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Platforms: PC, Xbox 360

Publisher: THQ

Rating: Mature (Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence)

Players: 1

Reviewed on: Xbox 360

Metro 2033 literally flew under the radar of most of the gaming communities when it came out in 2010. It's based on a Russian novel by Dimitry Glukhovsky, and set in a post-apocalyptic Moscow.  After playing it, I really wish I'd stumbled upon this game sooner.

You don't want to cross these guys…

The main story of Metro involves a character by the name of Artyom.  In the wake of nuclear fallout some 30 years prior, the surviving humans have gathered in abandoned subway stations, known as "havens."  Artyom's haven comes under attack by mutant beings known only as "the dark ones," and sets out to another nearby haven to seek assistance.  Along the way, he fends off attacks from mutant rat creatures, neo-nazis, and soldiers loyal to the fallen Soviet Union.

The current game environment is littered with post-apocalyptic first person shooters.  Metro had to really do something to innovate and make it stand out from the crowd.  It accomplished this by setting up one of the most immersive atmospheres out of the current FPS generation.  Development Studio 4A Games, based in the Ukraine, created havens that are teeming with "life," if you want to call it that.  People are scraping to get by.  The surface is a wasteland, full of noxious fumes that will kill you in minutes.  This, of course, says nothing about the mutant monsters roaming around up top.  "Nosalises," "Angels," and "Librarians" will kill you on sight and feed on your body. 

What was particularly fascinating, however, was the currency.  In the future, gold and money are basically worthless.  Soviet AK-47 rounds are rare enough that they're considered a valuable trading commodity.  They're also the most powerful rounds in the game.  So players have to make a careful decision when they load up a magazine with the stuff.  "Is it really worth it to use these 30 rounds on this boss? Would they be better spent buying health packs later?"

This mask is the difference between life and death on the surface

Pro tip: 4A Studios added a Russian soundtrack to the game, even in the US releases.  Playing Metro 2033 in that with english subtitles, if needed, will suck you into the atmosphere of the game in all the right ways.  It's definitely worth doing.  Speaking of atmosphere, the air above ground in Metro 2033 is highly toxic.  You'll need your gas mask to survive.  Of course, with no Heads-Up Display to work with, how do you know how much time you have left?  You check your wristwatch, of course!  Every time you change the filter on your gas mask, Artyom sets the timer on his stop watch.  You can pull it up at any time to see how much time you have left on your current filter.  It really adds to the ambiance of the game, makes it feel like you're actually Artyom.

As Artyom progresses, he meets new allies and enemies.  There's two achievements early on for talking to a young child who offers to lead you to the bar which progresses the storyline in exchange for one bullet.  The achievements are called "Generous" and "Realist," depending on how benevolent you are.  Situations like these illustrate the decisions that you'll have to make throughout Metro 2033. How you respond affects your "karma."  This impacts the ending of the game, all of which are vastly different.  Unlike Bioware's recent foray into branching storylines…

Bourbon, Artyom's early mentor

Like all games out there, Metro is not without its flaws.  Several of them can be game-breaking, too.  Several of the online guides on GameFAQs point out glitches that will force a reload of your saved game.  Nosalises will occasionally become stuck in terrain geometry and dance about in spastic, unnatural ways.  You will get caught in terrain geometry and start shaking the camera to the point of inducing vertigo in some viewers.  For as much as 4A Games polished other areas of Metro 2033, it's kind of disappointing to see these sorts of things fall through the cracks.  This sort of stuff should be caught during Alpha testing, not on the final release. Here's hoping 4A Games reads my blog…

If you haven't tried out this gem yet, I highly recommend you do. There's a sequel, Metro: Last Light, due out next year. It would be a very good idea to play through this one before Last Light comes out.  At $15 to download it from Amazon's store, you can't go wrong with that.  Seriously, any FPS fan cannot let this one slip buy.