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


#21

The first time I played through it years ago, I went with the Russian VO and, while I enjoyed it, replaying it in English has been a much better experience for me, despite the poor accents. The dialogue between NPCs in the interim spaces like markets and residential blocks has proven to flesh out the world in way I would almost label essential. While the argument for Russian audio is often for “immersing yourself”, I find I lose far more when I hear (and don’t understand) Russian voices, than when I can overhear the neighbors admitting, under their breath, that they fear the gods and spirits they believe move secretly in the infrastructure of the metro.

I truly wish the subtitles or language options were more comprehensive, because as is, if the player can’t easily understand spoken English or Russian, massive parts of what make the game feel alive are simply inaccessible. And as you touched on, the cross-talk can simply be overwhelming.


#22

I’ve had Redux for PS4 forever, and I remember bouncing straight off off 2033 because the shooting felt so bad. Watching Austin’s streams gives me hope that, once I level up the weapons, combat won’t be such a drag.

I ignore these people! Always! For this game in particular, playing it in Russian if you don’t understand the language is not immersive, it’s alienating. It’s basically the same as if Artyom was not Russian, and couldn’t understand any of the language in the world – it doesn’t make sense. (Remember, you’d have to turn off subtitles for maximum immersion, because real life doesn’t have subtitles.) As for the other thing … there’s an argument to be made for not having a HUD, since that forces you to be super aware of your ammo and filters, but it’s not something I’m into, especially when the combat is so jank.

I used to watch a bunch of anime as dubs when I was younger; not all, just the ones I thought had good performances. Now that I’m older, I don’t watch dubs at all, because I’m super aware that a lot of them suffer from that weird, unnatural, super chippy “anime voice” which immediately takes me out of the show. I’ll still try a dub if the characters are supposed to be Western and English-speaking, but that’s about it.


#23

Restarted 2033 Redux, and was immediately reminded of why I quit it in the first place. The gunplay is not quite as terrible as I remember, but it’s not good either, and the UI is completely undocumented – there is no online manual, and no option that shows you what any of the controls are. Since some of the controls seem to be disabled in certain sections, I ended up having to figure out a bunch of it during combat … which is never a good time.

Coming up on the first section with the guards, I’m glad I watched Austin’s playthrough where he used the silenced knives. It also didn’t help, because after 2 or 3 silent kills the guards noticed anyway, but I’d found an airgun earlier which turned out to be silenced (though I didn’t know that until I fired it). Taking out the guards wasn’t hard, but when I went to swap out for slightly better shotguns, it dumped my airgun and left me with two shotguns, and I couldn’t get it back. So I guess I’m going to have to replay that chapter all over again.

This is why I side eye anyone who uses the term “immersive” to describe these games. A lot of times, that actually means bad UI, or crappy combat, or any of a number of things that other games do way better. Immersive sim it definitely ain’t. I don’t know if I want to push through, or just watch streams to get the story.

UPDATE: OK, mercing an entire base of guards at Dry Station with an air gun is pretty good.


#24

So after getting through maybe the worst turret section I’ve ever played in a video game, I’m really questioning why people are so crazy about this series.

The turret sequence is not bad just because it splits your inputs over two analog sticks, or because it spams more enemies than you can possibly ever take down. It’s bad because it kills you within 15-20 seconds of the start, unless you hit whatever arbitrary targets it wants you to, and it gives you no time to figure out what those are. Just shooting every soldier with a headlamp is not enough (and also: you can’t, because the spawn rate is too high). (I read in one of the walkthroughs that there’s supposed to be a panzer sitting on the rails that you’re supposed to take down, but there definitely was not one here – just a normal train.) After many times, I passed the section with scores of enemies still alive, never knowing exactly what the hell I triggered to move ahead.

Maybe it’s a bug, or a scripting error. (There are multiple forum posts suggesting to restart entire chapters if you think a script broke.) Maybe that behavior is actually intended. I can’t tell, and that’s a problem – especially since this is supposed to be the less janky remake.

There’s another sequence early in the game where you’re on the surface, and you’re attacked by flying creatures. You’re supposed to follow a character to the end of the level when this happens, but 9 times out of 10, I’d get picked up and murdered by gravity. Again, the timing is so fast that there’s zero chance to figure out where you’re supposed to go – you are literally picked up right as your companion says to run. I don’t know exactly how I finished that either; my original plan was to watch a stream, see where the end of the level is, then run there right before the flying beasts trigger in order to cheese my way out, but I somehow managed to accidentally find the exit before I had to do any of that.

