Some opinions on Metro: Last Light

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I’m not much into rambling anymore. More words = more influence, wider spectrum of thought. And while it’s always healthy to weight all options, I sometimes feel that I just need to make a decision already. I mean, look how easy it is for me to get off-topic. Lol.

Just to be clear, before I start picking it apart: I love this game.

What I liked

The environment tells such a story. There is a story to be told. I feel like I *am* the character I play, the world of the game has tricked me into genuinely living in it and reacting how I would react if I were in the situation. I even once waved at a lift operator. He waved first. Mind that last point, that I was very immersed in the game. It will be important later on.

What I didn’t like

I’ll get this out of the way before I move on to heavier stuff. The graphics on console kinda suck. The controls are kinda sluggish. All in all, “It would be better on PC.” But marginally so. Not enough to matter to me. Moving on…

I didn’t like how things seemed bastardly difficult at first. (I usually play games on Hard the first time around. It’s just… what I do.) There are a lot of moments in the game where things seem impossible. You ring a bell and wait for a boat to pick you up, meanwhile monsters are swarming around you. Your guns don’t seem like they’re enough to keep you alive. Or you’re wandering through a radioactive wasteland and your gas mask’s filter becomes unusable. You’re out of replacements.

You die, again and again. And it seems like there’s no hope. But you keep fighting. Why do you keep fighting?

I kept fighting because I didn’t want it to be the end. I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want to throw away the decisions I’d already made. In a way it’s like I, or at least my essence, didn’t want to die. I felt cowardly enough, being given another chance. I didn’t want to resort to turning back time and coming back more prepared, even if it seemed like the logical answer. I’d made my mistakes, but I also made conscious choices. For the sake of the latter, I was willing to face the former.

Why it all worked in the end, at least, to me

I’ve found Deaths to be awkward in video games, particularly concerning their lore. Now, there are some game universes in which death is explained away, even incorporated as vital gameplay mechanics (Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls). I like games like this. They seem very neat and tidy. Whenever I make up games in my head, there’s always something to explain away death.

Metro doesn’t explain away death. Whenever I die in the game, I always think of how pathetic it would be if such an important person (in that universe) died that way. I always feel like it’s not meant to be. I guess that’s one more reason I always try again.

I wouldn’t criticize this, since it’s basic video game fare. But instead of becoming a part disbelief I had to suspend (no matter how easy that would be), the experiences that the mechanic created pulled me further into the game.

Ever since Far Cry 3 and the things that its lead writer said about the implications of its plot, I’ve had it in my head that video games have to earn our emotion. A game’s designers and writers can’t just slap on a, “These are the protagonist’s friends. Save them!” and expect us to care (a la Far Cry 3). It’s cheap, and to expect that it’s enough is to disrespect the mental and emotional processes of the gamer.

When we play games, or read books, or watch movies, we don’t pay to believe in cheap lies. We pay to believe in expensive, high-quality lies. In other words, the belief should be drawn out of us. It’s not our obligation to believe that clusters of polygons have friends and feelings. We’re audience to such entertainment because we hope that we can be lied to. That’s what we pay for, it’s what we (perhaps, secretly) expect.

I didn’t walk into Metro having lived all my life in the metro. I didn’t walk out onto the monster infested, radioactive wasteland of the surface, knowing the fear of being torn apart. The panic, the stress of possible demise by claws, teeth, or acid spit was all foreign to me the first time I shoved the disc into the slot and picked up my controller. But through every death and subsequent revival, I was told the stories that kept the people of the metro up at night. I relived every close call, every near-death that my character might’ve experienced up to that point. His dreams, I saw played out on my tv screen. His nightmares became my nightmares until we lived and breath in unison. It drew me into the world, had me play as I would live.

I don’t really have much else to say.

“Great game,” I guess. Never played anything else so immersive. Nothing so brutal, unforgiving, desperate. Most times, during the most challenging of situations, I feel like I survive almost completely by luck. But gradually, I learn to calm my nerves and play according to the rules.

With any other game so seemingly hopeless, I usually just give up. (More like rage quit, really.) I think to myself that there is nothing I can do or at least, nothing I care to do to fix the situation. But Metro isn’t like that. I think that it’s because I actually care to stay in such a world. I want to know what happens next, I want to know what that world is like. All the dying I’ve done tests the extent of my curiosity in that world, but the difficulty also drags me deeper into it all. It’s challenging enough that I feel a certain understanding and connection with the characters of that world, but not so much that I get scared away.

And this is me when I’m trying not to write too much. Thanks for the read. Comment if you have something to say.

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