The FPS genre may be the most crowded genre in the gaming industry. FPS games are a dime a dozen and come out of literally every crack and crevice of the industry, with nearly every developer taking a crack at the market. While there are so many titles in the genre, there are only a handful that seem to set the bar for the rest. Titles such as Modern Warfare 1 & 2, the Battlefield series, and the Halo series are the benchmark titles that set the standard(s) for any and all (FPS) games that come after them. What about the games that don’t make it to those levels of popularity? Most of them get lost in the shuffle of the countless other FPS games flooding the store shelves. While Metro 2033 does not necessarily set the bar for the genre and earn a spot next to the elite titles, it manages to make its mark on the genre and the industry in general. It doesn’t do it guns a-blazing though… and I mean that both literally and figuratively.
Metro 2033 is the freshman outing from Ukranian developer 4A Games, THQ, and is based on the Russian novel of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The game is technically an FPS in its design, but unlike other titles within the genre it is not about the gunplay as the classification would suggest. I think that it is better and far more accurate to describe Metro 2033 as an atmospheric narrative presented from a first person-shooter perspective. While you will spend 90% of your time staring down the barrel of a gun, that will be far from your priority and focus. You are not here to shoot everything that moves but rather to follow and experience an intelligent narrative that aims to keep you on the edge of your seat every step of the way.
The game puts you in the role of Artyum, a young man who has grown up within the confines of the post-apocalyptic world of the Moscow metro system. Shortly after Artyum was born, the world faced complete nuclear destruction and the only survivors were those who happened to be underground within the Russian subway system. Those people were buried underground due to the aftermath up above and began to rebuild their societies within the confines of the Metro system. As time passed, each Metro station built up their own communities and formed their own city-states. As a result, Moscow now consists of independent network of underground cities hosted with each of its subway stations, each with their own “governments” and societies. Some stations prosper in the new world with structure and commerce while others are dark, dangerous outlands that lack government and are riddled with crime. In the face of a newfound “supernatural” threat facing the underground cities, you must lead Artyum on a journey through the various stations in order to ultimately save the remaining human race.
Yes, it is a very bleak and dark story, but one that is told extremely well and creates an atmosphere that envelopes the player like few other games. As you traverse the underground tunnels and eventually the barren remains of Moscow above ground, you will see first hand the devastation and fear that has overtaken what remains of society. You need to understand, before you play the game, that the focus of the game here is the story. 4A Games has set out to tell you Glukhovsky’s story, but they are simply presenting it to you in an interactive, video game form. Metro 2033 consists of many FPS elements, as you would expect… but it does not focus on them.
You will find the shooting mechanics and typical FPS “gameplay” elements to be lacking from what one would expect in a triple-A shooter. For example, the guns that you use are not very accurate and honestly, relatively weak. They are this way by design though. The game doesn’t strive to outfit you with a devastating arsenal with which to rain hell on the Metro, instead you are provided with the bare minimum necessary to survive… just as Artyum has been. Ammunition is scarce and a valuable commodity in the game. That isn’t to say that there isn’t enough to get you through… it is everywhere but you just have to find it. You will need to search every nook and cranny and loot every body that hits the floor, both friend and foe. In this bleak world, ammunition is not only a tool for survival, but it is also the accepted currency wherever you go. Only the best, “military grade” ammo is taken in exchange for goods though, so you will need to monitor what ammo you use and when. The other ammo that exists is referred to as dirty ammo and is the creation of the current society using various metals and scraps from the Metro. You will need to try to conserve as much of the clean and shiny bullets as possible in order to make your journey easier in the long run.
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