I keep hearing the term “immersive” thrown around this game. I guess nothing says immersive like reloading checkpoints because the game is being deliberately obtuse or broken?

Being constantly aware that the game you are playing is broken in weird, random, arbitrary ways is maybe the least immersive thing ever. Knowing that you are always pushing towards a level ending trigger is not immersive. Losing control of your character for a slow moving, unskippable cutscene is not immersive. Restarting entire chapters to fix known scripting errors is not immersive. I feel like this game is immersive in the same way that Half Life 1 was – but that was a game made in 1998, and none of the lessons learned since then seem to be anywhere in the design. It’s just an incredibly linear FPS with broken enemies and scripting, and deliberately obtuse UI and level design. I can’t even imagine playing in a mode with less ammo and harder difficulty, because that seems like making a broken game even more broken.

I appreciate the atmosphere of the game, but actually playing the game takes me right out of it.


#25

Before I attempted to play this for 101, I was kind of on a retro kick. It took a while to put my finger on it, but when you strip it down to the bare bones, the basic game design is extremely retro. What I mean by that is that the mechanics (low ammo, filters) and level design are intended to force you to replay sections over and over again, in order to get the optimal weapons or enough filters for a few levels ahead. And of course, since all the cutscenes are in-game, unskippable, and several minutes long, it constantly punishes you for doing that.

There is a point in the game where you’re on the surface for an extended period of time, and for spoilery reasons you can’t rush one of the levels without dying. (There are monsters that will kill you if you don’t stand still and stare at them for a minute or so, then nudge forward when they start growling and making angry biscuits. No, I’m not joking – it’s basically cat biscuits, but murder. Also, they’ll sometimes kill you anyway, because fuck it, why not.)

After that mess, you get somewhere around 1-2 minutes of spare filters, and then have to go back out for another multi-level gas mask sequence, which you will then die on 2-3 levels later, because no filters.

That. Is. Some. Fucking. Bullshit. And that’s on the easiest mode. It means you have to replay … what, something like 4 or 5 levels, but as a speedrunner, in order to minimize the amount of time you use your filters. (And again: there is a level that will specifically kill you if you rush it, because why not.)

The filter mechanic is basically just the food mechanic from Gauntlet, or the hourglass mechanic from a dozen forgettable retro games. The problem is this isn’t an arcade, and there are no quarters to spend. The actual currency in this game isn’t bullets – it’s the incredible amount of time you waste working around the endless amounts of arbitrary bullshit it throws at you.

I think I’m going to go watch the cutscenes on YouTube now. The story’s been pretty mediocre so far, so I’m not expecting anything that’s worth playing another several hours for.


#26

Metro 2033 is great but it kinda betrays its position as a semi-book adaptation by throwing things that does not stick, like the conflict between the two ideological factions. The gunplay didn’t wow me but the way it immersed you is very good with bullet scarcity being an issue and filters. I think it has a lot of old school issues that does not really work. Stealth annoyed me a lot, the alignment decisions are garbo especially since some of them doesn’t even convey morality, the forced gunfights kinda resets the feeling working your way out as a hunter and scavenger. But it’s easy to forget about it when the atmosphere is so strong, they did an incredible job about it. It’s the most immersive game I’ve played in recent years, and I agree playing in a language you understand is better than a language you don’t. You will lose a lot and the bulll of the game is clearly not in its story but in your wandering of the metro and the people trying to survive


#27

Although I remember liking Metro Last Light when I played it (more as a solid shooter campaign than anything transcendent), I don’t think I’m going to play much beyond the 3 hours I put into 2033. The environments are drab, the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and the gameplay is pretty rote. I do appreciate the immersive aspects, like the journal and the generator for your flashlight. But I just can’t stomach another depressing, post-apocalyptic game. After Zombi U, it all feels like too much for me right now. Can we do something a bit brighter next time?


#28

I think I’m with you. I put about 3-4 hours in, getting to the Armory station, and calling it quits there. Beyond how drab everything is, it just doesn’t play well. All I can think of is how many shooters have come since then that all feel way better. I like the atmosphere to a certain degree, and I’m somewhat curious of where the story goes, but I can just go to YouTube for that.

Also, maybe it’s just me, but it’s been kinda buggy too. Like, scripting just seems to break from time to time where I’m clearly waiting for something to trigger with dialogue, and I’m just waiting and running around, and eventually just reset to a prior checkpoint.


