[70]

The Redux version received positive reviews from critics. They praised the game's overall atmosphere and story, but criticized the graphical update, which was considered insignificant. According to Mikel Reparaz, the game's visual update was disappointing as it did not look better than the original PC version. Nevertheless, it was described as the "definitive version" of Last Light to play because of the inclusion of all of the previously-released downloadable content.[84][85]

Sales[edit]

Metro: Last Light was the best-selling retail video game in the UK in its week of release, but it failed to outpace the week one sales of 2033.[86] The first-week retail sales of the game in the US surpassed the lifetime retail sales of 2033.[87] It was the sixth best-selling retail game in the US in its month of release according to NPD Group.[88] While the exact sales of the game have not been revealed, Deep Silver announced that the Metro Redux collection sold more than 1.5 million copies.[89]

Sequel[edit]

Metro Exodus was announced on 11 June 2017 at Microsoft's press conference during E3 2017. The game is scheduled to be released for Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in late 2018.[90]

References[edit]

  1. ^ abcTaljonick, Ryan (21 March 2013). "Metro: Last Light – 12 things you need to know". GamesRadar. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  2. ^ abcMeer, Alec (21 December 2012). "Tunnel Vision: Eyes-On With Metro: Last Light". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  3. ^ abcDonlan, Christian (12 December 2012). "Metro: Last Light preview: The Underground Man". Eurogamer. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  4. ^Schreier, Jason (12 November 2012). "Thirteen Things You Should Know About Metro: Last Light". Kotaku. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  5. ^McAllister, Jeff (2 September 2014). "Metro: Last Light Artyom's hidden diary pages locations guide and walkthrough". GamesRadar. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  6. ^ abBishoff, Daniel (13 May 2016). "Tips For Surviving Metro: Last Light's Mutants And Men". Game Revolution. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  7. ^ abcdThursten, Chris (9 February 2013). "Metro: Last Light preview – we venture deep into 4A Games' gloomy Muscovite shooter". PC Gamer. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  8. ^ abcdefgKollar, Phillip (21 July 2016). "Metro: Last Light review: Red Scare". Polygon. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 
  9. ^McWhertor, Michael (29 May 2012). "Metro: Last Light shines with its dark, post-apocalyptic struggle". Polygon. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  10. ^Donlan, Christian (29 May 2012). "Metro: Last Light Preview: Five Frantic Minutes With THQ's Shooter Sequel". Eurogamer. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  11. ^Cook, Dave (13 May 2013). "Metro: Last Light doesn't treat you like a moron". VG247. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  12. ^Hansen, Ben (24 October 2012). "Exclusive Metro: Last Light Gameplay In Our Video Preview". Game Informer. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  13. ^Lingshaw, Mark (12 May 2013). "'Metro: Last Light' review (PC): Loaded with Eastern promise". Digital Spy. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  14. ^ abJ. Seppala, Timothy (16 July 2013). "Who needs a HUD? Metro: Last Light and the return to realism". Ars Technica. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  15. ^Chiappini, Dan (22 August 2011). "Metro: Last Light Updated Preview". GameSpot. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  16. ^Kelly, Leon (29 May 2012). "Metro: Last Light Preview". VideoGamer.com. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  17. ^George, Richard (21 March 2013). "Struggling to Survive in Metro Last Light". IGN. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  18. ^ abcdFarrelly, Steve (6 August 2012). "AusGamers Metro: Last Light Developer Interview". AusGamers. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  19. ^Grant, Christopher (31 May 2011). "Metro: Last Light preview: Once more, with feeling". Engadget. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  20. ^ abcCook, Dave (8 May 2013). ""Not your regular game story" – writing Metro: Last Light". VG247. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  21. ^ ab"Metro: Last Light Interview". NowGamer. 29 September 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  22. ^ abcGrayson, Nathan (15 June 2012). "4A On Making Metro Smarter – Not Dumbing It Down". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  23. ^Gera, Emily (30 August 2011). "Metro: Last Light won't be 'flawed masterpiece'". VideoGamer.com. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  24. ^Hatfield, Daemon (31 May 2011). "E3 2011: Metro Last Light Aims To Fix Metro 2033". IGN. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  25. ^ ab
A gameplay screenshot, showing Artyom fighting a mutant inside the metro. 4A Games intentionally took a minimalist approach to designing the head-up display.
The surface area featured in the game received praise for being atmospheric and delivering a sense of desperation.

Attila the Hun was a badass of the highest order. What else can you say about a man who conquered an empire that stretched from Kazakhstan to Germany? Pressure from the Hunnic invasions forced the Franks into France, the Angles into England, and led to the first sacking of Rome in more than 800 years. So if you’re going to create a game centered on a mighty warrior of late antiquity... there’s really only one option, isn’t there?

In the tradition of its forefathers, Total War: Attila mixes a turn-based strategic campaign with thrilling real-time tactical battles. It’s been a winning formula for nearly 15 years, but in this latest installment, Creative Assembly adds a few wrinkles that create one of the better Total War campaigns in recent memory. The most intriguing change rehashes an idea from an expansion to the original Rome: Total War - barbarian cultures can abandon their settlements to form nomadic hordes. In horde mode, armies become mobile towns, gaining the ability to recruit troops on hostile ground at the cost of economic security. Converting your settlements into hordes is a great option if you’re fighting a losing war and need to find greener pastures, but without careful management hordes are likely to splinter into rebellions.

