I beat Metro 2033 (Redux)!

Well, it’s done. I originally acquired Metro 2033 on Steam from what appears to have been a giveaway back in 2012, and have finally beaten it – over eight years later. 

It was one of the most frustrating and uniquely satisfying gaming experiences I have ever had. I love the world building, the post-nuclear apocalypse Russian theme, the gunplay, the enemy designs, the inclusion of ranger mode, and many other things. On the other hand, the rampant bugginess, jankiness of enemy AI, and other weird irritations had me just about ready to retire the game for good on several occasions. 

I’m not really interested in critiquing this thing as a whole, but I do want to quickly cover a few things.

The morality system

Yeah, this can go right in the garbage bin where it belongs. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to throw this weird system in the game, but it wasn’t. There is some invisible morality system that gives you good boy points for doing certain things, and removes points for doing other things. To be clear, it’s not even just stuff like killing people or not that affects points, but also random other things like exploring parts of the map or speaking with different people. If you don’t have enough arbitrary good boy points at the end of the game, you are locked out of a particular ending. I cannot possibly overstate how stupid this system is. Why should the player be punished for shooting people in a first person shooter? It’s just nonsensical. 

The ending 

As somebody that listened to the audio version of the Metro 2033 book, I had a pretty good idea of what was coming, and I was excited to see how they portrayed it. The ending of the novel is super compelling and makes a lot of sense within the world, but the game’s ending(s) are somewhat neutered, in my opinion. 

SPOILERS AHEAD, DO NOT CLICK TO EXPAND BELOW IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS

Ending Discussion Spoilers (Click to Expand)

There are two (arguably three) possible endings in Metro 2033 – a default ranger ending and an enlightened ending that is only accessible to you if you have enough morality points. 

I didn’t bother with the morality points, so I got the ranger ending. In the ranger ending, you end up nuking the dark ones, thinking you’re doing the right thing, and then the game pretty much ends by calling it a success. You accomplished your goal, after all – the dark ones are indeed dead, and now the people of the metro won’t have to deal with that major threat anymore. Artyom weirdly says something along the lines of wondering if they were missing something by having gone down this path, but that’s about it. 

On the other hand, the ending of the Metro 2033 book is that, in the last few moments before the missiles are launched from the silo, the dark ones are able to establish proper contact with Artyom, and he realizes that they are not a foe, but a friend, and a powerful one at that – a friendly new species of humanity that wanted to cooperate with regular humans to survive the harsh post-apocalyptic world – but it was too late. The missiles launched, and Artyom had to watch (and telepathically kind of feel) the dark ones be extinguished, and it was clear that a huge mistake had been made. I really liked this ending because it subverts your expectations in a narratively realistic and meaningful way, and it speaks to how flawed humanity is, and how eager they are to destroy what they perceive as the enemy, even in the wake of the world being destroyed by them doing just that. 

I’m not saying that the game should have been beholden to follow the exact ending of the book, but I don’t feel like the changed ending does the narrative any favours. It feels significantly weaker and less interesting all around. 

SPOILERS BEHIND, DO NOT CLICK TO EXPAND ABOVE IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS

A few words on Ranger mode

Ranger mode is one of the most interesting approaches I have seen to customizable game difficulty in my entire life. Ranger mode comes in two forms – regular and hard, but I played on regular so that’s what I’m going to talk about. Regular Ranger mode significantly increases the amount of damage everything deals – you will die very quickly if you are caught off guard by multiple enemies, or if you don’t make appropriate use of cover or all the parts of your arsenal. I love how this also applies to enemies too, because it makes for a more lethal experience going both ways, and not just a harder one. Beyond that, most of the HUD elements are disabled, including the crosshairs, which bumps up the immersion factor quite a bit and makes aiming a heck of a lot more interesting. This also significantly increases the value of items like the laser pointers on weapons, and weapon sights. 

Something I really dislike about ranger mode is how it decreases the number of weapons you can carry from three to two. Metro 2033 was clearly developed with the player having three weapons in mind, and it constantly loves to shove different weapons into your hands. Here, take this bastard gun. Take this shotgun. Take this flamethrower. Because you can only carry two weapons, any of the parts of the game that give you a gun simply swap it out for the gun you already have, which is consequently dropped on the ground at that point. It’s really annoying to have to constantly reject the tools the game is trying to give you, and it feels unnecessarily limiting to only be able to have two guns. It’s also frustrating to constantly be finding guns on the ground but not even be able to pick them up to sell, particularly with how difficult money can be to come by.

Does it hold up? Is it worth playing?

If you like the idea of playing a post-nuclear war FPS with some sci-fi and light survival elements, then Metro 2033 is absolutely worth playing. Ranger mode is one of the most immersive gaming experiences I have ever had, and I’m really glad I finally got to play through this thing. That said, beware the clunky and lame stealth system, and beware the bugginess. If you can survive those annoyances, then definitely give this game a look. 

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