I've started a new series of blog entries that I'm going to call Impressions Journals. In these articles, I will keep a faux journal of sorts in a stream of consciousness style as I'm playing through a game. It's very much a living piece, and this article will be updated as I get further into Metro 2033. The goal is to keep a record of how my feelings for a game evolve over time.
Wow. Metro 2033 is a much better game than I was expecting. An absolutely steal for ~$1.20 (five games divided by ~$6).
Metro does a fantastic job cuing you in to gameplay mechanics without having to spell out exactly how the work. The air filters stood out most to me as a “wow” feature. The player must replace air filters in gas masks in order to breathe, and the timer for the gas masks is the player's watch. When a gas mask filter starts to run low, your breathing gets heavier. This heightens the tension of the situation, and serves a practical purpose as it clues the player in to the condition of the gas mask. So far managing the filters hasn't been too much of a problem, but I have a feeling that will change as the game progresses.
Though I will say, the lack of explanation for the physical controls is a bit disapointing. The game tutorial seemingly forgets to cover essential game mechanics, such as how to change ammo types (hold the reload button) and how to replace filters on the gas mask (double-tap the gas mask button). The game's options screen was of little help, and a quick Google search confirmed my suspicions that this failure was not my own fault. One person even used the wrong ammo type for over half the game and as a result wasn't able to purchase any gun upgrades.
That must have been tough, Metro 2033 is difficult enough as is.
I recall others saying Metro suffered from a general lack of polish, and jarring glitches. I have not yet run into many of these glitches. The only noticeable glitched I've encountered so far is the death screen, which keeps telling me I was killed by ghosts and paranormal beasts. Uh, no, I'm pretty sure I died because that bandit blew my face off with a shotgun.
Metro uses audio to create an atmosphere in a way few other games can, and I'm enjoying my decision to play with headphones. Every gut-wrenching sound and ear-splitting squeak leaves you constantly on edge, and occasionally questioning your player's sanity. This effect accentuates the environmental differences between the surface and tunnels, though neither one is preferable to the other.
Some may think the heavy Russian accents are a bit hokey, but I think the accents come right up to the border of cheesy without crossing it. The only clue as to the team's restricted budget comes in dialogue that is occasionally too on-the-nose, and loading-screen narration that sounds like it was recorded by one of the programers in their home closet through a webcam mic.
Man. The amount of tension in this game during fights on the surface is incredible. Packs of mutants surround your character and take swipes, as the cracks in your gas mask obstruct vision. If the gas mask fails, the character will take radiation damage until he clears out the enemies and creates an opportunity to put on a fresh gas mask. Times are tough out there.
Unless you understand Russian, I wouldn't recommend changing the game language to Russian. It's extremely tempting, and seems like a good idea in theory, but subtitles do not lend themselves well to a survival horror game. Trying to read the bottom of a screen while being chased by mutant bat-creatures and reload a weapon is a bit like trying to read a book while running on a treadmill.
And I wasn't sure whether Metro was a survival horror game until this session, where they introduced ghosts. Which are shadows. That can only be seen with your flashlight on. And you have to manually keep the flashlight charged. And the ghosts kill you if they touch you.
The ghosts are extremely effective in storytelling, and provide an appropriately chilling way of quickly filling you in on the Metro's history.
And they're equally effective at scaring the shit out of you.