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Metro 2033 Preview

Metro 2033 Preview

Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter

This past week I had a chance to head down to San Francisco to check out THQ’s much anticipated “Metro 2033” and preview the latest instalment in the Warhammer franchise; “Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising”. Being my first trip to the Bay Area, I was not only excited about previewing a couple of THQ’s most anticipated games of the new year but also checking out some of the world’s most famous landmarks and attractions when I had the chance to squeeze in some spare time.

The first day was devoted entirely to Metro 2033. I have to admit, prior to preview event I had not heard much about the game, yet the moment I started watching some of the games trailers and looking at screen shots leading up to the event I was captivated. Metro 2033 seemed right up my alley; that being an action oriented game with some horror, shooter, and RPG elements. On the surface the game seems promising yet I kept my expectations in check before I got a chance to play the title in person.

I, along with approximately 20 journalists from various media outlets, were invited to a place called “Temple” which was located not too far from our hotel. We proceeded down some stairs where we were greeted by a couple of dudes in military garb yelling out various Russian commands. They were instructing us to head into what seemed like an underground bunker filled with fog and smoke. When the smoke cleared, we noticed several Xbox 360’s and LCD screens located about the room with the Metro 2033’s main menu on all the screens. After a brief presentation by Luis Gigliotti, Executive Producer from THQ, we all had a chance to play the first few hours of the game.

Metro 2033 is based on the popular Eastern European cult novel of the same name from Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The game takes place in a shattered underground subway in a post apocalyptic Moscow. In 2013 the world is devastated by an apocalyptic event which wipes out almost all of mankind. This event turns the world into a poisonous radiated wasteland. Those that survived the event took refuge into the depths of the Moscow underground subway system. THQ tells us 40,000 people survived the blast as the rest of civilization is gone.

Twenty years later, in 2033, an entire generation has been born and essentially raised below ground. Each stop along the subway has its own culture with its own views, ideologies, and agendas. In many ways these metro cities have turned into small states with their own belief systems. It’s a unique concept as the people of the underground attempt to re-create their own civilizations. Each stop along the subway line seems to have its own little daily routines and visions, making for a story that is intriguing right from the get go. While life goes on down below things are different above ground. On the surface mutant horrors patrol the radioactive and poisonous land.

There is also a Mythical element to the story. The game features creatures called the “Dark Ones”. These beings don’t attack physically but rather they attack one’s psyche. These foes turn characters in the game into a weird state of dementia and it adds a whole new style to the genre. Trust me, once you experience it you will know what I mean.

Metro 2033 is strictly a single player affair and does not feature any multiplayer component. During your adventure you take on the role of Artyom. Artyom was born in the just after the apocalyptic events final days and he was raised underground in the metro cities. Artyom has never ventured beyond the Metro Station City limits, but one event sparks a desperate mission to the heart of the Metro system. As we played the game demo we never quite found out the nature of the threat, but I presume the more you play the more you will discover.

When I first fired up the game, I was impressed with the level of detail in each of the metro cities as well as the detail that went into many of the other visuals in the game. It is a good looking title and the build we played certainly looked very close to the final version which is slated to be released next month (March 2010). The underground cities found inside the Metro Subway of Moscow is impressive. There is a claustrophobic feeling as the tight tunnels and narrow walkways send chills down your spine. Character designs are equally impressive with lots of variety from one character to the next. The same cannot quite be said for the enemy mutants you face in the game though. While the detail of the enemies is decent the lack of variety of such hurts the game somewhat. That being said, having only played the first few hours of the game I am certain many more enemies will be encountered in the later levels.

After I played the first couple of hours of the game I have to say that there were times that it very much reminded me of the 2K’s Prey, as every once in a while your character falls into this unconscious dream-like state where he is greeted by an alien like figure. These are the dark ones which I described earlier. Our hero, unlike the other characters in the game, is unharmed by this mythical being. All in all, I never quite figured out what was going on with this mythical element but alas I only played the first few levels.

Metro 2033 is linear game, but does offer up a decent amount of exploration and depth. There are also some puzzle elements too. Some of the decisions you make affect the outcome giving it an RPG element. You interact with a vast amount of characters during gameplay which can make for an experience which has some replay value. THQ tells us the single player experience takes approximately 15 hours. 70% of the gameplay takes place beneath the ground in the subway cities and tunnels while the other 30% takes place above ground in the mutant infested world.

My single biggest concern during my time with the demo regarded the sparse ammunition. I thought this might just be my opinion, but I soon learned that it was also a concern with many other journalists I spoke with after the demo. Bottomline, ammunition is in short supply in the game which can make for a frustrating experience. Far too often I would be swarmed by enemies only to run out of ammo. Ammo management, as I like to call it, has been in an issue in previous games (e.g. Resident Evil and Dead Space); however never have I played a game where ammo is so incredibly sparse. Far too often skill goes by the wayside and using your knife in the same sweeping motion becomes your main line of defence. You can pick-up ammunition along the ground and inside the cities along the way; however, picking up two or four bullets at a time hardly gives you much to work with. Don’t get me wrong, I know that this helps build the intensity of the game as you kill that one last enemy with your last bullet, but man it can be extremely frustrating to run out of ammo at the most inopportune times. Hopefully the developers can address this issue before the game launches.

In terms of the games weaponry, Metro 2033 takes an interesting approach unlike I have seen in recent years. Many of the weapons in the game have been designed and built by the people of the underground so they are not as accurate or calibrated like those weapons built in the pre-apocalyptic world. It makes for an interesting twist in the game and early on it takes many rounds to take down the enemies. Some of these “homemade” weapons are quite cool and there is some enjoyment in purchasing some of these raw weapons. That being said, I was looking forward to a point in the game where I would actually pick up a weapon which did some serious damage, unfortunately during my few hours with the game I never made it to that point.

THQ tells us the author of the book, Dmitry A. Glukhovsky, played a critical role in the development of the game and as a result the storyline follows the book’s plot quite closely. As I mentioned earlier on, there is no multiplayer component to the game and after spending some time with the game I am not convinced one would have been necessary given the depth of the single player affair.

So what overall impression did I leave the preview event with? Well it was definitely mixed. On one hand the lack of ammunition, no HUD, lack of varied enemies, and incredibly frustrating trial and error chokepoints may prevent Metro 2033 from being considered a Triple A title. That being said, Metro 2033’s storyline is intriguing, the visuals can be stunning, and the game offers up enough depth for gamers to give this one a shot come March 2010. This game should be on your radar indeed as it does look like it could prove to be another interesting game from the folks at THQ.

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