Another addition seems yanked straight out of Crusader Kings 2: a heavy emphasis on political machinations. With Total War: Attila, Creative Assembly offers what is probably the most robust political system in any Total War yet. Individual characters develop over time, and while all share an identical progression tree, each is also given a set of unique personality traits, such as mercantile contacts or bonus morale when in command of an attacking army. Managing these different characters is surprisingly enjoyable, but your leader must strike a balance when intervening in politics - meddle too much, you’ll find yourself with no political influence; leave your underlings to their own devices and they spark a rebellion. The political system can add quite a lot of fun to a game, which is why it’s a damn shame that the interface leaves something to be desired. Creative Assembly doesn’t go out of its way to teach the system to new players, and the interface often leaves out crucial information, meaning players are going to flounder for the first few hours. I got the hang of it eventually, but only after my inept leadership sparked two civil wars.

For the horde!

Though there are several dozen unique factions in the game, a fairly small selection are available to the player without paying for DLC. Each have their own benefits and advantages, so choose your army wisely at the start of the game. Huns, for example, have fearsome cavalry and a strong morale bonus when fighting christians. Saxons, meanwhile, gain bonus income for pillaging and damaging settlements.

The rest of the strategic gameplay is about what you’d expect from a Total War game: satisfying, but nowhere near as tight or well balanced as a ‘real’ 4X title like Civilization 5. To give credit where it’s due, it does look like Creative Assembly has put some work into the AI, meaning computer controlled enemies attack with large armies instead of letting you chop them up piecemeal. Diplomatic AI seems improved as well, with clans suing for peace, negotiating trade agreements, and even marshalling armies to defend their allies’ settlements (something I’ve never seen in a Total War game before). AI has been a rough spot for previous Total War games (looking at you, Empire), and Attila seems like a real improvement.

As enjoyable as the new content and AI are, there are two big issues with Attila’s campaign that need to be mentioned. First, the review build is buggy as hell. At least once an hour, I’d end up staring at a locked screen with no option but giving my PC the three-fingered salute. Second, the turn times are excruciating. I’ve spent as much as three or four minutes watching the AI turn rotate through the long list of clan badges. The average was closer to 2 minutes, but that still feels like an eternity - especially when you’re not sure whether the game will crash before you get to play again. Thankfully, both of these issues are problems that Creative Assembly has traditionally fixed post-launch.

If strategic gameplay is serviceable, the tactical battles are outstanding. Battle speed has been ratcheted back, meaning units no longer break after a few seconds of combat. This is crucial, because it gives commanders enough time to experiment with special abilities or move units into flanking positions. The UI has also received an extensive overhaul, and the new look is a solid compromise between form and function. The changes are far too numerous to list here, but the return of proper unit portraits will delight anyone unhappy with Rome 2’s stylish-but-confusing pottery-art unit cards. It’s actually fairly difficult to find major problems with the tactical battles, except to point out that the review build was just a bit unbalanced. Higher level units never felt much better than their cheaper counterparts, and you’ll find that the rock-paper-scissors of spearmen-swordsmen-cavalry trumps any individual unit’s strength.

If strategic gameplay is serviceable, the tactical battles are outstanding. Battle speed has been ratcheted back, meaning units no longer break after a few seconds of combat. This is crucial, because it gives commanders enough time to experiment with special abilities or move units into flanking positions. The UI has also received an extensive overhaul, and the new look is a solid compromise between form and function. The changes are far too numerous to list here, but the return of proper unit portraits will delight anyone unhappy with Rome 2’s stylish-but-confusing pottery-art unit cards. It’s actually fairly difficult to find major problems with the tactical battles, except to point out that the review build was just a bit unbalanced. Higher level units never felt much better than their cheaper counterparts, and you’ll find that the rock-paper-scissors of spearmen-swordsmen-cavalry trumps any individual unit’s strength.

Normally this is where I’d mention the graphics, but lets be honest: this is a Total War game - the graphics are spectacular if you’ve got a PC that can handle the higher settings. So let’s talk about the brilliant audio design instead. There are many wonderful little touches- a general giving a pre-battle speech, unit actions being signalled by horn blasts - but its the music that really strikes home. Each culture-group has it’s own soundtrack, and each is tailored to that culture’s traditions - germanic factions hear drumming and chanting while steppe cultures are treated to the morin khuur (a type of fiddle) and throat singing. It’s all fantastic, mixing just the right amounts of mystery and aggression to become one of the few game soundtracks I plan to listen to in my spare time. Of course, the voice acting is terrible, but that’s practically a Total War tradition, so I won’t hold it against Attila.

Now then, let’s finally address the war elephant in the room: Is Attila better than Rome 2 was at launch? Absolutely. In fact, many of the additions to Attila seem to be direct responses to the Rome 2 backlash. The AI is smarter. The UI is better. Battles are slow enough that an active commander has time to try effective flanking or misdirection tactics. The list could go on and on, but here’s the thing: Total War: Attila is a damn fine strategy game in its own right, without having to compare it to its oft-lamented predecessor.

More Info

GenreReal-Time Strategy
DescriptionThe latest standalone installment in the superb Total War series sees you taking control of armies in the era of Attila the Hun.
Franchise nameTotal War
UK franchise nameTotal War
PlatformPC
Release date17 February 2015 (US), 17 February 2015 (UK)

Total War: Attila

By combining an improved UI with deeper strategic gameplay, Total War: Attila increments on Creative Assembly’s formula to deliver a strategy game (almost) worthy of its namesake.

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