An apocalyptic event hits Russia, wiping mankind from the surface of the earth and forcing survivors to seek shelter in the crippled network of Metro stations that criss-cross beneath the former great city of Moscow!
Mankind as we know it, is shattered. The survivors live in the Metro; a dark, damp cold place full of fear and uncertainty. The survivors are pitched in battle with the mutants that arise from the fall out, as well as their fellow man. Not to mention the ominous mentioning of "Dark Ones" - They don't sound like a barrel of laughs to me...
It's a fantastic mix in gameplay experience. It mixes elements from First Person Shooters, as well as Survival Horror. You're armed, but purely for your protection in the harsh environments you have to venture through. There's none of this gung-ho, Rambo action going on! You're given choices of how to tackle obstacles. You can go for increased protection (Using armour), or the more stealthy approach (Stealth kit) to try and outsmart your opponents, for example. But you really have to think how you want to tackle any situations you encounter, after all, you don't have that much ammunition to go spraying around.
The in game currency system is ingenious in my opinion and suits the genre perfectly. Resources are scarce, and highly sought after, specifically "Military-Grade" ammunition. This is what you trade in order to gain the kit you need. Sure you can use them just like any other bullets you carry, they're better, higher quality, and sort your enemies out in the nicest way possible. But you need to make sure you can buy yourself better equipment! So you need to think which situations you should use "Dirty Rounds" - Those cheap nasty ones you get in the Metro. Or if a particularly nasty so-and-so, warrants a bit more firepower in the way of using your Military-Grade ammunition - Is it worth it?
It's a dark game in all aspects, not the environment alone. The story is very detailed and you see your allies fall around you as the game progresses, no one is immune to the horrors that are found within the metro! You explore alone, or with a companion. But either way, you are no safer! The game has a lot of dialogue and they've really thought about the story and created it to be as immersive as possible to the player; when walking around the Metro stations, you can overhear people talking about what you've been up to! They've captivated a very poignant feature of mankind though. Even when all hell breaks loose, men will still fight themselves rather than unifying against the common enemy. I think this adds a very human factor to the game, as well as adding more to the game play, you're interrupted not only by the mutants, but by the warring factions as well!
The environmental detail is immaculate. But what really stood out is the sound quality. It's quite possibly some of the best sound design I've ever heard. I'd highly recommend anyone considering this game to try it with a surround sound headset, it's frankly astonishing! You can hear every footstep and howl. It will have you looking everywhere waiting for that hideous being you're imaging to pop up. But you never will know when or where it will appear. As well as the sound warranting the developers a big Gold Star, the graphics do not disappoint either. The textures are fantastic, the mutants look very impressive and the atmospheric effects, most notably the smoke, look borderline real!
The level design, although mainly constrained to the linearity of the tunnel systems is surprisingly open (Sometimes you see the surface). There's plenty of little holes to go down, trains to look in and even broken pipework to investigate, and believe me you'll need to. This really is a survivalist game. You can run out of ammunition easily, so you need to scavenge. Whether it be from old weapons crates, dropped equipment or dead bodies. Anything goes! And make sure you keep an eye out for Gas Masks and their Filters if you want to survive more than 30 seconds in that intoxicating smog that looms within areas. Your filter only lasts so long, and your gas mask can only take so much punishment through fighting before you need to replace it!
I've played a few horror/thriller type games, and although they've had their moments where I've jolted from shock, Metro 2033 has tuned the use of suspense and fear into an art. I can't think of many games where I can feel myself breaking into a cold sweat. I love how refined the atmosphere of fear is though. It's a constant suspense, not a cheap "Pop-Out and Scare" job like in so many other games, you're constantly haunted in the tunnels. When you encounter the mutants, the attacks are fast, unexpected and sporadic. It really gets your adrenaline going!
Only thing I'd suggest though, is if you're looking for a hardcore horror shooter, carry on looking. This isn't an "All Guns Blazing" game. It harnesses First Person Shooter factors, but constrains it to a survivalist game by limiting ammunition. The game is very replayable, but the constant mutant attacks can get tiresome after a while. The AI can be a bit soft at times too and the bullet registry can be a bit hit and miss but... None-the-less, it's a beautifully atmospheric game and certainly deserves anyone's time for how much it can be picked up for!