Enter the Metro mindset.

There’s a reason I don’t watch the news. Terrorist threat this, unstoppable virus that. It’s a never ending onslaught of misery and fear that can turn any optimist into a bitter, disenchanted individual. I don’t want to know that cereal… yes, cereal that goddamn sustenance I’ve been munching on for over 20 years, is a hidden killer. Nor do I want to know about the bloody war on Pantopia, the sacred home of the Pantros people and Nishikido clan. The Pantros people (a race of machine-gun wielding panthers) and the Nishikido clan (a legion of robotic pink samurai) have been locked in a gruelling battle for supremacy for over 5 quantros now.

Wait a minute… I think I would like to know about that, actually.

And that’s where my love of video games comes in. Video games can tackle all the horrible, unthinkable and sometimes completely unfathomable issues that I would never, ever want to deal with in reality. They can also help you achieve the seemingly unattainable, which is even better.

Need to survive a zombie outbreak? Bring it on. Drive a Ferrari around the Nürburgring? Just a typical Sunday. Score the winning goal for Arsenal? Been there, done that.

I wouldn’t last one minute in author Dmitry Glukovsky’s wretched world.

Developers have the omnipotent power to create a Pandora’s box of potential, containing whatever they see fit: be it something evil, something good, something bizarre or just sports – lots and lots of sports – and we can open and close it whenever we like.

Metro Redux – a comprehensive remaster of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light – is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. It’s a video game with a very convincing and disturbing world, brought to life by pixels and polygons. I wouldn’t last one minute in author Dmitry Glukovsky’s wretched world; life underground in a post-apocalyptic Russia just isn’t for me, I guess. However, I’m more than happy to stomach it knowing I can turn off the console and hide under the duvet afterwards.

Ticket to Terror

Metro 2033 refreshingly broke the mould when it released back in 2010. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Metro 2033 was a gritty, story-driven first person shooter, blessed with a genuinely believable premise. The game’s unique atmosphere and survival-based gameplay resulted in an enjoyable, unashamedly raw experience. And it benefited immensely. I was captivated by the game’s sombre depiction of the all too terrifying prospect of nuclear war, and the consequences it may carry.

Metro Redux

Let’s gather round the campfire and sing our campfire song.

Forced underground, living in constant fear of the mutants and demonic activity that roam the surface, life in the metro is the equivalent of a drawn out death. You play as Artyom, a young man who has little recollection of what life was like before the apocalypse struck. While journeying through the labyrinth of tunnels, Artyom soon discovers that he shares an unthinkable connection with the supernatural beings known as the Dark Ones; however, he’s determined to save his fellow man by wiping out each twisted creature once and for all. If you’d like to know more, check out my Metro 2033 review.

Artyom realises that his real enemy is mankind, not the Dark Ones.

In Metro: Last Light, developer 4A Games’ sequel which released last year, Artyom takes a similar journey of survival and discovery, albeit with a greater focus on battling the dark side of humanity. As history has taught us, in-fighting occurs between the remaining survivors of the human race. Politics are at the heart of the conflict as stations pledge their allegiance to certain ideologies: the Reds, a revival of Soviet Russia, and the Nazis, who need little explanation. These warring factions make the metro even more dangerous than the nasties that lurk in the dark, and Artyom realises that his real enemy is mankind, not the Dark Ones.

Lost In Translation

When Metro 2033 arrived on the Xbox 360, it was significantly compromised. A shaky framerate, scaled-down graphics, sub-HD resolution and unresponsive controls were all part of a disappointing package that was hampered by the 360’s relative power. Unless you played the game on PC (a really, really powerful PC), you were basically playing a half-baked version of the game. Oh, and the game never actually made it to PlayStation 3. Metro 2033 Redux is therefore a justified remaster.

Metro Redux outside

Baby, it’s cold (and extremely dangerous) outside.

Metro: Last Light Redux, on the other hand, isn’t as easy to recommend; it came out last year, on both consoles, and the game was far more accomplished thanks to a better optimised engine and numerous refinements. Nevertheless, unless you possessed a gaming rig with enough graphical grunt to melt your eyeballs, you could argue you simply weren’t getting the true Metro experience.

Return to the Metro

Thankfully, Metro Redux rectifies the disparity between last-gen consoles and high-end PCs with pristine presentation values and an unflinching 60 frames per second framerate – seriously, it doesn’t budge. Apart from the admission of excessive motion blur, which was used rather heavy handedly on PC, I couldn’t differentiate between playing Metro 2033 on max settings on PC to playing Metro 2033 Redux on PS4. And believe me, that’s a huge compliment.

Almost everything feels reworked for the better in Redux, with 4A Games retroactively adding the gameplay improvements from Last Light into Metro 2033 with fantastic results. Stealth works as it should, shooting isn’t as haphazard, load times have been reduced and the addition of Last Light’s gas mask wipe further adds to an already convincing first person perspective. Enemy AI is still pathetically dumb, though, and the faces of each character appear jarringly basic compared to the intricate and detailed environments.

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In comparison, and perhaps predictably, Metro: Last Light Redux loses some of its wow factor due to 2033’s remarkable upgrade. It still has the edge over Metro 2033 graphically, though, albeit a marginal one. Some may argue it’s a better game overall than its predecessor, but with a greater focus on firefights and the unavoidable fact that the metro isn’t quite as haunting second time around, I still prefer 4A Games’ first attempt. That being said, Metro Redux contains both games (unless you choose to download them seperately) which is terrific value, so arguing over which game is better is a non-issue – you get both.

Noise Pollution

Sadly, the voice acting in both games is nothing short of annoying. Dodgy Russian accents aside – where the characters rudely interchange between English and their mother tongue – the sound direction in Metro Redux is excruciatingly sensitive. Turn ever so slightly in either direction and the audio will quickly target your left or right ear making using headphones a frustrating, headache inducing affair. Walking through the crowded underground cities is absolutely no fun whatsoever, especially when you’re bombarded by hundreds of voices from every resident, eager to reel off five sentences of meaningless information. Factor in the excessive echo that accompanies every voice (yes, I understand that tunnels cause sound to reverberate) and you have a game that definitely won’t please any audiophiles.

Speaking of voice acting, Artyom’s inability to speak except during loading screens is a frustrating oversight. I’m sick of playing first person shooters where accompanying characters babble on incessantly, asking questions and making assumptions without the main character saying a word. It’s completely unconvincing. With the dialog of Artyom included, the story could have been improved tenfold – could you imagine playing Uncharted or The Last of Us with a mute character? I shudder at the thought.

A review copy of Metro Redux was provided courtesy of Deep Silver. The game was reviewed on PlayStation 4.

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