It's quite mature story telling for a video game. I've not had the privilege of playing Heavy Rain yet - I'm really looking forward to doing so - but I can't think of too many examples at the moment that have really mature storytelling. The story's usually just a device to set up the scenario. So I think that's going to be something that really substantially differentiates Metro.
The second thing has definitely got to be the setting itself, the amount of detail that has gone into creating the game world. Obviously we've got a huge wealth of material that Dimitry has created.
Typically you'll get people who've read a book and the first time they get to see that book brought to life or visualised is on films. Sometimes it can be quite a frustrating experience if it doesn't quite look the way you'd imagined it. This is the same experiment but it's bringing that world and all that richness and depth to life in an interactive experience.
That's why they've really focused on, particularly, the station settings where you get to wander around and you listen to the different characters. None of that dialogue is plot critical, you don't have to listen to it, but it uses every sense whether it's visual or audio to kind of paint that picture and create that really believable game world. I think that's something that's really going to stick in people's minds.
What do you think has been the biggest challenge in successfully translating that novel into a game?
Dimitry said himself, the book is written on the surface as a kind of action thriller so actually it's perfect material to turn into a video game.
He also [says] that you should turn Crime and Punishment into a video game - but I'm not quite so convinced that that actually holds true for every book. Every book that has an action based narrative, you're going to have material for the game and if you're writing a thriller or an action book you'd better put some exciting set pieces in there.
So we have a ready-made selection of set pieces that people recognise from the book that can instantly go into the game. In other instances, some of those might not work perfectly well for gameplay reasons so the developer adds additional layers - so there's combat and action within the book itself but then the developer has to think: Well, actually, what does combat feel like in the game?
You're probably seeing two very different styles from the very intense, kind of crazed mutants that swarm over you and you're fending them off at close quarters, to the much more considered, tactical combat when you're up against human opponents, trying to flank you and using cover and using munitions rather than teeth and claws. They're purely gameplay decisions rather than storyboard decisions.
As you're moving closer to release day what's left to do? What kind of areas are you going to focus on from now until release?
We are literally in the last stages of polish and balancing and tweaking at the moment. We're supremely happy with where we are from a presentation perspective now. Visuals and the audio and the surround and the whole layer of presentation has got that gorgeous, blockbuster game feel to it. The engine's an absolutely phenomenal piece of technology.
The last few tweaks we're putting in are minor balance tweaks and just a couple of control changes on the 360 version to make the weapon select mechanic more consistent with FPS conventions.
Basically, the PC 'left and right select up and down' weapon select doesn't really work on consoles so well so we're going to swap that out for the final game, we've got that in test at the moment and again it just makes a substantial difference.