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Metro: Last Light's darker campaign looks poised for success

We brave the surface lands and head underground for a hands-on...

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Metro: Last Light lingers in its sombre moments, giving them the necessary time to envelop us. Our walk through the plane is arduous, Pavel leads the way with slow, deliberate steps, making the situation around even more striking. Unlike the crawl-away-from-the-nuclear-explosion type moments from Call of Duty or Battlefield, the transition back into action is a lot more gradual. We definitely spent more time soaking in angst than dodging bullets in our session. It's these kinds of things in Metro 2033 that left a lasting impression on us, and look like it will again in the sequel.

Licensed to Kill

In the next stage of our journey involved fending off a demon assault. 4A Games has clearly spent time tweaking the gunplay in Metro; the most noticeable change is the feel of weapons which, unlike in the last game, have a satisfying kick to them. The controls conform to the accepted standard of modern shooters, with one quirk added. Players will need to manually wipe off the crap that covers Artyom's mask by tapping a button. It's a small addition that could be used to add more intensity to firefights.

Zoom

Eventually we make it inside. Pavel's role as the comic relief character is more pronounced here, but he barely dulls the direness of the situation. The tight tunnels that now serve as home for thousands echo with sad sobbing and hushed dissent. A soldier tells a woman her husband didn't make it, while dead-eyed citizens sit in silence - seemingly retreated from reality - and children watch a shadow puppet show and identify a bird as a flying demon.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers we'll skip ahead to another section in our playthrough. Artyom has been captured and tortured for information on the last remaining Dark One.

Spoilers:

In Metro 2033 the alien entities are presented as evil and the player can choose to destroy them. However, in the final moments it is suggested that they may have been a peaceful race, that Artyom was instead the aggressor, and their destruction may have damned the people to a worse fate.Spoilers end

The surviving Dark One forms the crux of Last Light's story, and Artyom's personal journey, though it isn't revealed to what extent yet. Having succumbed to torture, we're tasked with hunting down our interrogator and killing him before he is able to pass on the sensitive information. The pursuit takes us through dusty vents, precarious scaffolding and eventually to barracks dangerously brimming with guards.

Artyom is just a man - a few well placed bullets will kill him - so we decide to avoid combat and go full stealth. The moody lighting accommodates our blade-from-the-shadows gameplay style with blankets of darkness and line-of-sight breaking crates.

We skulk around, carefully observing each NPC's movements, shooting out light bulbs where necessary, then opportunely slipping out to slice a throat. Light switches and power generators can be sabotaged to plunge areas into complete darkness, but these are often placed in risky positions, so you'll have to weigh up the odds.

On the rare occasion that we managed to trip an alarm the guards were ruthless, quickly identifying a threat and converging on our location. Enemy AI seems to have been afforded some upgrades, as the guards banded together to bring Artyom down, flanking where possible and employing pincer strategies. It's definitely possible to run-and-gun your way through sections of Metro: Last Light, but the enemies won't make it easy.

Metro 2033 is one of the many gems of this generation that has gone under-appreciated. At a time when the zenith of shooter design was crank-everything-up-to-11 it offered a delicately crafted, emotionally disparate experience. It's sequel looks set to do the same, while tidying up some of the frayed gameplay strands. Of course, it helps that new parent Deep Silver looks like it will give the game the marketing push it deserves too.

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