Metro 2033
Format reviewed: Xbox 360

First person shooters of this generation have followed a pretty obvious trend. In the beginning, we had the tail end of the WW2 trend with games like Call of duty 2 being a 360 launch title, and follow up’s like Call of Duty 3 being about as well recieved as a turd in a salad. The public were finally growing bored of WW2 as a reason to shoot people. Developers needed something that wasn’t WW2, so the next obvious scenario to milk dry was modern warfare, which is currently being run into the ground and boring the living shit out of gamers with half a brain thanks to the Calls of duties, the Ghost Recons, the Bad Companies, and coming soon, the Medals of honours.

So it’s certainly refreshing to pick up  a shooter set a few years in the future that doesn’t give you guns that aim themselves, tanks that can fly helicopters, helicopters that can fly planes, or just another reason to shoot brown people in the desert.
Metro 2033’s vision of the future is not one of the Glorious coalition of the Willing freeing the shit out Afghanistan, or bringing peace through superior firepower.
Set in 2033 (obviously), in the aftermath of a Nuclear war, (which is  never fully explained as to who attacked who and more or less left to the player to decide for themselves) the survivors have been driven underground, scratching an existence in the abandoned Metro system.
In an age where games like Modern Warfare feel the need to literally ram every single salient plot point (wether they make any fucking sense or not, and in MW2’s case, none of it made any goddamn sense) down your neck like an Iraqi hostage being waterboarded, it’s refreshing to play a game whos reticence actually helps increase your desire to find out more about its world and how the future came to be this shattered vision of Moscow, rather than make you wish you could hate the developers to death for throwing in yet more OOH RAH MARINES!!! style patriotism.
Based on the novel of the same name, you play as Artyom, a survivor of the Nuclear winter only old enough to remember glimpses of life above ground. The story is intruiging, and well told, never overstated and always engaging enough to leave you wanting to know more.

Artyom must undertake a perilous journey from his home metro station to seek the aid of others in fighting the latest threat to the Metro, the “Dark ones”. Psychic entities that destroy the minds of anyone who comes into contact with them (except Artyom, what a coincidence!!).
Much like how Rapture was the real star of the show in Bioshock, here, the Metro is the real star of Metro 2033. Metro tunnels are sadly not the most exciting places on earth to visit, as anyone who’s ever been on a train will tell you, so it’s a credit to the developers 4A that they’ve actually managed the impossible and made hanging out in train tunnels fucking thrilling. Although granted, most normal train tunnels arent filed with marauding mutants, hostile ghosts of those who died in a nuclear attack, or weird chemical anomalies (but god willing, one day will).

The atmosphere in Metro 2033 if nothing short of nut punchingly fantastic. It’s the kind of atmosphere other games would sell their entire arsenal of tanks, deserts, and dead Iraqi’s for. And it’s nothing short of what you’d expect given the developers work on S.T.A.L.K.E.R, possibly the only other game out there with an atmosphere as oppressive, cloying, and claustrophobic as Metro 2033’s. As much as i would love to describe in graphic detail some of the sections of this game that are completely gripping, it would be nothing short of being a thundering cunt of me to spoil any of the incredible moments in this game that can be found in levels like Ghosts, Anomaly, or Cursed Station.

The games world effortlessly sucks you in, from the Nazi’s warring with the Red’s over control of the metro, to the grandeur of Polis station, to the bleak, harsh, beauty of the destroyed Moscow overworld, it’s a game that is always throwing something new at you (again, an incredibly impressive feat considering it’s entirely based in a bloody train station), it gets it’s hooks into you and wont let go until the credits roll. Which unfortunately is all too soon, as it’s not particularly a long game, clocking in at about 8 – 10 hours depending on how much exploring you’re willing to do.

But dont let the games length put you off, there’s more to experience in an hour spent in the Russian Metro than in the entirety of Modern Warfare 2’s campaign. Maybe a bit unfair to compare Metro to MW2, as they are polar opposites in both aesthetics and design. But on xbox360, there really isn’t any other comprable experiences out there save for possibly Bioshock 1. Metro can easily hold it’s head high alongside such lofty competition, and, for this reviewers money, goes a long way to outclassing Bioshock 2, or any other FPS released this year (with the possible exception of Call of Pripyat..maybe). In fact, in a first quarter that has seen so many games released to massive critical and commercial acclaim, Bayonetta (which i hated, for what its worth), Bioshock 2, Bad Company 2, Mass Effect 2, etc, this debut effort from 4A manages to not only hold it’s own among the heavyweights, but to genuinely impress as much, if not more, than those titles.

So if you haven’t beena ble to figure out yet, yes, Metro 2033 is fantastic. I love this game with every fibre of my being. I would get up earlier in the morning to love this game for longer if i could. It’s not perfect, theres a lack of polish that could be almost considered charming that tends to come from eastern european game developers. And there’s a few mis-steps toward the end of the game, but nothing that will spoil your memories of the experience when you look back upon it, and if nothing else, it’ll definitely have you wanting to see what happens in the (hopefully inevitable), Metro 2034.