Metro 2033 isn’t necessarily a bad game, and there are some who will enjoy it greatly, but it’s definitely not my cup of tea. Not only is the gameplay a bit awkward (and in many ways, outright annoying), but there are plenty of bugs and miscellaneous missteps that ensure that I’ll eventually forget that I’ve even played through it. In fact, “forgettable” is probably the best way to describe the impression 2033 left me with once I had finished.
More a story than a game
This isn’t necessarily a criticism because the story is my favorite part of games and Metro 2033’s story is what kept me playing to the end, but much of its story is revealed through scripted sequences and cutscenes. In fact, huge chunks of time are spent just walking around and watching other characters do things. By the time I reached the end of the game, it dawned on me that I hadn’t actually done much beyond occasionally shooting at waves of monsters and buying extra ammunition, and that realization is what will keep me away from this game in the future. There are just too many large sections of nothing in particular for it to be worth another playthrough, even if I got the “bad” ending on my first run.
Worse than that, however, is the vagueness of the story; throughout Metro 2033, main character Artyom suffers from all kinds of strange hallucinations that don’t really make any sense unless you get the “good” ending. Even if you get the good ending, however, several questions are left completely unanswered, such as why Artyom is the only character immune to something (presumably an effect of “the dark ones”) that affects everyone else you meet.
Strangely enough, getting the good ending is a matter of fulfilling prerequisites that don’t really make any sense. Little things such as listening to a tape or refusing extra ammo determine whether or not you’re given the option to get the game’s so-called good ending, and this makes the morality system more a question of Google searches than playing through as a good guy. The arbitrary requirements ensure that most people will get the canonical bad ending (which, to be honest, isn’t that much different than the good ending), and this really speaks to how big of a failure the game’s morality system ends up being.
Bullets are money
There are different kinds of ammo for different weapons (obviously a shotgun won’t fire the same ammo as a pistol), but on top of that is the extra-valuable “military grade” ammo. These rounds do extra damage, but they can also be traded in towns for more normal ammo because of how valuable they are. Given the relative scarcity of ammo throughout the game, I found it best to trade away all my military grade ammo until I was nearing the end.
Waves of enemies
One of the problems I had with Metro 2033 is how it forces you into small rooms and then throws waves upon waves of enemies at you. Not only are the enemies throughout the game not scary in the slightest (they look like mutated monkeys and dogs for the most part and it’s actually kind of adorable), but having them thrown at you in waves feels incredibly artificial and forced, like the developers couldn’t think up a better way of sending you against hordes of enemies.
Those waves of enemies are nothing compared to a later section of the game that pits you against a seemingly-infinite number of exploding ball things, however. While these can be run past with little trouble, you have to also keep an NPC alive as he walks through the constant onslaught of endlessly-spawning exploding jelly balls, and he walks slower than anyone should ever walk in that situation. This escort mission wouldn’t be much of a problem if he followed me as I ran through to safety, but he doesn’t, and running ahead means leaving him to die as the result of his stupidity. Instead of doing the smart thing and quickly running through, then, this forced me to stand in the middle of danger and waste precious ammo because he’s too stupid to run, and that’s just bad design right there.
Speaking of bad design, Metro 2033 has several sections that are designed to force you to be stealthy. That would be fine if the game included a functional sneaking system, but there really isn’t anything like that in the game. Because of that, these sections feel incredibly awkward, reminiscent of the bad sneaking section in Far Cry 3 and the abysmal stealth in Soldier of Fortune 2. Much like SoF2, I found it easier to forgo stealth and try to kill all enemies rather than sneaking past them, and while fighting so many enemies can be quite difficult, it’s definitely more fun than getting halfway through a level and then being spotted.
But why would being spotted be such a problem, you ask? Because, dear reader, Metro 2033 uses a checkpoint save system, so rather than giving you the freedom to save wherever you want, you’re forced to replay chunks of the game if you do something wrong. There are very few occasions where I’m willing to overlook checkpoint saves, and this is definitely not a smart implementation of them. In fact, I’d rate the checkpoint saves in 2033 among the worst I’ve ever experienced. Granted, not having the freedom to save willy-nilly and reload a save if something jumps out and kills you could potentially contribute to the “horror” element of the game, but to be completely honest, there’s nothing particularly scary about the game in the first place apart from a few cheap jump-scares. I’d have much preferred having the freedom to save anywhere.
Metro 2033 is 100% linear. Every so often you can go off in a random direction to find some extra ammo, but you’ll always be heading in the same direction as every other gamer. Because of that, you’ll find a ridiculous number of invinsible walls barring your progress when you try to explore. In fact, there are so many invisible walls that I began to feel like Artyom was an eight foot-tall sumo wrestler who couldn’t fit into even the widest of spaces. This impression wasn’t exactly dispelled by the game’s platforming, either; you’ll be forced to jump from ledge to ledge on several occasions throughout the game, and the invisible walls and first-person view ensures that this never ceases to be a chore. Just take a look at the video below and picture what actual platforming must be like. It’s not a pretty picture, and the platforming is even broken up toward the end by a bunch of “mash this button” QTEs that you have to succeed in order to not fall.
Lots of bugs
Metro 2033 is easily one of the buggiest games I’ve ever played. Even downloading it from Steam was a chore, requiring me to validate the files multiple times and restart my computer (to get rid of this error) before the game would actually start, and when it did finally start, it was windowed. This never went away, and the only workaround I found was to start the game, alt-tab out of the windowed game, then go back to the game, at which point it would finally be full-screen.
That would all be bearable if those were the only errors I encountered, but there were plenty of other weird examples of bugginess. For example, an enemy managed to shoot me through a solid object on at least one occasion. There were also several moments where scripted events failed to trigger, including one that failed to kill a huge number of enemies as was supposed to happen as a part of the scene (they then swarmed and killed me). My favorite bug, however, has to be this gem toward the end:
Pretty, but demanding
It was obvious throughout my playthrough that a lot of work was put into the visual side of things, because everything’s visually interesting and well-crafted. There’s not a lot of color, but this helps establish the cold, claustrophobic atmosphere of the game. Compliments aside, there are a few textures that aren’t quite up to snuff, and the amount of prettiness you get compared to how hard Metro 2033 works your PC (assuming you’re playing it on the PC) makes it seem like the game isn’t very well optimized, but there’s no denying that it’s a pretty game.
Horrible voice acting
The voice acting, on the other hand, is nowhere near the same level of quality as the graphics. Some of the voice actors at least do a believable job, but others butcher their lines so badly that it’s painful to listen to. No voice is worse than the main character’s, however; while Artyom doesn’t actually speak during the game, he recaps the things that happened during loading screens, and these voice overs sound decidedly amateurish. Even worse, having him speak during loading screens but refuse to say a word to other characters in-game (even when asked a simple question) makes the game feel unfinished on that front, even if they never intended for him to speak.
Not much music
There are a lot of sound effects that you’ll hear throughout Metro 2033, and these seem to take precedence over actual music. While you’ll occasionally hear some guitar as an NPC in a town is playing by a fire (and I think some music comes on during certain sections of the game), it’s not really anything too memorable. That being said, the absence of music throughout the game does lend a certain “dead” quality to the world that I think fits, so I can’t fault the game too much for this.
Here’s what you should do: