Metro: Last Light preview

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In Metro 2033, bullets were like gold; literally, in the case of the military grade bullets, as they were the main form of currency, but also metaphorically for the equally scarce lower-grade ammunition. In Metro: Last Light (due 2012), our protagonist Artyom has just snuck into Reich station, a fascist stronghold and found a gatling gun, and proceeds to blow away the scenery with high-calibre currency. As a metaphor for how the game has changed it's powerful, if somewhat misleading.

For Metro: Last Light is very much the slightly-more handsome twin of its predecessor. 4A studios, the Ukrainian developer, are very keen to keep the game aligned with the first game's vision, whilst fixing its flaws and stepping up the graphical fidelity even further. The initial scene of the presentation shows off the latter ambition admirably, showing a vista of post-apocalypse Moscow, complete with streets full of hundreds of cars, presumably abandoned by fleeing civilians just before the blast hit, and monstrosities roving across the derelict Kremlin, before closing in on our heroes as they descend through a manhole into Reich station.

The atmosphere of the first game has also been maintained, with Artyom and another ranger progressing from the sewers to a checkpoint (where Artyom blows all that money/ammo), to the central hall of Reich station itself. This is decked out in facist decor, with very familiar red strip flags dangling from the ceilings, and is filled with brown-shirted chanting Nazis, being roused by a demagogic orator. Suffice to say Artyom's attempt to brazen his way through this crowd is nerve-wracking to watch, but is swiftly followed by a nerve-jangling chase sequence through the slums of Reich, pursued by a pack of facists. It looks really impressive - and more importantly fun.

As Artyom and his partner roll under a closing door, the chase is only halfway done. Hopping into a powered rail cart, the other ranger drives while Artyom uses a grenade launcher and bolt-action rifle to dispose of pursuing enemies. Soon we catch up to the target; a prison train sending Reich's prisoners elsewhere. Artyom clears the decks of guards, then we move close enough that he can leap aboard, and fights his way forward, using a shotgun pistol to dispose of the armoured guards. As he nears the front of the train, it catches light and explodes, knocking him out...

This sequence is an E3 demo, so it's not likely to feature in the final game, but it's a nice demonstration of 4A's ambition. The game itself hasn't changed that much - but with a new storyline, focused on the struggles between the factions now that the Dark Ones have gone, and a not-detailed yet multiplayer mode, fans should definitely be looking forward to this.