Metro: Last Light Preview -- There Will Be NightmaresBy Jake Gaskill - Posted May 29, 2012
Few developers are as devoted to the idea of crafting atmospheric, narrative-driven, single-player shooter experiences as the team at 4A Games. Studio communications lead Huw Beynon even made a special point to say as much during THQ’s recent pre-E3 Judge’s Day as he introduced the latest gameplay demo for Metro: Last Light. Beynon wrapped up his intro by saying that he hoped what we were about to see would give us nightmares, and truth be told, his hyperbole was far from unfounded.
The last time we went skulking through the decrepit subterranean labyrinths of Moscow, Artyom, the game’s protagonist, was shown in a variety of random scenarios designed to show off Last Light’s improved stealth mechanics and gunplay and was devoid of any of the creepy beasties players encountered in Metro 2033. For this demo, we watched one continuous playthrough that started out in a dank room where Artyom and his reluctant partner Pavel get their fortunate hands on a pair of gas masks, which, as anyone who played 2033 will understand, are about the most important pieces of survival equipment in the game.
Once the pair screw on the mask filters and fit them to their heads (being sure to set their wristwatches in order to keep track of the five minutes of air it provides them), they move upstairs and into the blinding sunlight outside. The vista that appears out of the whiteness is simply stunning, with vast stretches of a city in ruins extending in all directions. Buildings are nothing but shells, and a massive airplane fuselage lies across an open trench nearby. The game’s new weather system introduces a much richer and diverse set of visual offerings designed to highlight tension, build atmosphere, and/or just look damn cool.
As the above scene continues, storm clouds roll in, bringing with them lightning and whipping rain. Droplets streak across Artyom’s mask forcing him to occasionally have to wipe off the excess with his hand. Further on, the pair pass some broken turnstiles as they move into a nearby station. Once inside, Artyom gives his flashlight charger a few quick pumps to give it some added juice and to ensure it doesn’t die at an inopportune time.
Up ahead, the duo stumbles across a rotting corpse in the middle of a hallway. Curious as to what supplies the poor bastard might have been carrying before the whole rotting thing, Artyom’s pal pushes over the body, causing a swarm of giant spiders to crawl their way out of the body’s various openings. One spider crawls across Arytom’s mask before being squashed against his Artyom’s visor. Remember that whole “giving you nightmares” thing? Yeah. This was one of those moments.
Our first real look at some of Last Light’s bigger creatures came as the pair once again moved outside, halting abruptly at the top of some stairs to let a large herd of unidentifiable beasts run past. It was very reminiscent of the gallimimus stampede from Jurassic Park in terms of how the creatures maneuvered across the varying terrains and rubble in the streets. Since Artyom and company didn’t engage the enemies, it’s hard to say if this scene could have turned into a full blown fight.
Eventually, the duo reach another downed airplane and move inside to collect the intel they’re seeking. As Artyom moves through the corpse-ridden cabin, he has flashes of the passengers in their pre-rotted state. Once inside the cockpit, Artyom has a full on hallucination in which he watches the plane’s once alive pilots try to avoid, unsuccessfully, a nuclear explosion. What these visions mean or how they will factor into the overall story is obviously one of Last Light’s big mysteries, so for now I’ll just say that they are creepy as hell and leave it at that.
Getting back to the full blown fight idea, we finally got a chance to see some good old-fashioned gun-on-monster action towards the end of the demo, when Artyom and his buddy are first attacked in the street by a large winged demon (at one point, the thing actually swooped down, picked up Artyom, and then dropped him to the hard, cold pavement below) and then by a band of especially rat-like Nosalises. In addition to showing off Last Light’s improved and more action-conscious gameplay, these attacks also demonstrated how quickly scenarios in Last Light can escalate. And boy, do they escalate.
Wave after wave of Nosalises descend on the pair’s position. Shell casings and bullet-ridden hell beasts litter the ground around their feet, and just when it looks like all hope is lost, a massive security door behind them opens up and a group of survivors provides some much appreciated support fire as Artyom and his traveling buddy scramble into the now open tunnel, bringing our heart-pounding and, yes, nightmarish demo to an end.
If 4A Games can deliver on the promise made by this latest showing--mainly, that Last Light will provide players with a haunting, tense, and great playing shooter experience that serves as a reminder of how powerful narrative-driven FPS’s can be--then players can expect a very bright 2013.