#29

I’m having a bit of a different experience, I’m actually enjoying the combat; besides that bloody turret sequence, why would you ever control a turret like that? half the challenge was controlling the damn thing, the other not being able to see crap of what you’re shooting at.

When it comes to human enemies, I am doing full on stealth, and it’s working pretty well, a bit like Wolfenstein The New Order where the encounters (thus far!) have been well designed to handle a stealthy approach, silent headshots and knife throws feel good, even though I wish I could drag bodies.

In scripted combat encounters, or places with a lot of aggressive mutants, I’m using the semi-auto shotgun, since most things go down in one or two shots, so it’s very effective and don’t require tight aim in chaotic situations.
I hope it doesn’t ramp up the shooter-ness later on, I much more appreciate it as an effective stealth game, and I think that fits better with the setting and lone traveller situation.

I wish the game had more display options, like UI scale or at least options for interact icons and swap weapon icons on Ranger; it’s the only real thing bothering me playability-wise right now, since it just ends up being a lot of tapping ‘e’ on dead bodies, trying to examine weapons on the ground to see if they have certain upgrades, and thinking I got bugged out in the beginning (but nah, you gotta hold it to pick up guns, no UI or controls explain that, at least on Ranger).

I don’t believe I’m that far from the end, likely finish it close enough to WP-101, I’ll come back with final thoughts.


#30

So I watched all the cutscenes and endings I was missing in Metro 2033, as well as the beginning and the good end of Last Light. I can’t talk about how eye rollingly terrible all of it was without spoilers.

I should've just played Yakuza 0.

So the player in the cutscenes I watched did a thing where he was putting on and taking off his gas mask repeatedly. I was watching this, thinking “wait, why is he … no. NO. Are you fucking kidding me?”

It turns out that the way gas masks work in the game is they reset your choking state. You can run around breathing radioactive toxic gases for minutes on end, but simply putting on a gas mask for a few seconds makes it all better. You just have to be willing to put up with the constant sounds of your player character choking and gagging to death for however long it takes to get to the next filter stash.

Of course, this is a video game. Sticking yourself with an syrette does not magically heal bullet wounds or mauling in real life either. But it’s also an expected convention – the notion that our player character can be magically healed by food items has been a given going back to arcade days. But there’s something about the whole filter situation that was just a bridge too far for me – and I am definitely not going to spend 20 minutes listening to ASMR vom gagging to get through a sequence.

Anyway, both Metro 2033 and Last Light have good and bad endings. In 2033, the bad ending, where you nuke the Dark Ones, is the default. If you don’t engage with the morality system at all, you won’t even have the option to choose a different ending. As Austin mentioned on stream, there’s something called an “enlightenment” system, where you earn points by doing things at specific points in the game. Those things are incredibly obtuse, and really only doable if you have an FAQ open while you’re playing. Every act earns you an enlightenment point, and you need somewhere around 8 or 9 points to trigger the choice option.

If you earn those points, at the end of the game, after you gun down the Dark One who’s been chasing you in the psychic realm, you will have the option to control the handgun when you get back to reality. You can then either empty a clip into the wounded Dark One who’s lying in front of you (earning the Bad ending), or shoot the missile guidance system (saving the Dark Ones, and earning the Good ending).

I have a strong suspicion that the good ending is going to be the crux of the Waypoint 101 discussion … and I just wanna say that everything about it is bullshit.

The problem is that the game sets up the Dark Ones as being the good guys from the jump. It is not subtle about this; the Dark Ones flat out save you a number of times in the game, and in the visions they show you, they’re never shown attacking, only defending themselves. The soldiers being mind broken is implied to be an unfortunate side effect of their powers.

Given all that, it doesn’t really make sense that your character would go along with a plan to just nuke the Dark Ones at all. It super doesn’t make sense that you would murder a Dark One at the end of the game, then at the very last second think “ah, fuck it”, and decide not to nuke them. There’s nothing in the narrative that justifies anything that happens after you meet Khan, because at that point you should be suspicious enough as a character to want to investigate further.

(Speaking of Khan: I’m gonna be real curious what the staff make of his fortune cookie violence breeds violence bit, especially set against Artyom’s diary entries about how the grunts in the Red and Nazi armies are both equally miserable. Listening to the background conversations of the Nazi grunts paints them as being like dumb cult converts, willing to label anyone and everyone else a mutant out of ignorance. White supremacy is a real thing, and the game’s insistence that white supremacy would change into human supremacy after the apocalypse is not great.)

