Fans of Metro 2033 will often hold it up as a "thinking man's" alternative to your typical Dudebro shooter. It simultaneously is and is not. It is in that it imports a sort of "survival horror" mentality into the FPS mold; ammo is scarce, weapons kind of suck, your Dude is not particularly robust, and niceties like HUDs and radar are dispensed with. It isn't in that it's cut from exactly the same cloth as Call of Duty, Halo and Dew-Fueled Shooter X
- you're ferried between lots of non-interactive cutscenes via linear corridors and rigidly scripted events, watching passively almost as much as actually playing. It's darker, and harder, but fundamentally a very samey sort of experience.
Metro 2033 is an odd duck. It seems to want to be Bioshock, Call of Duty, and an old-school Resident Evil all at once, and that blend definitely comes out a little rough and strange-tasting. But let's begin at the beginning. The game is based on a novel by the same name, and apparently follows it very closely. We're in post-nuclear-apocalypse Moscow circa 2033, and the only safe inhabitance for the survivors are the old Metro stations beneath the city. The surface - and many of the Metro tunnels outside the safety of the gated hubs - have been rendered deadly by huge quantities of Manratpig mutants. As if that wasn't enough, the underground has its own factions of Evil Hunams, with groups of bandits roaming outside the Metro hubs, and a neo-Nazi organization. We end up as some schmo who has to make a journey from his home to a distant station, when his buddy disappears while out scouting.
The game's greatest success is atmosphere and environmental detail. It's an amazingly well-realized (depressing and grim) world, full of lots of nice minor detail. I'm usually all about the immersive experiences and detailed worlds ... but only when they're paired with story and freedom to explore, both of which this game is very thin on. The whole "Atmosphere Uber Alles" thing is very impressive in its own right, but also often a source of the game's problems and the enemy of enjoyability. Presumably, the high level of detail also has a lot to do with the fact that you rarely get to venture off of the corridors you are constantly led down by some NPC or another. Some of the gameplay decisions cater to realism over fun to an obnoxious degree as well - having to manually stop and hand-crank your headlamp when it gets low, for example, or being forced to desperately fish through every dark bunch of junk you encounter hoping to find a little ammo.
I admire Metro 2033's commitment to true detailed roleplaying ... but as you're roleplaying an average schmo with shitty weapons in an overdifficult, often tedious situation, I wonder if too much enjoyability hasn't been sacrificed in the process. There's also a couple of technical problems with this approach. One is that the enemies are ridiculously spongy ... and I'm not talking about the monsters here, but the frequent human enemies, who often take an insane amount of lead to bring down. They apparently aren't subject to the same rules of Average Joeness and Janky Weaponness than you are, and have perfect aim when you're exposed even a little bit in their line of fire, turning the game into a Strawberry Jamfest. And in what I assume was an attempt to drive home the fact that the guns you are using are shitty postapocalyptic things cobbled together by the survivors, they seem to dole out totally random damage sometimes. There were a couple of scenarios where I shot something and it died instantly ... when I replayed the scenario after dying later, I shot the same enemy with the same weapon from about the same range and it took 3x as many shots to kill them! For a game emphasizing realism and conservation, this is a terrible idea.
The "survival horror conservation" thing also falls apart in a couple of other ways. One is that stealth is broken. You're only given tiny little corridors to sneak around in. Usually they're dark. Turn on your light and you're spotted ... but don't turn it on, and you don't see some glass or pottery fragments or whatever on the ground, and the instant you step on them you're spotted. The aforementioned "random weapon damage" also precludes the idea of a "stealth kill"; you don't have any stealth weapons anyway, the noise from any of them will set the enemies on alert as well. So the game is set up to not be played like a typical shooter, yet almost always gives you no choice but to blast your way through it like a typical shooter. The other problem is the periodic scripted pit-stops in the various Metro shantytowns as you proceed. You can buy new guns, gun upgrades, items and ammo in these places ... but you always have a very finite amount of currency, and unless you've played the game before you have zero idea what you're best suited spending it on.
I'm left confused as to whether to recommend Metro 2033. Personally, I found it too frequently non-interactive, and the interactive portions too often tedious. I do appreciate the immersive atmosphere, though, and the attempt to do something more ambitious with FPS than Call of Dudebro (even if it ends up being not *that* different from a Dudebro shooter.) And it isn't technically bad in terms of gameplay ... just poorly plotted out at times and in certain aspects. Hmm.