|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 4A Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 16, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Caleb Newby
December 10, 2009 - Post-apocalyptic fiction is the new black. Or should I say, post-apocalyptic fiction is the new high fantasy. Sure, it's been around for awhile now, but the genre seems to be in the middle of an all-time high of popularity. Just take Cormic McCarthy's novel and soon to be big budget movie, The Road, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 and was named to Oprah's book club something I'm told is a big deal, not that I would know anything about Oprah. Moving on to video gaming, The Fallout series is certainly not new, but Fallout 3 was a huge success both financially and critically. And soon, in the near future, we will be given THQ's entry into the genre: Metro 2033; a first-person shooter based upon the novel by the same name, exclusively for PC and Xbox 360.
While the book Metro 2033 isn't well known here in North America, it has been a hit in author Dmitry Glukhovsky's home country of Russia since its release nearly seven years ago. As I'm fairly certain you're not here to learn about the book, but rather the game, I'll just say that the book is set in Moscow's subway system where survivors of a nuclear holocaust have lived for the past twenty-some years. The game, developed by 4A Games, follows this plot and puts players in the role of Artyom.
Not too many details are known about the plot, but here's what we can piece together. Set in 2033, the earth's surface has been turned into a poisonous wasteland in the wake of large-scale nuclear warfare. Artyom lives in one of the underground "cities" that have formed in the 20 years since the disaster and must deliver a message across the underground network to a powerful metro-city and warn of an impending attack. Metro-city hubs are the communities that have sprung up in the aftermath of the nuclear devastation of sheltered survivors trying for the best lives they can manage. Between each hub the metro tracks are the links connecting communities together, but are dangerous and difficult to traverse.
Lest you feel overwhelmingly confined underground, Metro 2033 also allows you to don a gas mask and explore topside. As you may expect, things are anything but peaceful in the post-nuclear apocalypse Moscow landscape. Mutant abominations toil on the surface, but the ever-present fear looks to be the environment itself. Gas masks only have a limited supply of air before they must be replaced. Making matters worse, enemies can and will attack your mask, damaging it and speeding up your mask's demise.
Gameplay looks to be largely focused on providing an immersive atmosphere, with the developers citing BioShock as an example of what they're looking to accomplish. Ammunition is so scarce it is used as currency by the citizens of the metro, forcing you to choose between your all too scarce bullets or a better weapon. And what would underground travel be without lighting concerns and pitch black nooks and crannies. So it makes sense Artyom will be traversing with a flashlight of some sort. But this isn't any ordinary flashlight; this one has a rechargeable battery that is powered by a crank wheel. There will undoubtedly be more than one situation in which the battery will start to fail, and putting everything on hold to recharge will not be advisable. Weapons are also still something of a mystery with only the most basic guns revealed. Pistols, rifles, shotguns, and the ever-useful knife make up the usual suspects. It's a safe bet that there will be much more, or at least one hopes so.
While it's an FPS, Metro 2033 also looks to contain several RPG and survival horror gameplay elements. The survival horror aspect should go without saying by now, but the RPG aspect is reflected in in-game choices left to the player. We don't know how expansive these decisions will run, but we hope 4A Games takes the time to deepen the experience with situations that blur the lines between right and wrong as well as have consequences down the road.
All in all, Metro 2033 is shaping up to be an interesting game with serious potential. There is still a lot to be learned and things can go either direction, but the concept and direction are intriguing, even if another revisit to the genre is a bit worn. On the glass half full side, this should at least turn out better than Kevin Costner's stab at post-apocalyptic storytelling in The Postman. Nevermind that I've seen that movie twice.
CCC Freelance Writer