Metro: Last Light
PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
Like the studio it was developed in, the world of Metro: Last Light is a claustrophobic, dark, and chilling place. Set in the dingy and overgrown subway systems under a post-apocalyptic Moscow, Last Light, at its core, is about survival and the consequences of achieving it. Built by 4A Games, a small development house in Ukraine, Last Light’s tension-filled atmosphere and sense of scale is simply stunning, rivaling even the highest budgeted AAA titles. The Metro is as equally terrifying as it is beautiful, and deserves a place among the most unique dystopian video game settings.
In 2013, a nuclear war left Russia’s surface scarred and infested with radiation, mutated haunts, and otherworldly creatures. Having nowhere else to go, humans sought refuge underground amidst Moscow’s sewers and equally grimy metro lines. For two decades, they festered in the dark, struggling to survive in their makeshift camps. Factions soon arose amongst the survivors and the tensions of war alongside them. Last Light, the sequel to Metro: 2033, revolves around this conflict, as the various factions prepare for battle over a massive vault that could contain enough food and supplies to last generations.
Fending off grotesque monsters and corrupt humans is standard fare for the horror genre, but Last Light has a third component that elevates the game to something truly memorable: surviving the environment itself. Those who venture to the ravaged surface must wear radiation-protective gas masks to survive the nuclear winter. Filtration systems are in short supply however, and tend to last only a few minutes, so those brave enough to traverse the surface must do so with haste. This element not only adds copious amount of stress to these missions, but adds depth to the world as well. It shows how unforgiving the environment can be and serves as a reminder that it’s one which humans created.
Unique mechanics like the filtration timer are found throughout the game and greatly contribute to world building and immersion, even if it’s as menial as charging a flashlight or wiping your dirty gas mask. Last Light has many of these mechanics, which gives the game a handcrafted feel. It’s refreshing, considering many games today are so overproduced and polished that they end up feeling bland and devoid of any style. This is perhaps where Last Light’s limited budget and unorthodox production is an advantage; they give it character when so many titles feel the same.
Metro: Last Light’s vision of a nuclear ravaged Moscow is unsettlingly convincing. The surface’s lifeless buildings are surrounded by bare trees and dilapidated remnants of human activity, nearly blending in with the soulless grey sky. The Metro, though teeming with human life, is equally dreary. Small cities are scattered throughout, but as rumors of war escalate and foodstuffs decline, their feeble attempt at normalcy are quickly diminished. The world of Last Light is a depressing one, but it’s a dystopia with such a strong sense of place that it’s well worth venturing into.