You Should Play This highlights one game each week you might not have played when it was first released, but is worth adding to your library.
The end of the world is never pretty.
In Metro 2033, the aftermath is even worse, filled with terror, hopelessness and a pervading sense of dread. But it is also fascinating.
Utilizing a dramatic narrative and compelling gameplay, Metro 2033 is a game worth delving into, however horrifying that experience may be.
Metro 2033 is set in post-apocalyptic Moscow, after nuclear weapons have annihilated much of the world. The fallout forced the surviving humans to eke out a living deep below the surface in the Moscow subway system. Communities have sprung up throughout many of the stations, struggling to survive in the darkness as various factions fight among themselves, while bandits and mutated monstrosities assail their walls.
You play as Artyom, a young man tasked with leaving his hometown to reach a far away station that houses an elite cadre of soldiers, in the hopes that they will be able to help defeat a number of mysterious beings known as Dark Ones. Along the way, Artyom will have to survive against the monsters that populate the subway system, as well as the communists and Nazis that have resurfaced with great fervor since the apocalypse.
The journey to accomplish this goal is primarily linear, as you navigate the cramped underground and encounter set piece after set piece along the way. These range from sneaking through a communist train, guiding a lost boy back to his home station, and encountering a variety of supernatural phenomena that distort the world around you. While the linearity does lower the game's replay value, the pacing ensures it's always introducing new concepts, weapons and levels that shake things up and keep it interesting through the first playthrough.
It also helps that Metro 2033's world and atmosphere are so engaging. Subway stations are dreary, hopeless locations filled with the poor and weak, and it's a wonder that people can even survive in them. But they are welcome beacons of hope compared to the subway itself, which is frequently only lit by either your headlamp, lighter or the glow of radioactive fungi that seem to sprout everywhere. Even if you aren't claustrophobic, the narrow, dark tunnels will make your skin crawl with dread. Tripwires and traps lie scattered down long abandoned passageways, and there is a palpable sense of doom every time you turn a blind corner to see what awaits you. Of course, you can also use the darkness to your own advantage and sneak through a bandit camp to slit a throat or avoid conflict that will expend valuable ammunition.
As cramped and as terrifying as it is underground, the surface is far, far worse. Due to the radiation in the air, a gas mask must be used to survive, but there is only a limited amount of air in each canister before it must be replaced. There is no onscreen prompt to tell you when air is running out, and you'll have to check your watch frequently in order to count how long you have left. The mask can also be cracked through damage, and combined with the powerful creatures that lurk on the surface, you will undoubtedly panic as you seek the comfort of a vault hundreds of feet below ground.
Though the atmosphere is great, the moment to moment gunplay is thankfully strong enough to ensure that the journey through the world is not frustrating. The game is a first-person shooter, and you'll grow accustomed to aiming down the degraded iron sights of whichever ramshackle gun you have equipped at the moment. For the most part, the guns are your typical shooter fare; pistols, shotguns, assault rifles etc.
No matter the gun you use, combat is always challenging, with even the most basic of enemies more than capable of taking you down in a heartbeat. Aiming is responsive and sharp, with enemies sent flying after being gunned down, which is very satisfying. For those who opt out of a loud approach, stealth is encouraged throughout the game. While it's up to you whether that means sneaking by enemies or snapping their necks, it is a viable and engaging alternative to running around with a shotgun.
Of special note is the game's ammo system. Society has to rely on scraps for survival, with the most common bullets made from poor materials. Official, pre-war ammunition is exceedingly rare in comparison. Military grade rounds are more powerful, but they also serve as currency for each of the communities in the Metro. When you fire a gun using those rounds, you are literally shooting money away.
In addition to the above, Metro 2033 also offers a morality system that will determine the final cutscene you see. Giving a military grade round to a homeless person or finding a child's lost teddy bear counts as positive morality, but killing too many humans or acting with violence will result in a far darker ending. Far from being arbitrary, the system is invisible unless you know what details to look out for, which encourages at least two playthroughs.
Though the game does drag in the latter third, Metro 2033 is a succinct and all-together great cult classic that is beautiful and haunting to explore. It may not be as innovative as some similar titles, but it is an entertaining and fun ride that will stick with you long after you've finished.
Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.