(PC, Xbox 360)
Perhaps it’s all this ecological turmoil, or maybe the political unrest, but post-apocalyptic fiction seems to be very much ‘in’ right now. Whether it’s the blasted nuclear wastelands of the Fallout games, the zombie-infested cities of upcoming TV series The Walking Dead or Denzel Washington flick The Book of Eli, these are good times for people who like bad times.
Fitting snugly into the zeitgeist is Metro 2033, a Ukraine-made first-person shooter set in the metro tunnels of Moscow, where humans hide from the mutants and toxic winds on the surface. As a sharpshooter named Artyom, you’re sent from your home to a larger colony called Polis, in the hope that they can help to fend off The Dark Ones, a strain of sentient mutant that drives humans insane. This means inching your way through beautifully constructed tunnels, with the odd voyage topside – though that requires a gas mask and enough filters to enable you to breathe the poisoned air.
The big twist here is that the scarcity of supplies means you’re forced to choose between using the rare military-grade ammo that you find, or selling it in exchange for more mask filters or poorer, civilian-grade bullets. Luckily, this is rarely a problem – you’ll find filters all over the place, and the standard ammo is easily enough to take out most creatures. And you’ll get plenty of ammo from the scavengers, raiders, Communists and neo-Nazis that you’ll come across in your travels.
So that’s a bust, but not to worry – the core of Metro 2033 remains strong; the AI, while occasionally prone to glitches, is largely good, the battles are suitably intense and the atmosphere is so rich you can practically taste it. Only in the very last levels, when the game drops the shooting in favour of lots of wandering around pressing buttons, does it feel a little empty.
The story, save for a minor twist at the end, is weak sauce. But when Metro 2033 is in its stride – when you’re creeping through a nest of raiders, or sprinting across a battle between Communists and neo-Nazis, or just taking in the bleak wonder of the Moscow skyline – it more than makes up for it. Not a perfect game, but a worthy purchase. Hopefully this won’t be our last visit to Moscow’s tunnels.
Available now in stores