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Review: Metro 2033

Logan Westbrook | 13 Apr 2010 13:00
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Metro 2033 is one of those games that sounds great on paper (a first person shooter set in the underbelly of a near-future post-apocalyptic Moscow? Awesome!) but when you actually sit down and start playing it, all the potential seems to evaporate, and what's left behind doesn't fit together that well.

Metro 2033's set-up is pretty solid: In 2013, nuclear war rendered Moscow uninhabitable, and only a handful of people managed to survive, eking out an existence in the Moscow Metro. You play as Artyom, a young man from the northern frontier of the Metro, whose home station is under threat from a race of psychic boogeymen called the Dark Ones, supposedly the next stage in human evolution, who attack mentally rather than physically. Between Artyom and his goal however, are a couple of armies - one communist and one Nazi - miles of tunnels, bandits and a few dozen mutants.

Artyom's character or lack thereof, is problematic. While the idea of the silent, empty-vessel style protagonist isn't exactly new in first person shooters, Metro 2033 takes it to new heights. Artyom doesn't ever speak, except to deliver the overwrought voice-overs that introduce each stage, and any significant decisions are usually taken out of his hands, either by circumstance, or by one of the game's major characters. You spend much of the game following more capable and better equipped NPCs around. These are technically escort missions, because if your ally dies you have to go back to the last checkpoint, but it's made very clear that you are the follower and they are the leader.

On the relatively rare occasions you are on your own, you feel underpowered and unusually fragile, even considering the setting. There's a disconnect between the game that the developer seemed to want to make, and what it actually made. The world of Metro 2033 is pretty clearly meant to be a tense and dangerous place where a single mistake can cost you your life - and usually does - and all the gameplay elements, like having to be careful not to damage your gasmask and remembering to keep your night vision goggles charged, seem to support that - but you're never really given the tools to manage this situation effectively.

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