Going Down to the Depths of 'Metro 2033' for This Month's Waypoint 101


#1

Metro 2033 begins as a story about an orphan trying to hold onto his last connections with childhood and security, becomes a story about a bad commute, and ends as a story about how we limit our definition of humanity, and the boundaries of our compassion. It’s a great game because in the end you realize it was always about that, but maybe you missed it while you were worrying about other things.

It’s also our next game for Waypoint 101. We’ll be recording early next week, with a full episode devoted to the entire length of the game. The podcast should go up on Wednesday, the 14th of March.

Before we record, however, we’d love to get your questions. You can email them to us with the subject line “Questions for Metro 101” at gaming@vice.com. Alternately, you can start posting questions and discussing your playthrough with our community in the forum thread for this post.

As for playing along with us, either the original version or Metro 2033 Redux is a fine option, and different people on the podcast will have played different versions. The Redux version is built on a better graphics engine, but there’s a good argument that the original is actually more successful on an aesthetic level, while Redux has some much-needed mechanical improvements. Either version is fine for our purposes.

Metro 2033 is based on a series of books by Dmitry Glukhovsky, and was part of a flowering of excellent post-Soviet science fiction games in the mid and late 2000s. In addition to its literary lineage, however, Metro 2033 also claims descent from the GSC Game World team that made STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl (itself a work that remixed elements of Tarkovsky’s film and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic).

The “former STALKER developer” connection has been abused by a lot of developers over the years, but in Metro’s case that lineage matters. It shares a great deal of its aesthetics with STALKER: Both are beautifully dreary games full of world-weary survivalists doing battle against the paranormal using cobbled-together equipment, amidst the remains of the Soviet empire. But it is in many ways a rejection of STALKER.

This is how you officially know when you're playing a game in the STALKER lineage. "Guy with guitar at a campfire" is their equivalent of 0451.

Where STALKER was all open-world simulation and emergent storytelling (with creaky authored sequences barely holding together inside of it), Metro 2033 is quite literally an on-rails linear narrative shooter set in the Moscow subway system after a nuclear apocalypse. It is full of characters and densely detailed settings that give you a keen sense of who lives in these little communities, and what their lives are like. And yet it is still in the service of a game meant —like STALKER—to feel completely real and convincing. It just goes about it in a completely different way, perhaps because it is making a different argument, from a different point of view on the world.

Perhaps. We’ll talk about it next week.


Our own Austin Walker has been streaming a bit of it and you can watch his session from the other night right here (though you’ll want to skip to about 12m30s in the video, as there were some technical issues).
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/59kvan/going-down-to-the-depths-of-metro-2033-for-this-months-waypoint-101

#2

F*** yeah. I got my copy for free during their lead up to the sequel that totally got me to buy the game. It interesting how it story branches base on how you actually play from choices to how you take down enemies (Killing them or knocking them out).


#3

Oooh, this is a good pick. Surely my Xbox 360 copy will work fine on the Xbox One…

(checks compatibility list)

…welp, time to dust off the old 360. At least I can play Alpha Protocol again.


#4

This could be what finally gets me to play through the game but that deadline is pretty tight so we’ll see.


#5

My favourite part of the original game is still how the smoke of gunfire permeates and lingers in the air for several minutes (possibly until you reload/unload the level?). It’s a use of dynamic particles for mood I haven’t seen in basically any other game, including the Redux version, and it is supremely my shit.

I actually bounced off of this pretty hard when i tried replaying it a few months ago, though, I’m intrigued to see how much the troubled aging of the game wears on the crew, but no seriously those atmospherics are still fuckin aces godDAMN.

edit: original 2033’s firelight is still the weirdest dynamic lighting in video games tho


#6

Yo word. Played the first 45 minutes or so this morning before heading to class and the constant shift from white to orange to red that exists in all the lighting is so distracting to me I seriously considered buying Redux to make it stop.

Other than that: the atmosphere in 2033 holds up remarkably. I’ve basically played up to where Austin finished his stream and so far its extremely my shit. (I have played the game before, to be clear but I wasnt sure the gane would still hold up)

Really looking forward to reading everyone’s takes on this one.


#7

I missed out on playing Metro when it first came out and never got the chance to dive in, but I’ve always been vaguely interested in it just because, y’know, it may as well be a Stalker adjacent game. On the comparison between what I saw on Austin’s stream I had on in the background while working and Stalker, one of the first things I noticed was that the universe actually has women in it, something that Stalker utterly lacks.

The setting of Metro actually FAR more compelling than I always thought it would be. For some reason I just blindly assumed that it would be like the cruddy train station sections in Fallout or the underground parts from Stalker which never really interested me; those open beautiful reclaimed areas in The Zone are the reason I love that game, but the tunnels and stations of Metro actually feel like an interesting place to be in and they feel living, in spite of the ridiculous sounding children (does anybody know what the hell happened there??)

I’m pretty sure I have the original version in my Steam library, so it might be time to finally dive into it.


#8

In a world full of post apocalyptic games, this one may be my favorite. It builds such a beautiful and dreadful atmosphere, makes you care about the characters, and gives you a real great challenge all at once. I’m jealous of those of you that will be experiencing this for the first time.


#9

So I’ve played through both the metros multiple times at this point, I’ve gotten all the endings possible to get. I intend to play '33 again, I really like these games. What I’m wondering is maybe how I could think about the game more critically while I play? I considered stopping and just keeping a journal of whatever my thoughts on each chapter is. That said if anyone has any tips or recommendations I would appreciate them!