Oh, and that good ending? It’s not canon. The very first scene of Metro: Last Light is you having nightmares after genociding the Dark Ones. Worse, the entirety of Last Light is basically working towards a redo of that good ending, where the remaining Dark Ones decide to save your bacon again, then literally walk off into the sunset.

I mean … when the franchise itself undercuts its own message for the sake of pumping out another game, I don’t think 2033 has any legs left to stand on.

I agree that the sequences with human enemies are probably the most fun parts of the game, especially if you have silenced weapons with IR scopes. They’re also the easiest parts by far, unless you’re fighting on the surface where filters limit your time. There’s a part in the game where you’re supposed to turn off a generator to sneak around guards, but I just kind of shrugged and headshotted every last Nazi, blowing out lights along the way.

Anything with monsters is a slog. Most of the monsters can warp jump at you, which means most fights in open spaces are just sprinting around to maintain distance while taking shots. Unless you’ve cheesed the game to stock up on military ammo, shotguns are the only practical weapon, and reload times mean they get free hits on you. But the game also has monster sequences where you’re stuck in closed spaces, and those parts are insufferable.


#31

@Jonny_Anonymous
It isnt mentioned at all. I play through both games and read all three books. There’s only matter of faction and sometime religion or sect that develops in the underground a while after the nuke of Russia. There are fights and death between those gangs but there is no mention of races or origins of characters. The game assumed they are all white Caucasian but in my mind all protagonists and characters could have been : black, Asian or Arab that wouldn’t had changed the story or climax.


#32

Brought out the 360 to play through this again and I still really enjoy it! It’s a bit tough to play after having experienced Last Light which really smooths out a lot of the game’s combat issues, but I’m really just there for the sights and the sounds anyway. The populated areas you travel through are still a treat to be in, and I like sticking around to hear characters talk and bullshit about their day.

I think that’s what separates this game in my mind from a lot of the other boring post-apocalyptic stuff like The Last of Us or Fallout 4 is the way characters cope with their newer, harsher life here. A lot of the NPC’s and minor characters are in a surprisingly good mood and make light of it all (in Last Light as well) and there’s a feeling that this society is not only adapting, but doing it without grumbling the whole way. I remember reading something a long time ago about how this attitude is something adopted by many Ukrainians considering the hardship they’ve faced over the course of the last century (the game’s devs were even forced to leave their home country due to the civil unrest and political turmoil gripping the region over the last few years especially), and I think this is reflected in the series.

Also your squadmate casually saying “oh hey somebody left this skeleton here for us” in one of the tense final missions is a moment I remember from way back when I originally played it and it gave me another laugh here, nice


#33

As Foxtrot mentioned above, based on my experience of Metro 2033 so far, there does appear to be a difference in the way Western and Eastern European games depict the apocalypse/wasteland. The characters in Metro 2033 do seem to be hardily adapting to life in the Metro, while characters in The Last of Us, or Fallout often appear comic, or utterly depraved. Metro 2033, therefore, feels more realistic than Western wasteland games I’ve played. Perhaps the game’s story was influenced by the fact that it comes from the side that lost the Cold War, or a culture that’s used to suffering and harsh conditions. I might too be the result of a Russian literary tradition that is darkly ironic and that often probes the depths of the human soul.

Another difference with Metro 2033 is that it seems to imply a dystopian wasteland - by which I mean specifically a wasteland that could have been prevented. Other Western apocalyptic games I have played, by contrast, have treated the wasteland setting like a playground of horrors in which the game action occurs. Metro 2033 speaks to the wasteland and presents it as a cautionary tale.

Events in Metro 2033 mirror what presumably led to the nuclear apocalypse in the first place. First, there is the ongoing war between the Reich and the Reds. Second, the Dark Ones and inhabitants of the metro can’t communicate that they both want the same thing (peace) leading to one side (canonically) destroying the other (with missiles no less). That Artyom can prevent the Dark Ones from being destroyed also strengthens the argument that the game’s apocalypse was preventable.


#34

Even before the Cold War era the last century alone was very bleak and cruel here: I grew up in 2000s but the trauma from WWII was still fresh, lots of places that got destroyed during war and were never repaired, we were given advices on what to do if we found a dud, monuments for people who died horrible, possiblly in the very place are very common. And a lot of people still remember the forced transfers, constantly changing borders, mass murders, pogroms, communist era…

After some time it’s just better to treat the seemingly unmoving reality with a dash of dark humor.
That is, unless you like getting drunk in the sadness of cruel reality which a lot of people here do.


