Following the release of the Redux version, I have to admit that I have done Metro 2033 a grave injustice and certainly more so than any other game I can remember in recent years. When it was originally released in 2010, I read the various reviews that spoke of its stressful and overwhelming atmosphere, but because they almost all seemed like copy-pastes of each other, I felt they contained a large dose of hyperbole and therefore didn't proceed to purchase it (odd reasoning, I know). Of course, some of the reviewers had a hand in this, who mysteriously discovered RPG elements in the game, which I at least am still looking for.
When I finally managed to get it at some point and since the price had dropped significantly, I was late in installing it. And when the latter happened, I managed to abandon it without completing it, since its difficulty prevented me from trying again and again to pass a certain point. Fortunately, however, enough time has passed for me to finally grasp what it was all about.
Upon hearing about the release of the Redux version, I initially scratched my head, as I imagine many others did as well, thinking that 4A Games should have offered the improved version of the game for free to its owners. However, I saw the opportunity to get my hands on the Ukrainian gem again and this time reach the end of its journey.
As soon as Steam finished downloading the 6.1GB, I hit the "Play" button all at once. I won't hide from you that after the first 20'-30', my thought was this: "I don't see much of a difference in the graphics". The mind plays very strange games after all. I had to on one hand go further into Redux, on the other hand I had to run Metro 2033 again, so I had a clear and unambiguous picture of the differences between the two versions. And with that, to finally stop doing this particular game so much injustice.
A RADIOACTIVE PLANET
Although we are dealing with the re-release of a game that most of you have probably already played and based on the book of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky, a short review of its story certainly doesn't hurt.
As the name suggests, we are in the year 2033. Twenty years ago, the year our hero was born, the world was unable to avoid a war that led to nuclear annihilation. Moscow was hit by a barrage of atomic bombs, forcing the surviving residents to live underground, within the city's railway network, in order to avoid the radiation scattered in the atmosphere. Its existence has led to the rapid mutation of several living organisms, which have now become particularly aggressive and threatening at the same time.
The central character of the story is Artyom, a young Russian who has lost his parents and lives at VDNKh station. One day he is informed by one of the members of the Rangers' elite warfare team, Hunter, of a new threat that has emerged and goes by the name "Dark Ones". These are otherworldly beings, threatening not only the VDNKh station, but all of Moscow. Soon he finds himself in a position where he has to travel a long distance, from the station where he is to Polis, in order to meet another ranger, Miller, and help him deal with the Dark Ones.
His journey will not be a lonely one, as he will be accompanied by various people he will meet along the way, without knowing whether and how much he can trust them. At the same time, he must take care to avoid the Russian Nazis of the 4th Reich.
The first peculiarity of Metro 2033 has to do with the nature of our opponents, which in turn leads to a complex gameplay, with a strong stealth and action element. The run 'n' gun formula, in the world of Metro 2033, will lead to certain death. Taking out Nazis and bloodthirsty creatures is all well and good, but many times you need to move under their noses. Especially when you don't have enough bullets to take on everyone and everything.
THE DIAMOND IS NO LONGER ROUGH
Four years ago, almost everyone referring to Metro 2033 used the phrase "diamond in the rough" to describe it, among other things. The description was no accident. Being the first game to make use of the powerful and capable, but heavy and immature 4A engine, it presented an impressive visual effect in exchange for its high power requirements in order for the player to enjoy it. In fact, it was one of those -few- games that took advantage of everything available on a PC, be it processor speed, amount of RAM, or graphics card power, in an effort to perform at its best. It was abundantly clear from then on that the evolution of the 4A engine would put it in a position to be able to deliver much better results in the future, something that was confirmed with the release of Metro Last Light last year.
Back to today though, let's see what has changed in this new version, which is admittedly much more than just a remake. Speaking of graphics, the first thing that the trained eye of a fan of the series will notice is the huge change in the light effects. In many cases, where darkness or rudimentary light prevailed in the maiden outing, these have now been replaced by striking lighting effects that really give it another, much superior, look. The second striking change is the enrichment of textures everywhere. You only have to compare the uniforms of the various soldiers to understand that nothing has stayed the same.
In fact, the 4A Games developers didn't limit themselves to just the clothing, but also replaced the faces of many of the characters we see and meet left and right, showing that they put in a lot more work than is initially perceived. Combined with the improved animation and their much more human expressions, our tour of Moscow's underground corridors and stations takes on a much more believable feel. I have to admit that I expected and wished the same attention had been paid to the treatment of the rather sloppy movement of the Nosalises, a kind of mutant creature, but this ultimately didn't happen.
To conclude my analysis of the look of the game, I have to focus on one more factor, which has its own importance. At its initial release, more than a few people noticed the absence of volumetric lights in several places, which significantly reduced the visual effect, making it worse than the first Metro 2033 and certainly doing this Redux version an injustice. 4A Games rushed to immediately release a 1.2GB patch, bringing them back and forgetting the policy of only minor differences between the PC and XBOX One / PS4 versions. That was the reason for their initial absence, but thankfully reason and not forced parity between the three platforms prevailed. The result is what I described above.
And because everything has a price, in our case it has to do with the 64-bit operating system requirement of 2033 Redux. I set up a new OS partition for the sake of both that and Last Light Redux. I guess we should slowly get used to the idea that 32-bit operating systems are a thing of the past. After all, evolution and clinging to the past are two completely opposite concepts.
LET THE NUMBERS SPEAK
As many of you will probably remember, Metro 2033, due to its nVidia orientation, which was far from hidden, presented quite a few problems for users with AMD cards, mainly due to the use of PhysX features. Especially if one made the mistake of turning on the "Advanced PhysX" mode, things could get much worse. In Redux, all of the above is a thing of the past. I completed the game with this option intentionally enabled from the first to the last minute of my involvement with it, even though I knew that, in the presence of the HD 7970, it made no sense. Nowhere and at no time did I encounter any unexpected event that could have made me turn it off.
