Nasty things that crawl out of holes are only some of the nightmarish creatures you have to contend with on your journey. Winged fiends and quasi-yetis get very territorial, while loping, long-nosed beasts stage regular assaults on humans in most areas of the Metro. As you travel the tunnels from station to station on your quest to deliver an important message, you have to fend off these fierce mutants who would like nothing more than to rip your flesh from your bones. Combat can be challenging, but you have a good array of weapons at your disposal. Powerful prewar weapons are rare and valuable, and clever postwar improvisations provide intriguing alternatives. Shooting mechanics aren't particularly satisfying, and it can sometimes be tough to tell if your shots are actually hitting the fast-moving beasts. In the heat of combat, the slightly ungainly enemy animations become more noticeable, injecting the frantic action with a mild dose of awkwardness. This feeling is likely to get rolled in with the general discomfort of fighting for your life, but there are times when it can sap some of the excitement from combat.
Still, there are some fun guns (like the pneumatic crossbow/revolver), and the action usually is solid enough to make combat enjoyable. Some of your fiercest enemies are your fellow men who are spurred to violence by ideology or desperation. Using stealth is a great way to get the drop on or just sneak by human enemies, and the quiet approach allows you to overhear some fascinating conversations that add interesting layers to the world. Movement mechanics are also solid, though even if you are careful to avoid making noise, shining light, and triggering traps, your movements may still alert the enemies for reasons unknown. Startled foes launch scrambled attacks that can showcase some pretty wonky AI, but for the most part you are dealing with competent foes that will vigorously try to put bullets in you. It's not the tightest action you've ever seen in a shooter, but it is fittingly tense and immediate.
The reason for all your under- and aboveground adventuring is established early on, but the vague urgency doesn't coalesce into a clear mission until much later. Though the narrative can be patchy, Metro 2033 fills in the blanks by slowly unveiling its rich, multifaceted world. Everywhere you go, from bustling stations to lonely tunnels, you will find clues that broaden and enrich your understanding. Eavesdropping on an enemy conversation will shed light on Metro mythology, while bioluminescent flora raises questions about postnuclear biology. You glean a lot of information from just paying attention, and through this observation you create a kind of patchwork, discovery-fueled narrative that eventually comes to an intriguing conclusion.
Not a great time to take a nap, comrade.
Metro 2033 is a well-paced shooter that will likely take you more than 10 hours to complete. It is punctuated by emotional and dramatic moments (a surprising encounter with a child, a few intense railcar sequences), though these aren't without their own idiosyncrasies (the immersion-busting "quickly tap x" prompt). Many elements of Metro 2033 aren't quite up to modern shooter standards, but taken as a whole, they come together nicely. The pervasive atmosphere is largely responsible for this cohesion, creating a grim, enthralling world that you feel compelled to explore. Though it is not without its perils, Metro 2033 is a very worthwhile game for anyone craving a uniquely rewarding journey into man's dark future.