lowbrowculture

collects stories and ideas from John Kelly

Mechanics

Christ, Metro 2033 is annoying.

It’s annoying because it comes so close to being a genuinely good game. I mean, on paper, it’s exactly the kind of game I would love. All the things I like are there: monsters, guns, post-apocalyptic RussiaNo idea why, but a post-apocalyptic Russia always grabbed my interest more than a post-apocalyptic USA.. It’s based on an award-winning Russian science fiction story, so its story should be at least halfway decent, if previous experience with Russian science fiction stories are anything to go by. The game just lets itself down somehow. There’s something missing.

Okay, the game is missing a lot of things. Like actual, honest-to-goodness character development. And a facial modelling system that actually conveys emotion instead of looking like some first-year animation student tinkering with 3D Studio Max. Most importantly though, it’s missing a decent control mechanic. It’s no great surprise to say that games work best when there’s a 1:1 relationship between what you input on the controller and what happens in the game. In Metro 2033, there’s a noticeable lag between the two, so the whole game feels ‘off’. You get the vague sense of controlling a floaty gun wandering through a 3D space, but not much more than that.

A wonky control scheme by itself isn’t won’t kill a game. Plenty of games have managed to make their games work just fine regardless of how good their controls are. For example, Singularity - another game set in a (sorta) post-apocalyptic Russia - also has ‘floaty’ controls (another in a long list of things it copied wholesale from Bioshock). But, to its credit, it acknowledges this and works around this apparent limitation. It says “we understand our control scheme isn’t the greatest, so we won’t really ask too much of you except to shoot monsters.” It works well because of that.

The developers of Metro 2033, God bless them, tried hard to make their game more than just a straight shooter. Some levels include ‘stealth’ sections, where you have to sneak around guards/monsters and avoid traps that draw attention to your character. Except their controls don’t really allow you to accomplish this. Your character moves sluggishly, like the entire world is made of toffee. It’s hard to judge lateral distance, so you’ll inadvertently set off traps that you were trying to avoid. This is irritating at the best of times, but during the stealth sequences, it’s especially annoying. I got about halfway through the game before I hit one particular stealth sequence. I kept triggering traps despite doing everything I could to avoid them. It frustrated me so much, I turned off the game out of spite. I doubt I’ll go back to it again.

It’s a shame because, like I said, I enjoyed the idea of Metro 2033, the monsters, guns and post-apocalyptic Russia. It’s a shame when the game gets in the way of the game. It’s the superficial things that stop you from fully enjoying it. Imagine a horror writer decided his stories should be printed in a novelty ‘horror’ typeface.

Although it may be a cute novelty, it doesn’t enhance the story at all. It just frustrates the reader. It doesn’t matter how good the story is if the reader gives up halfway through because of some mechanical problem. It’s the same for games. How many games have you just given up on because you figured no story is worth battling with crappy mechanics?