Metro Last Light: Is East meets West the best?

First Look: THQ aims to top its "flawed masterpiece"...

THQ calls Metro 2033 its "flawed masterpiece". The moody FPS arrived from Eastern Europe early last year, depicting the post-apocalyptic Russia described in Dmitry Glukhovsky's book of the same name, with stealth, action and survival horror elements bundled together in a cinematic and mostly unique take on the Fallout mould.

But as the publisher will tell you first, it wasn't perfect; namely the weapons didn't feel very satisfying, the AI needed schooling and it spent about 2 quid and a packet of pork scratchings marketing the thing. THQ intends to fix all three bullet points.

Based on a totally original story penned by developer 4A Games (and not the Metro 2034 book as originally presumed), Last Light takes place 20 years in the future where survivors of a apocalyptic nuclear event still dwell in the relative safety of the Moscow metro system, while poisonous air and all kinds of mutant nasties rule the surface.

The sequel is being built on three "guiding principles", we're told; one, not to mess with the atmospheric, survival horror feel of the original; two, to sort out the above complaints aimed at AI and cardboard guns, and three; to keep advancing the competitive technology of 2033, with a proper PC version and console editions that look just as good.

And while we're on the subject of the latter, the sequel looks bloody good; our first glimpse of the game comes via a camera pan across a battered Russia. We can see iconic Moscow rooftops stretch far into the horizon and the draw distance is only matched by the immense detail on the battered buildings and splintered trees in the foreground.

If Bethesda made Fallout 4 for high-end PCs, this is what it would look like.

"Much has changed," a Russian man tells us via booming god voice. "Sometimes we glimpse the sun... but war still rages in Metro... secrets long buried by our fathers." The camera pans down before eventually merging into the first-person view of a Ranger - and it's a distinctly Metro viewpoint.

Our character extends his hands to grip a ladder, and viscerally descends down into the underground tunnels, with puddle water splashing across his gas mask visor.

THQ says the developer in Ukraine is desperate to maintain the atmospheric, mixed gameplay from the original game, and as our man adjusts to the pitch black surroundings it's soon clear it's got the stealth elements in place.

Two armed men enter the tunnel space our demo player is occupying, and he quickly darts behind cover. Without making a sound our man trails the pair along their patrol route, violently slitting the throat of one and ironsight-blasting the other.

Like the original, Last Light looks to consistently offer stealth as an option; our demo shows the player unscrewing light bulbs and shooting out lamps to cloud the surroundings in darkness.

In one set piece our man stabs and shoots through the darkness to tackle a group of guards like Batman with a Kalashnikov. But it's not all hide and seek; navigating the makeshift buildings in the Metro tunnels, the player soon discovers a hulking mini-gun and promptly unloads the beast on a group of blokes who turned up to see what the earlier stabbing noises were all about.

This also offers a chance to show off some of the sequel's combat improvements, with dynamic destruction top of the bill (wood splinters and collapses to expose targets), more detailed hit animations and - although we didn't get our hands on the mouse and keyboard - guns look beefier and more satisfying to handle.

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