For the most part, the theme of this year’s E3 seems to be “safe, economical business decisions.” Outside of a few notable standouts, this convention has been full of sequels, side-stories and games that directly ape other commercially successful titles. You can’t really blame publishers for wanting to play things safe, given that we’re entering the end of this console cycle, but outside of those eternally cheerful fanboys who salivate at anything new and shiny, the critical response to the show has overwhelmingly been “we’ve seen all of this before.”
Such is the case with THQ’s Metro: Last Light. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Metro 2033, but the demo of Last Light that I saw offered very little in the way of new, intriguing features that could possibly make a player unfamiliar with the original sit up and take notice.
That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining for those of us who enjoyed the original. Unlike the demo shown at last year’s E3 conference, this look at the game was far more focused on the game’s survival-horror aspects, as opposed to its action gaming traits. Features like manually wiping away dust and blood from your mask or manually cranking a hand-powered lamp while exploring do an excellent job of enhancing the series’ focus on creating an oppressive, dark, almost claustrophic dystopian environment for players to explore. Likewise, though the game is designed to be characterized aesthetically by dark hues and an omnipresent lack of solid illumination, what you can see looks absolutely gorgeous. Not to the point that I would suggest anyone build a brand new high-powered PC to play the game, but enough so that your current rig will be stressed and those of you with high-end computers will definitely get your money’s worth — which is doubly impressive given that what I witnessed was part of a game that won’t actually see store shelves until the first half of 2013.
If there’s anything I want to specifically offer developer 4A Games’ praise for with this title, it’s the company’s attention to detail in the creation of this world. The features I listed above are quite minor in the grand scheme of things, but each adds a bit more to the title’s overall immersive potential. Likewise, the environments and characters you meet are full of small nuances that, when taken as a whole, serve the game’s world-building efforts far more effectively than any of its broad strokes.
Unfortunately, like THQ’s Darksiders II, the demo was ended by a game-breaking bug. Unlike Darksiders II however, 4A Games has more than enough time to clean up any issues with the game’s code, and anyone who enjoyed Metro 2033 should feel free to heavily anticipate this shooter. For anyone else however, Metro: Last Light seems like just another shooter at a conference full of shooters, differentiated by minor aesthetic and canonical quirks.