Also available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, Linux, OSX, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 04/27/2022 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
One of my favorite types of games is post-apocalypse, and that’s especially true when it’s a nuclear apocalypse that leans into the “horrific mutations” trope. It’s why Fallout is one of my favorite game series. Metro may not scratch that itch for me quite the way that Fallout does, but it does fit the bill nicely with an interestingly non-American setting. Granted, April 2022 is not exactly when I’m keen on having a Russian protagonist in my game, but Metro 2033 *does* allow me to kill Nazis, communists, and mutated creatures all in one game, so I’ll deal with playing as a Russian.
Metro 2033 is based on a book of the same title by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The premise is that an isolated nuclear exchange in 2013 quickly expanded into a global nuclear holocaust; in Moscow, where the game takes place, only a few dozen thousand of the city’s several million residents managed to escape into the metro system that served as makeshift fallout shelters. 20 years after the bombs fell, the surface is still horribly toxic and irradiated; traversal is impossible without a gas mask, and radiation is a constant concern not to mention the monstrous mutants roaming the city ruins. As such, what human life remains is in micro-states at the metro’s various stations. You’ve got Hanza, a network of brutally capitalist trade stations, the Red Line (your obligatory Russian communists), the Reich (the also obligatory neo-Nazis), a handful of free stations, and Polis which is the headquarters of the Spartan Rangers. These Rangers are the sort of “white knights” of the metro (or as close as you get, anyway), trying to set up FOBs on the surface and reclaim what humanity once had but lost.
The game focuses around Artyom, a resident of the free station of Exhibition who finds himself on a quest to make it to Polis and deliver a message to the leader of the Rangers (which, in typical video game fashion, turns into a grander quest for Artyom). Along the way, Artyom must deal with raiders, Nazis, communists, and mutants galore. With the original releases on PS3 and 360, Metro 2033 played very much like a horror game with very scarce ammo, spongey enemies, and an emphasis on stealth. With the Metro Redux remasters on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, however, you can swap between the horror-esque original format and the more action-oriented focus that the sequel, Metro Last Light, took. I’ve played it both ways, but I tend to prefer the heavier action for Metro. Both ways of playing are excellent, however, and you can’t go wrong either way.
Unfortunately, the remaster leaves a bit to be desired. On the plus side, the game does hit a native 1080p and a consistent 60 fps as opposed to the 720p and target 30 fps of the original release. On the other hand, using the PS5 to play it via backwards compatibility was a little underwhelming. I understand that not every game is going to have enhancements to take advantage of the power of the Series X and PS5, and that’s totally okay, but what isn’t okay is the pretty severe screen tearing that I saw in some of the cutscenes. Screen tearing is the most jarring performance issue you can have short of outright crashes in my opinion, and it really killed the experience in places. Fortunately, this is mainly an issue in cutscenes, but it did pop up here and there during the faster action scenes of gameplay.
As a whole, Metro 2033 is a fun game that’s definitely worth playing for fellow apocalypse junkies like me, but definitely play the remaster if you have the chance. It’s still not perfect with the screen tearing, but the performance and visuals are much better than the original release (plus is just a lot more accessible with the lack of the backwards compatibility that the current generation has with the older 7th generation consoles). It falls short of Fallout for nuclear apocalypse action as well as Resident Evil for survival horror, but I think it strikes a solid balance between the two that makes it worth playing as its own unique hybrid of action and horror.