Moody, creepy and atmospheric, Metro 2033 is based on the Russian novel of the same title (almost 2.5 million readers in print and online since 2002) and tells the tale of a remnant of civilization fighting for survival in the aftermath of nuclear war. The survivors have retreated into the tunnels of the ruined subway system — the Metro — and are now balanced on the razor’s edge, battling for their existence against the horrid mutations that have flourished on the poisoned surface. And now, a new mutation has appeared; an enemy with psychic abilities.
And the game’s developers use this setting and plotline to great effect. For example, at one point, my character was traveling with others down the abandoned tunnels, in an Old West-style, hand-pumped mining cart. As we rounded a bend in the tunnel and I was shining my flashlight ahead of us, one of my companions began to speak. I turned to face him and, as my flashlight played across the tunnel wall, a shadow appeared, flickering against the wall. A shadow that had no body to cast it.
It’s simple moments like this, which give you the chills, that make Metro 2033 fun to play. There are plenty of small touches, too. For example, you’ll need to rifle bodies to recover ammunition for your weapons. As you might imagine, ammo is in short supply after a nuclear war and after fighting a running battle for the past 15 or so years. Also, making tactical decisions will have far-reaching consequences. Listening through the wall to a conversation at one point, for instance, will allow you to sneak past a firefight ahead of you in the tunnels instead of being caught in the middle of it. If you rush into combat without assessing the situation first, you will run out of ammunition and you will fail. Period.
Unfortunately, there are downfalls to the game. The shooting feels a bit sloppy, and the enemy AI needs a bit of a tweak. And, the voice-acting is amusing at times. I smiled when I heard Steven Blum’s voice. He voiced Spike in the Cowboy Bebop anime, and it was funny to hear his voice with a thick, patently false, Russian accent. But the game makes up for much of these shortcomings in spades by having a genuinely creepy setting with well-scripted sequences and with finely tuned details.
Give this one a try, folks.