'In 2013, an apocalyptic event devastated the Earth and turned its surface into a poisonous wasteland killing off most of mankind in the process. A few survivors took refuge in the depths of the Moscow underground wherein human civilisation entered a new dark age. In 2033 an entire generation have lived, worked and struggled to survive in the metro system beneath the frozen wasteland which many used to call home.'
Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter/survival horror game developed by 4A Games for the Xbox 360 and P.C platforms. It is based off of the novel 'Metro 2033' by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Glukhovsky's post-apocalyptic setting seems perfect for a matching of these two genres, but it is fair to point out that we have seen this type of game before. So what does this title do differently from other titles belonging to the same group? Atmosphere, this is the key element to Metro 2033 and it is easily the greatest aspect this game holds that will cast players into the world, immersing them into the surroundings that Artyom, the protagonist, finds himself in.
During Artyom's journey, which is fairly non-descript despite being based off of a novel, he will meet a few important NPCs who will usually join him in combat and give him some form of information. They aren't overly memorable though, or that helpful. Fortunately the inhabitants of the metro are a bit more helpful as they've managed to procure weapons, either by finding the remains of pre-war weaponry or making some themselves. These range from the common pistol and throwing knives, to the AK-47s and Shotguns. Even pipe bombs for when the time comes. Artyom can hold one type of each weapon including minor upgrades such as silencers or bayonets; these can all be purchased from stalls at key locations in the metro. Traders in the metro have decided that pre-war bullets will act as currency in the underground and these shiny gold bullets can be found out in the world or acquired by selling items. They can also be used as ammunition, but the decision whether or not to shoot your currency at foes can be a hard one.
Unfortunately though, while the game displays great atmosphere, it doesn't really have much substance. There's no real reason for doing anything other than, because it can be done - everything is very thin. Essentially Artyom is trying to save the 'north' and his home station, but it's never really mentioned why. It makes the driving force behind the game limp, and while the ending lights up with a bang, it doesn't feel like anything has really been accomplished. This could have been made better with proper interaction with the world, but it's not possible to talk to NPCs unless it's in the main plot-line and all this does is serve to make the experience a little less believable.
At its roots this game is a first-person shooter with minor survival horror aspects. Players are armed from the opening scenes onward, and fear is not a common problem when armed with an automatic shotgun. Players have the choice of the usual easy, normal or hard difficulty settings and controls are easy to learn. They can also be modified within the options screen and hardcore fans can even turn the crosshair off to make things more interesting. The game has minor sections where movement is impeded, but these are far and few between. These parts are bothersome, however, as the best tactic against the common mutants of the game is to run away from them whilst reloading and shoot from a distance. This is harder to achieve when a child is sitting on Artyom's shoulders limiting his movement. Fortunately these sections don't last very long.
For the most part the combat is fairly simple; mutants can only perform melee attacks and so will run at players like blind sheep. A hail of gunfire is the best option but does get tiring after a while. Mutants usually attack in waves and can leave some players wishing it would just end. Thankfully the combat changes with the introduction of human enemies, be it thieves and mercenaries to the Nazis found later on. Killing these enemies awards players with ammo and possibly better weapons whereas killing mutants just leaves players with less ammo than they had before. Later enemies must be met with a little more skill as they can take a lot more punishment. This forces a more tactical, well thought approach to every encounter. Ammunition becomes scarce towards the end of the game but being able to use currency as a replacement is a relief.
Metro 2033 comes across as a generic shooter with a few horror elements that help to keep things interesting. The lack of different enemies is disappointing and the story is surprisingly bland. The combat sections may as well be a copy of any other shooter out there, but putting on the gas mask and stepping out onto the streets of Moscow really does create a sense of being afraid. The setting and atmosphere is when the game truly shines and this is an experience that can only be found in Metro 2033.