Even more interesting was the overall behaviour of Metro 2033 Redux, given its enriched and polished appearance. With the exception of SSAA, I turned on both Tesselation (Very high option) and Anisotropic filtering (16x), as well as Motion Blur. On the test system, at 1920×1080 resolution, I was steadily close to 45-50fps, with no shortage of moments when the game was 60fps. In the previous version this was not possible. To confirm my suspicion, I ran the built-in benchmark of both, with the options mentioned above, even though the benchmark in Redux has reached version 3.00 and is heavier, while the "plain" one carries 1.02, where some features (e.g. Motion Blur) don't support DX11. Even so, though, the numbers proved me right.
In the graph above, the numbers corresponding to a blue column refer to 1680×0150 resolution, while those in red refer to 1920×1080. If at first glance it seems that the first version runs better than the second, think again and see what happens when we turn on Advanced PhysX. Metro 2033 drops from 55.5 and 49.1 fps to 42.7 and 39 fps respectively, while Redux - which I reiterate was essentially running a heavier benchmark - loses just 2.0-2.5 fps per instance. It's obvious that work has been done in smoothing out the performance of the 4A engine. If you're not convinced yet, wait until you see, in the upcoming review, the numbers for Last Light and Last Light Redux, which run the exact same benchmark, to be sure. I took screenshots of the two games, which testify to the improvement in the visuals, which I think is more than evident.
Putting aside the numbers and performance topic and moving on to the gameplay differences, the big difference in Redux is found in the ability to play in Survival or Spartan mode. In the former mode, ammo, medikits and oxygen potions for the mask, all of which are limited anyway, will be an almost constant headache, requiring care and frugality in their use on our part. The stealth approach to our encounters with the various creatures, as well as the armed Nazis, is clearly preferable. Spartan mode is more forgiving of our wastefulness, giving room for more firefighting and hand-to-hand combat. I have to admit that I didn't even consider playing in Survival mode, since I probably wouldn't, once again, manage to complete the game. Anyway, the Ranger difficulty level, third in the relative tier, guaranteed that my new encounter with the Ukrainian game would not resemble a walk in the countryside.
The basic features of the game, which are the constant effort to survive, taking care not to run out of oxygen in areas that require the use of a mask and the constant care to preserve ammunition in the three weapons we can carry, all wrapped in the veil of the suffocating and claustrophobic atmosphere that characterises the Moscow underground railway network, remain unchanged. Artyom's journey from the VDNKh station to his final destination is a great and unforgettable experience, dressed in the new Redux edition's look and feel, immersing the player in the post-apocalyptic environment it presents and making him go back again and again until he reaches the end of the journey. Yes, this time I completed the game, after 13 full hours of engagement.
During those 13 hours, I enjoyed the game's challenge to traverse areas without opening fire, to hide in the shadows, to use the knives for completely silent area clearances, but also to take on, in the company of third party characters standing on Artyom's side, hordes of mutant monsters attacking from all sides. This combo of action and stealth situations continues to elevate Metro and set it apart from most other first person shooters.
Improvements can be identified in two other important areas. The first has to do with the greater variety of weapons available, with several of them being "ported" from Last Light and available in 2033 Redux. The second relates to the intelligence of allies and opponents. If you have very little ammunition somewhere, you can relatively safely let the soldiers accompanying you at the time clear the field, making your task easier and saving you precious ammo. And your opponents also show an improved understanding of the events unfolding around them, as they raise the alarm when they see a corpse, and when it's time to target us, they move more methodically and in a team.
But since there is always room for improvement, the Ukrainians could have taken care to improve the efficiency of our shots, depending on where they hit our enemies. In the Redux version of Metro 2033 there are moments when three headshots are not enough to eliminate an opponent. Beyond that, I detected an unexpected absence in the music that accompanies our adventure that wasn't as noticeable in the first Metro. On the flip side, some English voice overs have been re-recorded, including that of the protagonist. Unfortunately I found the latter rather less successful than the pre-existing one.
This brings us to the burning question of whether the Redux version is worth buying or not. I think things are clear. Die-hard fans of the series have probably already purchased it. For those of you who didn't get a chance to play the first Metro 2033, now you have the best opportunity to do so in this revamped look. The rest of you probably have no reason to spend € 20. And herein lies my objection regarding pricing. Those who already own Metro 2033 and went ahead and pre-ordered Redux, got it for the price of € 10. I don't understand why that discount wasn't maintained after the release. I think it would have motivated many more to go ahead and purchase it, finding, through the various reviews, that there are indeed differences between the two versions.
GREAT, BUT EXPENSIVE REMAKE
Once again it turns out that four years in gaming and especially in the field of graphics advancement is anything but short. One of the most atmospheric and immersive fps of recent years is made even better, enriching its gameplay, smoothing its performance and wearing a modern and even more attractive suit, borrowed from its later sibling.
If one judges it as a standalone game, we are talking about an unprecedented experience, which justifies five extra points in the rating you see. Even as a remake, though, it attests that the developers were anything but sloppy. It's just that, precisely because it's a title that's being reintroduced to us just four years after we were first introduced to it, Deep Silver ought, as a publisher, to at least give Metro 2033 owners the opportunity to get it, beyond pre-order, at a more affordable price.
The code for this review was provided by Enarxis Dynamic Media, which we thank.
- Obvious performance improvements
- Richer arsenal
- Improved enemy and ally A.I.
- Combination of action and stealth tactics
- Impressive visuals
- Still a unique fps experience
- The sound does not match the improvement of the visuals
- No discounted price for first game owners