The amount of remakes, re-releases and remasters that we’ve gotten since the start of this console generation has been almost laughable. As the number of re-releases increases, there’s the running joke that the remakes will eventually outnumber the original titles. Silly, I know, but it does speak volumes about the frequent re-releases many games have gotten this gen. But even as the sea of old-turned-new titles grows, seeing a remake like Metro Redux is a glimmer of light in a dark tunnel. Metro Redux features the two games in the criminally underrated Metro series: 2010’s Metro 2033 and 2013’s Metro Last Light. With technical retooling, improved graphics, and some twists on the original gameplay, Metro Redux is the definitive version of these two eerie shooters. It might not be worth a repeat purchase for original adopters, but newcomers should flock to these atmospheric and polished survival horror games without hesitation.
Based on the book series written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, the Metro series takes place in Moscow after a nuclear apocalypse. Due to the nuclear winter and the deadly radiation, all survivors are forced to relocate to the metro tunnels beneath the city. To make matters worse, both the Soviet and Fourth Reich armies are fighting for control of the region, while radiated monsters are also threatening the livelihood of the survivors in the metro. You play as Artyom, a survivor whose goal is to return to his home station to find Hunter, a soldier who departed for the station to defend it against a new threat, the evolved beings known as the Dark Ones. The story is a surprisingly personal one, as Artyom meets plenty of faces from all facets of society. From soldiers to scavengers to lost children, Metro 2033 and Last Light spend more time showing the lives of the survivors than telling a weaving plot. It’s more Half-Life than Medal of Honor. The two games’ shared tone provides a lengthy and interesting context that paints an elegant picture of post-apocalyptic life more than it tells a creative and winding story.
2033 and Last Light both follow similar gameplay styles. At their core, they are first-person shooters, but surprisingly subdued ones. Rambo-esque firefights are very rare compared to subtle stealth confrontations and ambient exploration. The game stays true to its quelled tone with some excellent challenges based around stealth. You can use different weapons (which can be upgraded with pre-apocalypse ammo), but the environments are superbly designed. Between shooting out lights to provide cover in the darkness to sneak attacking enemies from the multi-tiered areas, the action sequences take great care in providing steadiness over intensity. While there are some mutant confrontations that demand a strong trigger finger, the game never prides itself on that fervor, settling for a subdued, but nerve-wracking vibe.
Metro 2033 and Last Light nail it when it comes to mood. Much of the story takes place in the dark, dank tunnels of the metro, but you’ll occasionally venture to the toxic surface of Moscow. Due to radiation, you have to wear a gas mask and find filters to keep yourself alive, but it’s worth it to see the ghostly remains of the nuclear winter. It’s chilling seeing these scenes, so it makes the return to the underground a bit of a letdown. The eerie caverns are atmospheric, but there could’ve been more variety when it came to locations. The downtime between the exploration is also noticeably intrusive. While it’s nice to see some friendly faces after scouring the labyrinthine caves, these moments break the pace and cut into the isolation and loneliness that the game emits, forcing you to hear some trivial dialogue instead of pushing yourself forward to the next goal.
Despite the series beginning less than five years ago, Metro Redux offers a surprising amount of improvements from the originals. The most obvious change is the graphics. Metro 2033 and Last Light were already fantastic-looking games (especially when it came to the atmospheric lighting effects), but thanks to a fresh new engine and excellent optimization, the games run better than ever. Fewer glitches, improved lighting, and a crisper frame rate all contribute to what is easily the best version of the Metro series yet. PS4 and Xbox One owners are able to experience Metro 2033 and Last Light in the same superb state as many PC owners do, as Metro Redux delivers 1080p resolution at 60fps. The graphics are demanding, however, so you will need a beefy PC to handle the more intense graphical settings. Still, this is a stunning upgrade to a game that already pushed atmosphere to its limits.
The other improvements aren’t as noticeable, but still make a solid difference. Metro 2033 has had the most upgrades, with gameplay and interface more in tune with the seamlessness of Last Light. You can also play either of the two games in one of two versions: Survival (which limits ammo and focuses more on horror, a la Metro 2033) and Spartan (which is more for traditional FPS fans, a la Last Light). The two settings can be used on either game, but the difference isn’t as dramatic as expected. You’ll still be playing Metro 2033 and Last Light; you just might have a little less ammo to spare. You can also remove the HUD completely in the Ranger mode, though it’s more for immersion purposes than gameplay. What is a dramatic change is the AI, which improves the stealth sections considerably. The reworked moves and patterns are great: enemies have sharper eyes and ears, so even the normal difficulty provides a great challenge. You even get all released DLC as a bonus. Overall, Metro Redux improves the game in the right ways, and while it doesn’t pack on enough extra content to be worth a $50 re-buy, it’s safe to say that this is the definitive Metro experience. In a nutshell, this is Metro: Game of the Year Edition.
If you already own Metro 2033 and Last Light, Metro Redux is a hard sell. The improvements, while admirable, don’t make enough of a difference to be worth another $50 purchase. These are still the same creepy, atmospheric games from the past, just with some polish on the scratches. But if you haven’t played either of the Metro games, Metro Redux is the version to get. With superb graphics and improved AI, Metro Redux delivers two of the most alternative first-person shooters released in the last decade, all with the same shimmering luster that a new gaming generation can deliver. The series’ mood is palpable, one of the best examples of ambiance used in a video game in years. The intelligently designed stealth sections and multi-layered locations deliver a sense of depth that many other survival horror games cannot touch. Metro Redux doesn’t provide enough new content to be worth repurchasing except for the most die-hard fans, but if you haven’t experienced the masterful adaptation of Glukhovsky’s series yet, fix that mistake and get Metro Redux on the double.
Version Reviewed: PC