#10

I feel like I am so bad at this games so I could never get into them.
I love hearing stories of others playing Metro/STALKER so this’ll be cool.


#11

I played the Redux versions on the PS4 when they were released and I’m really interested to hear people’s takes on it.

Having read the original book, 2033 the game stripped away a lot of the philosophical themes that the book played with. I’d have to revisit both, but I recall a distinctly different experience to the exhausted melancholy that the book evoked in me.


#12

I don’t remember who brought this up, but I remember back in the day someone on the Bombcast talking about how playing Metro with Russian dialog really added to the immersion, and I liked that idea so much that I did just that when I finally got it.

Turns out they don’t bother to subtitle any of the incidental dialog. I think I missed out on a lot of extra details because anything that wasn’t absolutely plot critical was completely beyond me. I got an achievements for not killing members of a certain factions, and I had no idea there were warring factions at all.

My memories of the game are mostly middling, probably because of that. While the atmosphere was incredible, I thought the shooting was sub par and the story wasn’t very interesting. I should really replay it in English and see if that changes things.


#13

I have a question for people from America + Western Europe: were either S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or Metro 2033 popular or well known in popular gaming culture? I never played S.T.A.L.K.E.R. but the game would pop up at all polish gaming forums and sites I’ve visited as a child, it was one of those games everyone who was at least a little bit into gaming knew about. I suspect they weren’t as popular in other places but I could be wrong?

I remember that I bought the book Metro 2033 cause I’ve wanted to play the game after reading the book (I think it came out some time before the game was released) but… I only read like 1/4 of it before stoping. And I never played the game either. I might at least watch some videos before the 101, and see if I might want to dive in after all those years.

(Also reading the polish wiki page for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.and apparently instead of dubing the game or just using subs. they’ve used a voice-over translation, which is honestly kinda cool idea.)


#14

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was very popular in the US in a certain subset of gaming culture, but never reached a mass audience.
Specifically I remember people writing about how the team had mapped Chernobyl, and the interesting survival and open world mechanics. My pc didn’t have the specs to run it at the time. If there were any references to the book or movie in game coverage or general talk about the game, I missed it. It wasn’t until years later that I finally read Roadside Picnic and loved it.

My question for the waypoint crew is: had you read either Metro 2033 or Roadside Picnic prior to playing these games? If so, did it effect your experience in any way? If not, were you inspired to read those books?

  • I have this thing where I can’t really enjoy a movie if i’ve read the book it’s based on. There’s just too much conflicting narrative in my head, too much of my own bullshit thinking about how my head movie is better than what i’m seeing, wtf were they thinking. It’s never really come up in games for me yet but I imagine i’d have a similar problem.

#15

Yeaaaaahh, I played Metro Redux last year when it was on sale at my local game store for about $20 and really enjoyed both games! The shooting was janky (Especially in 2033) but the atmosphere and visual design of those games was so well done. Last Light went in a super weird direction that I ended up appreciating and made me look forward to Exodus.

(I just wish they made Artyom talk in-game, though.)


#16

Hey y’all, did a second Metro 2033 Redux stream and wanted to make sure folks here saw it since I’m not sure when it’ll end up on YT:


#17

Finally, I have a decent excuse to dust off both the Redux edition and the actual book it’s based on!

Right from the start, I really have to admire how much the game lets you tailor the experience to your own preferences, from the weapon customization to the explicit difficult selection at the start that asks you if you want to play this game more like a survival horror stealth shooter or a straight-up run-and-gun FPS.

Having said that, I’m not sure if I actually got a better experience by picking both a more survival-oriented playstyle AND ranger mode, which turns a lot of HUD elements off. On paper I really like both of those options in isolation, but in the early game that translated to a lot of “Whoops, I ran out of bullets, time to restore to a previous checkpoint” in a lot of earlier scenarios. Wasn’t exactly the most fun I’ve had with a shooter, but I’m starting to ease into it.


#18

I got the Redux bundle on Xbox One a while back for something like $10, but have never really taken the time to dive into it, but this is going to give me a reason to do so. I just have one question about game modes. Which mode do y’all recommend between Survival and Spartan? Am I missing out on something by picking one over another?


#19

So I’ve been watching Austin play and I’ve been thinking, Russia is a massive place with lots of different ethnic groups like Tatars and Caucasians. Does anybody know if they are represented in this game at all?


#20

So, I’m kind of curious what language other people are playing in. Specifically the audio (since most people on this forum can at least read English).

A long time ago someone recommended I play this game with Russian audio for the “maximum immersive experience.” The same party also recommended ramping up the difficulty. I’m realizing now that these kind of recommendations about “true” or “authentic” experiences almost always make me feel anxious and unhappy with my choices in how I experience something (including which dub in anime, too).

Now, when I’ve been playing it, (I’m not very far but) I’ve been constantly switching between the dubs, which isn’t too fun. On one hand, I find the fake Russian accents kind of silly, though the voice acting is fine enough, and the Russian voice acting has a kind of mood to it that is lost in the English dub. (Though, this might be because of past plays of STALKER and the aforementioned recommendation) On the other hand, the English subtitles don’t cover the small side dialogue that fills the Metro and its inhabitants with a lot of character, so with Russian audio I end up missing what makes the space feel so lived in.

I also found myself getting anxious over missing dialogue. There were a lot of moments where a lot of dialogue would becoming from all these different directions, which on one hand sold the bustling atmosphere of the areas, but also tuned into irritating that part of me that just wants to see absolutely everything I can in a game.

(Also, I would have really appreciated a little more of a heads up before the Waypoint 101’s! A week is not a long time to play a game when you’ve got other things going on.)