Hey, i was writing this as an email to Anthony but it kinda grew into a blog post so i'm posting it here. FYI i'm playing the 360 version.
I'm a huge fan and have very similar opinions and taste in games. I'm also doing game design and programming on the side.
I almost don't want to say what this email is about for fear you'll stop reading but yes it's... Metro 2033! (please read on, this isn't necessarily what you think it is!)
To be upfront- I don't care and would have no right to care if you don't play it nor whether you review it, but you framed your non-review as a question on how it is that people are loving metro and i think i can answer...
I havn't played The Void (it's on my list) and i havn't finished Metro yet, but i'd hazard a guess Metro is more similar to The Void than Modern Warfare. Why? Because the gameplay rules are strict and nobody tells you what they are!
Is that 'broken'? yes it is, to an extent.
What you experienced wasn't a bug, the gameplay is strict and sometimes very challenging. I've so far worked out throwing knives to the upper back/neck or silenced fire to an exposed head (except monsters wtf?) are the ONLY instant stealth kills. If you shotgun or knife someone point blank, they will A. not die. B. Kill you. Horrendous design for a realistic context!
.....But there's something about the rules when played as nothing more than a set of rules that's really enjoyable. It's about the challenge of working out those rules and defeating them. 4 shotgun shells to kill someone is just a rule to 'defeat' which, with the ammo mechanics, create extra challenge. The game has so far not put me in an impossible situation but it does a good job of putting up serious pressure to make you think it might be, making success even tastier. That said, I can't defend it, i'm just stating why i think it's so enjoyable later on..
I'm writing this out of respect for your opinions and my desire to share an interesting gaming experience. Metro is no GOTY but i believe it has moments of greatness. Atmosphere and a constant tease of safety only to throw you out on your own, make the world feel truly dangerous. It's one of the first times in a long while i've felt disempowerment without a lull in firepower. I really don't know why the game feels so enjoyable and addictive. (i felt the opposite when i started it)
The game sometimes uses what i think of as immersion through psychology. Take what you will from the following examples..
(minor spoilers in next 4 paragraphs)
On the level where you pick up a boy and carry him on your shoulders, you can't see him but you feel the weight in all your movements through a novel control tweak. You can hear him (switch to russian track because the english VA kids are awful!) but that's it. The simple knowledge that he was there made me care a little more, i found myself replying when he spoke, i felt a little like i'd let him down when i died.
A couple of levels dealt entirely with an enemy that wouldn't attack unless i had my back to it.. i only ever killed one enemy but it felt nerve-wracking as i was never sure where they'd be or when one would drop down from the many holes in the roof. Sometimes one wouldn't let me pass, so i'd have to wait til he left then leg it and pray.
A minor scripted piece example- A platform started to give way so with an adrenaline jolt, i sprinted. It never fully gave way though and my AI comrades laughed at me saying i should have been an athlete, which made me laugh with them. This is so minor and not original and yet it stands out to me as an example of the way the game 'interacts'.. I don't know if they would have said it even if i'd stood still but these things psychologically trick me into playing my part and without knowing- feeling totally immersed.
Finally- earlier, during a particularly hectic battle i suddenly noticed the mysterious creature that had been following me was nearby. While i focused on the regular enemies, it was coming closer, entirely during regular gameplay and completely without warning. Tension and fear of the unknown rose, then with a flash everything was gone. I was alone with no answers and no idea where the danger was and it felt vulnerable.
Finally really finally- The moral system in this game is so simple. Now and then you have a choice (sometimes unspoken). the more greedy choice earns you bullets. The 'good' choice gives you nothing and nothing is said of it (i don't know if there are later rewards or endings). The only reason i make 'good' choices is because that character is me and has my conscience. I like that.
Make of this what you will, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the game but i can't try to convince anyone to play it. Only that maybe it has some good ideas alongside it's flaws. I hope in a round-a-bout way i've shown why many are loving Metro 2033.
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