Metro: Last Light (The Light of Humanity)

What is humanity? A lot of people would say hope, that whatsoever evils occur and however far mankind strays from its morals, its principles, and the spirit of its own rules, there is always that ever-distant hope that drives us on. True, humanity thrives on hope, and where no hope is to be found, it can begin to founder. Unless you’re Russian.

Seriously, read War and Peace.

It espouses a culture that hasn’t had an optimistic thought in five centuries and recounts a long list of past injustices inflicted upon one generation after the next, looking forward with absolutely not a single iota or expectation of hope, yet it doesn’t give in to depression and inevitable death that would normally be expected. It’s a unique and extraordinary phenomenon. And Metro: Last Light explores it to the hilt, ultimately bringing us to the understanding that the crux of humanity is its collective wants, intents, and purpose. Sure, our individual wants vary, but there are basics to which we all gravitate: shelter, food, warmth, security, love, companionship, etc.

And it’s in that collective that we thrive. Think of every man as carrying a candle on a pitch black night. Some candles are lit. Some blaze. Others have guttered out and need the assistance of other lit candles to sputter back into life. Each man tries to find his way in the dark but can’t quite see far enough to navigate, regardless of how bright any one candle burns. If they each put their candles together, the light they generate can beat back the darkness for the benefit of all, both strong and weak. That is the message that Metro: Last Light hits you in the back of the head with once you walk away, and what it presents you with on the way in is equally entertaining.

Spoilers to Follow:

Just to bring everyone up to speed, in the first game, Metro 2033, you played as Artyom, a Russian teenager living in the transit tunnels of the Metro beneath the ruins of Moscow after nuclear bombs have been dropped, turning the surface world into a toxic hell and peopling the terrain both above and below with mutated monsters. Mankind, while hanging onto life by its fingernails, has done what it always does in extremis: Divide. Individual Metro stations have become new nations and territories adhering to various ideologies: capitalism, communism, neo-Nazi fascism, etc. Artyom is accompanied to Polis (the major city) by his uncle, a Ranger in service of the Order, also known as Spartans. They are a warrior order styled after the Knights Templar, using the best weaponry and equipment they have at their disposal to protect people from mutated abominations and to maintain an uneasy peace between the various States.

On the long and dangerous trip to Polis, Artyom goes tumbling down the rabbit hole, so to speak. And in the process he discovers proof of the existence of the shadowy Dark Ones, humanoid creatures whose very presence induces hallucinations, unconsciousness, and even death in humans. Once he reaches Polis, it becomes clear to the Order’s grandmaster that the Dark Ones represent the greatest danger to the Metro, and their salvation lies in Artyom, who is partially immune to their lethal presence for some reason. He is accompanied by a group of Rangers deep into the heart of monster territory to access a thermonuclear missile that failed to launch with the others on that fateful day more than a decade ago, his mission: to fire it into the Dark Ones’ nest. After a harrowing inner journey in which the Dark Ones attempt to make contact with his mind for purposes possibly sinister or possibly benevolent, Artyom achieves his mission and ends the first game.

Pixelated and poignant. Man always looking to that last light of hope, fearful that it will turn away yet foolhardy in assuming it won't.

Pixelated and poignant. Man always looking to that last light of hope, fearful that it will turn away yet foolhardy in assuming it won’t.

Metro: Last Light starts up a year or two later with Artyom having been inducted into the Order and elevated to the rank of Ranger for his exemplary service. The Dark Ones still haunt his dreams and play on his mind, possibly because he was responsible for so many deaths, possibly because he soon learns that one has been spotted by an Order scout. You are dispatched along with a hardass female sniper to locate and terminate this Dark One, but problems are still rising closer to home. Someone has defected from the Order, a man named Lesnisky, and taken with him a cache of biological weapons stored in a military bunker the Order has recently uncovered.

