Adaptation has always been a big part of the arts. Books are adapted into films, films become graphic novels, comics turn into TV shows and TV episodes get novelisations. We’re quite accustomed to seeing video games spawned from the silver screen at this point — with results being disastrous more often than not — but jumping from novel to game is a largely untouched space. Metro 2033, based on the novel of the same name, bucked the trend and became something of a cult hit, despite being somewhat flawed.
Metro: Last Light is a direct follow-up to that title, and picks up soon after the events that brought 2033 to a confusing close. No matter your choices, the real Artyom decided to destroy the Dark Ones in a flurry of missiles and blood. Last Light focuses on what appears to be the last remaining Dark One, which your Ranger buddies want you to eliminate and your conscience wants you to have a lovely chat with. I won’t go into too much detail about the plot, as experiencing it firsthand is one of the better aspects of the series, but suffice to say you’ll be dealing with military encampments, German fascists, communists and a range of terrifying monsters.
Slightly less terrifying than previous incarnations, it must be said. Artyom is a fully-fledged Ranger now, rather than the fresh-faced young innocent he was in the first game, meaning he can more than handle himself in a fight. Where previously you might have been forced into the shadows for fear of your life and for a total lack of ammunition, this time around combat is slightly more tipped in your favour. That’s not to say the game is easy; Last Light will still challenge most gamers to thoughtfully scavenge, upgrade weapons and pick their battles carefully.
Stealth still plays a big part in things, and Last Light has a serviceable system in place. Darkness equals safety, and a handy light meter on your wrist tells you how visible you are at any one time. Many areas have alarms which will be triggered if you’re spotted and cause an overflow of heavily-armed reinforcements. In one of the many fantastic environmental touches which work their way into the gameplay, unscrewing light bulbs and putting out lamps can be crucial to your unimpeded progress.
There are still a lot of guns to be found in the Moscow underground, of course, and all of them are appropriately satisfying to wield. Weapons are split roughly between pre-apocalypse items which will be familiar to any seasoned shooter player and Frankensteinian firearms cobbled together from whatever bits and pieces might be found in a horrifying Russian tunnel system. The latter are the more interesting choice, with pneumatic BB guns and revolvers which fire shotgun ammunition doing an excellent job of selling the fiction. A plethora of upgrades are available for your arsenal, including dot sights, silencers and other items gleaned from the FPS-standard playbook of constant progression. Whether you go for the makeshift or the old reliables, all the weapons have a good weight and sound to them, and hearing the blast of your shotgun echoing around a dark tunnel is as immersive as any dramatic set piece.
All this combat would ultimately ring hollow if the other aspects of Last Light weren’t up to snuff. Thankfully the developers have put a remarkable amount of effort into the presentation. Locations, while as grim as you might expect from the end of the world as we know it, are teeming with life and genuinely fascinating to explore for the most part. Much of your time is spent in the dark underground, but when you do emerge the surface world provides some spectacular visuals through the filter of your trusty gas mask. Even the dark, claustrophobic locations are beautiful in their own way, thanks largely to an impressive dynamic lighting system. On PC the game is a visual benchmark for video games — at least in a technical sense — and even the console version is a sight to behold.
Environments are packed with little details and NPCs going about their business, and you can easily lose quite a bit of time simply soaking in the atmosphere of the Metro itself. Oddly, this level of quality is what makes the sometimes-awkward AI of your enemies stand out at times. Metro is so reliant on its wonderful set pieces and controlled environments that it becomes rather jarring to see soldiers spinning and losing their way, or failing to notice you. This isn’t a big concern, however, as you’re usually focused more on not dying than watching enemy behaviours.
My favourite parts of Last Light were also my least favourite, simply because of their intensity. Reaching the surface always begins with relief, as the tightness in your chest brought on by the tightness of your surroundings leaves and your digital eyes adjust to something resembling the real world. But almost immediately you’re forced to don your cloudy gas mask and count the seconds on your precious air filters. Whatever you may be doing out there, it’s punctuated by the constant presence of your mask. Running out of filters causes you to asphyxiate, while certain attacks will crack or smear your vision, necessitating a quick wipe that could drop your guard for the last time.
Last Light is undoubtedly a different beast to its predecessor. There is a much stronger focus on action and less on the vulnerability of the protagonist in this harsh world. For the most part this isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it does stray into territory one might call over the top. The linear nature of the game is a double-edged sword; it gives the game its excellent pacing and flow, but it also prevents the setting from being appreciated as a place rather than simply a backdrop for the plot. Nevertheless, Last Light is eight-or-so hours of tense action and stealth that should please fans of the original and first-person shooters. 
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games