What do you get when you mix a Ukrainian developer, a best-selling Russian novel, two games, and the PlayStation 4? It’s not a trick question: we’re referring to Metro Redux, of course. 4A Games’ pair of previous generation escapades have been remastered and reworked for Sony’s latest system – and, in many ways, the package is an absolute triumph. Based upon author Dmitry Glukhovsky’s book, you’ll step behind the gas mask of character Artyom, as he grows from innocent young boy trying to save his home into a fully fledged soldier attempting to protect his species from extinction. The death and horrors that you encounter along the way set the scene for one of the most engagingly oppressive post-apocalyptic series in gaming.
This package includes both Metro titles: 2033 and Last Light. The latter was released on the PlayStation 3 last year, but its first-person predecessor is making its debut on a Sony system, and there hasn’t been a more opportune moment for it to do so. In fact, the inaugural entry was a bit of a quiet success when it deployed in 2010: it wasn’t universally adored, but those who did like it, really liked it – this author among them. The problem is that it didn’t look too great on the Xbox 360 – especially compared to its PC counterpart – but that’s no longer the case anymore. Entire areas have been retextured to take advantage of the new hardware available, and it looks breathtaking, with some particularly strong lighting. This is better than your average port.
And it feels like a new game in more ways than one. A common complaint pointed at the original was its sluggish, wonky control scheme, but the developer has gone back to the drawing board and tuned things to be on par with its successor. Weapon attachments have also been implemented, as well as the updated user interface that was included in the sequel. Elsewhere, arguably Last Light’s greatest addition has been implemented as well: the manual mask wipe. Condensation, blood, and other miscellaneous mucosa can impair your vision, requiring you to “wipe” your gas mask off mid-game. It’s such a tiny thing, but it’s neat to see the feature implemented across both titles in the brand now.
But that’s still not everything that’s been enhanced in the original outing. Even the terrain has been tweaked, taking areas that may have once been a nuisance to traverse, and smoothing them out. There are some more subtle changes as well, like the addition of rooms that may not have been previously explorable, or tweaks to the time of day in certain environments and sections. Unsurprisingly, all of these tweaks are favourable: the game plays better, looks better, and feels better than ever before – it’s the perfect place to start your journey into Russia’s abandoned subway system.
Given that it’s the newer of the two titles, Last Light has not undergone such a heavy adaptation. The game certainly looks better than it did on the PS3 last year, to the point where it seems like it’s running on a high-end gaming computer, but there are less of the subtle tweaks outlined above. The performance has been smoothed out, as the frame-rate was particularly bothersome on Sony’s previous generation machine, but other than that – and a few welcomed lighting improvements – the title is largely the same. This version does, of course, include all of the release’s DLC, which adds a decent amount of content to the affair. You also get the controversial ‘Ranger’ mode, which caused a stir last year when it was announced as a pre-order incentive, and then described as the “the way that the game is meant to be played”. Whoops.
Brand new difficulty tiers have also been introduced across both games – ‘Survival’ and ‘Spartan’ – allowing you to choose your own preferred style of play. The former repurposes the resource constrained tension of 2033, offering up less ammunition, while the latter delivers a more frantic combat pace, with more bullets for you to pump into the horrors that you encounter. Another big universal change is that much of the dialogue has been re-recorded, as a lot of it – especially the children – was pretty much horrendous in its original guise. Unfortunately, things haven’t improved a whole lot across the board, though some speech samples are better.
There are some other changes that are less successful, too. When walking the harrowing hallways of the first game, we couldn’t help but notice that the music has been adapted in certain scenarios. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but the sparse, original version of the score has been substituted for something ever so slightly more generic. It’s not necessarily a negative change – just an unwelcome and unnecessary one. Fortunately, Last Light’s audio – which was one of our soundtracks of the previous year – has been mercifully unaltered.
When all’s said and done, though, this is a perfect entry point if you’re new to the Metro franchise – and still a compelling package if you’re not. Running at a silky smooth 60 frames-per-second in 1080p, this looks and feels fantastic, and while those of you that are big PC gamers may have already enjoyed that experience on your uber-rig, 2033 has been tweaked enough to deserve a return. If you’re not keen on buying the full package, then we definitely recommend picking up the inaugural entry individually from the PlayStation Store – but considering the Blu-ray is selling for a slender sum, we reckon that it’s worth purchasing the full set.
Metro Redux takes two popular post-apocalyptic affairs, and enhances them for Sony’s next-gen system. These are more than just mere ports, though, as both titles have been heavily reworked in order to feel fresh and new. The impact is more impressive in 2033’s case, as it practically looks and plays like a brand new game, while still retaining the core of what made the original such a unique experience. Last Light’s improvements are less significant, but performance enhancements make this the definitive version of the title – especially if you originally enjoyed the outing on the PS3. All in all, whether you’re new to the franchise or not, the abandoned underground has never looked this inviting.