It was something straight out of a themepark. Shuffling into a roped-off area, a few journalists and I took a seat in a darkly-lit mock subway car. The audience was cracking jokes with each other, teasing their companions to cover their eyes if they got frightened in the pitch-black, bass-heavy room. We were all expecting to be scared (to some degree) by Metro: Last Light. Instead, the gameplay demo on display simply astounded us.
You return to the post-apocalyptic Russia overrun by mutants as Metro 2033's protagonist Artyom--but right now, the gruesome monsters running amok are the least of his worries. Civil war is breaking out amongst the remaining underground population, and the already-struggling society is at the brink of self-destruction. It's up to Artyom to take action and prevent the only humans left from wiping each other out.
Now that we'd been brought up to speed on the story, it was straight on to the action. Ducking down from the winged-mutant infested ground level, Artyom carefully descended into a sewer on a stealth mission. His comrade advises him to get rid of any and every light source, and it becomes clearer as the demo progresses that Last Light is the perfect subtitle to this gorgeous-looking sequel. As the player slinked around an encampment crawling with guards, he took every precaution to rid himself of any light source. Lightbulbs were unscrewed, fluorescents were shot out--he even put out a fire by shooting the water-filled pot above it, dousing the light source that threatened to reveal him.
The darkness lends itself to the most satisfying of stealth kills: the ol' sneak-up-and-knife-you-in-the-neck. After taking out a hefty enemy, the player picked up a hulking minigun and shocked the audience with an unexpected feature: destructible environments. While ducking behind the cover of a concrete wall, the player lined up a shot where he knew the enemy would be. Revving up his minigun, he unloaded an entire clip, shredding the concrete wall and his enemy to pieces, and exposing the rebar within. If the amazing graphics and life-like lighting hadn't already convinced us of the game's realism, we were certainly sold on it now.
In the next segment, shown briefly in a previous-released trailer, Artyom was following Khan, a grey-haired, ponytailed leader, as they made their way through a chanting crowd who were raising their fists in a gesture disturbingly close to "Sig Heil." At Khan's signal, the speaker addressing the crowd was attacked, and all hell broke loose. With civilians screaming and running in every direction, Artyom and his accomplish made tracks through a busy underground village. The chase sequence has to be seen to be believed--I felt like I was living out the intense scenes of a Bourne-style action movie, and I wasn't even the one playing. Just as it seemed like they were getting away clean, Artyom took a nasty shot to the shoulder. Thinking quick, the duo climbed into a nearby minecart, kicking off an exhilirating shooter that made every other shooter's "on-rails" sequences look like a joke. Mid-chase, Artyom leapt--yes, leapt--from his rolling minecart onto a train speeding nearby. This kicked off an intense shoot-out of rifles and shotguns versus a small army, as the demo came to a close.
Just as we were all catching our breath, we got a sneak peek at a new mutant type that's sure to make you quiver in your boots. A hairless four-legged monstrosity (resembling the uglies from the first game) burst out of a stone wall, charging headfirst at Artyom with murderous intent. With the force of a bulldozer and the speed of a car, the beast tore up the environment while Artyom unloaded all the ammo he could into the creature's back.
With the game's amazingly detailed textures and graphics, incredible atmosphere, and downright exciting gameplay, it looks like Last Light will help the Metro series finally garner the attention it deserves. Kudos to 4A Games for not missing a beat with the sequel to 2010's biggest unsung hero. Metro: Last Light is slated for release in 2012, and it can't come soon enough.