#35

I personally disagree with the notion that it’s because it comes from “the side that lost the Cold War[.]” and agree wholeheartedly with the rest of that sentence. I’m painting with a broad brush here, but in my experience the general view from Eastern European countries is that the Cold War is still going on and everybody will lose/has already lost. As someone from one of those countries I’m always confused when folks from the West refer to the Cold War as being over.

However, yes, it does absolutely come from a culture that’s used to suffering and harsh conditions. Slavic countries have not had a lot of fun throughout history. Back home and in other Slavic countries I’ve been to we often joke that we have two settings - Being murdered, and murdering each other. A lot of art produced there reflects this. It’s hard for me to put into words, but it has this specific feeling to it. It’s warmth and comfort steeped in heavy melancholy, and with a bit of dark humour added on the side. If I could sum it up in a sentence it would go something like: “Everything is bad, everything will be bad, let’s have this brief moment of comfort but never forget - It will always be bad.”

Metro 2033 nails that feeling for me. The first few stations truly feel like home. Everyone is depressed and feeling the crisis, it’s noisy, it cannot smell good, but still there are some attempts at comfort. People are playing with their children, they’re drinking, smoking and sharing gossip and sad stories. They’re sitting around a fire listening to sad guitar music. In that sense it is a very unique game for me as nothing I’ve played apart from STALKER has quite pinpointed that feeling. Nothing that I can remember at the time of writing anyway! By the way, writing has been difficult to me as of late due to mental health things, so I hope that what I’ve written makes some sense.

Sidenote: Holy shit how can this game have a 45 degree default FoV? Also there seem to be about 3-4 voice actors and 90% of the game is Steve Blum. I really wish I understood Russian better, but I sure don’t want to miss the general dialogue.


#36

Well said. Your post does indeed make a lot of sense and, coming from a Western background, it’s interesting to have your perspective.

I am still curious about how Western and Eastern game developers (and other artists for that matter) portray the apocalypse. Would you say there is less interest in apocalyptic settings in Eastern Europe?


#37

Thanks!

I can’t speak to this in any way other than anecdotal and speculative, but there definitely seems to be less of the big Fallout-style apocalyptic media in general. Now my thinking on this is that perhaps that due to the many many wars that the countries have been through, and that art tends to focus more on those wars. It’s apocalyptic in the sense that it feels like the end of the world due to your own smaller world ending. And it really is ending - War is terrible y’all. Usually the country or your environment is collapsing, lots of people are dying and a lot of these people are friends and family; often you/they get sent off to die somewhere, and everyone is miserable apart from the dead and the people on top.

Perhaps there is interest in apocalyptic settings, but they are more contained apocalypses and people have gone through them (sometimes very recently).

I just want to restate that this is conjecture so take it with a grain of salt, and I would very much like for other Slavs and Eastern Europeans to say more on this subject. Personally I can only speak more in depth about art and media in Serbia because that’s what I have the most experience with. Though I do think that I’ve found the subject for whenever I get the chance to write something more academic again!


#38

There’s a way to adjust it in the configs (that i’m sure fucks with some cutscenes) but yeah Metro’s always loved way-too-cramped FoV’s. The obvious reason is an arguably misguided attempt to frame the mood, but to be honest i think it’s more because it frames the graphics/engine in a way that looks good in screenshots & demos.

Your post is really outstanding by the by, and actually made me interested in giving Metro another shot after getting more lukewarm about it. The Western fanbase for games like this and STALKER just leave a bad taste in my mouth that’s hard to get out.


#39

I think some people are getting confused when I use the term Caucasian. When I say it I don’t mean specifically white people, I mean people from the Caucasus area like Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijani, Chechens, Turkmen etc


#40

I’m listening to the Waypoint 101 as I type, but listening to the description of the morality/enlightenment points, it sounds like “community points” might be a better term, especially given the consequence of them.

And to me, that is much more evocative and gives more of a gray area. Maybe it doesn’t matter how you settle an argument you overhear, but it just matters that you’re present and interacting, giving you “points”. Putting it into Stardew Valley, so that spoilers aren’t really an issue, if you never engage with the characters and just build up your farm, collect artifacts, fish, all that, but by year 5, people move away. JoJo Mart takes control, and soon, species of fish go extinct. I would love a game that demands you take time to live in the world if you really want to save it.