Rush hour on the venerable London Underground seems less traumatic if you consider Artyom's predicament.
The Moscow-born unfortunate has been forced to live in his home city's equivalent Metro system in order to avoid the radioactive fallout from a nuclear war, the resultant marauding mutants that now roam the world's surface, and a mysterious group of beings known as the Dark Ones. And that's even before you consider the re-emergence of Nazi and Communist armies vying for control of the tunnels.
Topping up your Oyster Card doesn't seem like such a hassle now, does it? With Redux, Artyom's struggle is more than doubled, as 4A Studios and Deep Silver have bundled both 2010's Metro 2033 and its sequel, Last Light, together in one package, along with all the DLC released so far.
If you've played either game before, you'll be aware of Metro's unique take on the FPS genre, blending gunplay, stealth and horror with one of the best-realised videogame universes around. The chance to revisit this world, then, is an extremely tempting one, even if you'll have to pay a little for entry. For anyone who hasn't delved into Metro yet, though, Redux is unmissable.
While Metro: Last Light has had some work done, the most profound change here is Metro 2033, which has been completely rebuilt using Last Light's engine. The result is incredible: the game's already atmospheric world utterly transformed with improved lighting, much greater detail, and additions such as dynamic weather and better physics.
In side-by-side comparisons, the original version of 2033 looks muddy and sparse next to the update's busier geometry and deeper colour palette. And now everything clips along at 60fps in the console versions, too. It's worth noting, though, that the jump from a last-gen console to a new-gen one is more pronounced than the equivalent leap from a four-year-old high-spec PC to a modern rig, but it's a noticeable improvement all the same.
And Redux doesn't stop at visual improvements. The people and creatures that inhabit Metro 2033's dark tunnels and stations now benefit from improved AI routines and better animations (though, it has to be said, Last Light's animations remain superior).
This means the on/off stealth that plagued the first game - where everyone would instantly know where you were the second someone noticed you - has been replaced with Last Light's more granular system wherein you can find cover again should you be spotted, and even silence the person who saw you if you're quick enough. It's a much better fit for 2033's stealth-heavy, survival-focused campaign and improves the game immeasurably.
2033 also gains Last Light's control scheme (everything is exactly the same across both games now) and slick UI. And even better, Artyom can now work his way through 2033's campaign using the watch from Last Light that has a built in lozenge which glows blue when you're visible. You can check it on the fly in both games, which is handy for seeing how long your current gas mask filter is going to last while you're scavenging above ground or making your way through a radioactive hot spot in the tunnels, and you can do the same with ammo supplies, too.
There are also new melee animations across both games, most of which involve horrible ways of plunging your knife into people, and your more physical moments are given extra pep with all-new full-body animations. And to further bring things in line, all of Metro 2033's cutscenes now take place in first-person, so you'll never be whisked out of the moment for the sake of a sweeping camera shot.
"For anyone who hasn't delved into Metro yet, Redux is unmissable."
You will still have to put up with the unutterably awful voice acting for child characters, however, as the audio (which is mostly excellent) hasn't been rerecorded. As a result, you'll still want to feed the brat who spends some time on your back during one escort mission to the creatures he's meant to be spotting for you. And on the subject of legacy problems, some of the checkpointing can feel stingy - many areas take a lot of planning and sneaking to get through, so getting spotted and killed and having to do the whole thing again is frustrating.
The console versions of Metro: Last Light, despite not going through such a thorough overhaul, have been flooded with exquisite lighting. 2033's new illumination looks great, but Last Light wants to dazzle you at every turn and often outdoes even Killzone: Shadow Fall in its confluence of complex effects.
It's colourful, too, with better cloth physics and even more detailed environments than the first game, bringing it much closer to the PC version. There are still some effects missing, however - for example, we noticed more volumetric particle effects when we played the first PC iteration of Last Light - but Metro feels resolutely new-gen on consoles.
Better still, 4A has listened to 2033 fans disappointed by Last Light's heavier action leaning and included an option to play either game in Spartan or Survivor. The former makes things like mask filters and ammunition more plentiful, increasing the pace of both campaigns as a result and encouraging you to rely on your weapon, not your wits. The latter is classic 2033 survival horror with much more limited pickups, craftier AI and tougher stealth conditions.
No, it doesn't get rid of Last Light's numerous 'defend this point' moments, nor its arguably excessive vehicle sections, but it does make the sequel's excellent stealth sections even better. To make things really hard, of course, you can play on Ranger difficulty or even, like us, Ranger Hardcore which disables the HUD.
It's worth playing through in normal first though, as 4A hasn't addressed the fact that Ranger Hardcore makes it impossible to select your secondary weapons and never tells you when a quicktime event is happening.
But these are perhaps issues we've created for ourselves by being masochists. On the whole, Metro Redux is a convincing refresh that not only rejigs some of the ageing mechanics, but offers an underrated series in an extremely attractive package. We can't wait for the third entry, but this is an excellent return trip to the Metro in the meantime.
Even if you've played both games and all the DLC, the 2033 update alone is worth your time.
- The improved visuals have enriched this intoxicating world.
- Mechanical improvements bring parity across both games.
- A real FPS challenge, with modes to satisfy even the masochists.
- Despite the refit, there are still some polishing issues.