What Metro: Last Light does best is blindside you. You’re out hunting a Dark One, thinking it looks like just a helpless child as you’re about to pull the trigger, then BAM! attacked by Nazis! Work with a Red Army soldier to kill your executioners, then stage a jailbreak from the center of a Nazi deathcamp to freedom, only to be slammed sideways again in a desperate fight to keep the lights on as photosensitive spider-monsters do their best to eat and cocoon you. Then, once you think you’ve found safety, saved, and been saved by your Red Army compatriot, he betrays you, and you soon learn Lesnisky is working with the Red Army for his own purposes, and you’re destined for the noose. And that’s only the beginning. This is what we call the modulation of suspense. Just as you feel you’re about to achieve your goal, a paradigm shift occurs which advances the story and re-energizes the player. Nothing ever winds down. Nothing ever gets old. You are constantly excited about facing new prospects, new enemies, new developments, and new areas. This is, in my opinion, the best melding between gameplay and storytelling since Bioshock.

They may not have food, but by God they'll have cigarettes and nudity!

They may not have food, but by God they’ll have cigarettes and nudity!

You have three weapons slots, throwing knives that ensure silent kills, grenades, and incendiary grenades. While it’s possible to go the loud route and gun down every enemy that crosses your path, the portions of the game that occur within human-held territories are treasure troves for ammunition and other gear. Why waste shells when you can turn out the lights, ghost up behind a Nazi prison guard, slit him from ear to ear, and then nail his partner with a throwing knife before he raises the alarm? There are no prompts in how to play, but you quickly learn that stealth, anonymity, risk reduction, and the conservation of equipment comprise the new way of life in the Metro. In this respect the gameplay is natural while offering enough variations to stave off boredom.

What will seem a little unnatural is working in the dark. The developers have worked to create a true sense of ambiance and a lived-in feel to their landscapes and tunnels, but as soon as you enter a location you will instinctively dart into the shadows, blow out candles, unscrew light bulbs, and knock out light bars. You effectively overlook a rich and subtly colored environment because darkness is your ally. In this way, it’s kind of like painting a masterpiece and then covering it with Dogs at Poker.

Adding to that ambiance are the scripted conversations that take place around you. You’ll be shoulder-to-shoulder when entering stations and mixing with civilization, and the chance to listen in on people’s lives is irresistible. What you’ll find is people at their worst and most raw. A little child saying her father will come back and bring her a new doll when he does. She goes to run off with a friend, and you hear their mothers talking. The girl’s father has been dead for some time now, but the mother simply doesn’t know what to tell the little girl. This and dozens of other such encounters drive home the fullness and all-encompassing despair that peoples Metro: Last Light, but somehow in the face of that its inhabitants soldier on.

The one turd in the punch bowl is Ranger Mode. This is a harder difficulty mode which the developers included in the game, but will only unlock for you if you pre-ordered the game or pay them an extra five dollars to access it for you. The mode is already on the disc, and you’ve paid for it; you shouldn’t have to pay more because they’re holding part of the game’s content for ransom. I’ve explained my thoughts on unscrupulous game producer’s tactics becoming the norm often enough, but I have yet to word it so thoroughly as the good people at Angry Joe’s have managed. A twisty dried-up old sot like me just doesn’t have the emotion to properly express it. I encourage you to give it a listen.

Pros:Incredible story/gameplay combination.
Captures the soul of survival horror.
Cons:Pay more for Ranger Mode? Blow that!
Game producer's website:4A Games (They seem to lack an actual Site)
Official website:Metro: Last LightRevelations
Game available at:

About The Author

John Richard "Chrysophase" Albers
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John Richard Albers, an author, armchair psychologist, amateur historian, freelance, peacemaker, dragonslayer, warmaster, and part-time herald of the apocalypse, hunts ghosts when he isn't hunting crazy people. He holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and English Literature, is working toward a degree in parapsychology, and is acting CEO of Prior to Print Proofreading LLC, where he gets to torture editors instead of them torturing him for once.

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