Metro 2033 Hands-On Preview
Metro 2033 box art
System: X360, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: 4A Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: THQ 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: March 16, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
More Bullets, Please
by Adam Brown

February 4, 2010 - It would seem that post-apocalyptic settings are all the rage amongst video games nowadays. Whether caused by zombie outbreaks, alien invasions, killer robots, or nuclear bombs, developers are getting more and more mileage out of putting players in the middle of a shattered and destroyed Earth. While Metro 2033's ravaged planet was caused by the latter, it would be a mistake to liken it to a game like Fallout 3 or films such as Mad Max. Instead, from what we had a chance to play at a recent event held by THQ, it might be far more accurate to compare it to the likes of Resident Evil and 12 Monkeys.

Metro 2033 screenshot

The story and backdrop for Metro 2033 come from a book by the same name, written by Russian Adam Brown Dmitry Glukhovsky. As one of the fastest selling books in Russian history, turning it into a video game seems like a logical progression for the property. The events of the game are set in the Moscow subway system, which was not only built to withstand a nuclear blast, but also to function as a safe haven for anyone lucky enough to survive a nuclear holocaust. Decades after the blast, this is where the few remaining survivors cling to their lives and humanity, but it's certainly not without opposition.

Playing as Artyom, death awaits you around every corner in this subterranean sanctuary. Whether it comes in the form of other survivors living in different parts of the tunnels who have set up their own definitions of how to treat "intruders" or from horribly mutated creatures, danger is always present. There are even mysterious creatures known as Dark Ones that will use some sort of psychic attacks against survivors, which can make them fall unconscious and slowly waste away. Luckily, for reasons unknown in the early stages of the game we were allowed to play, Artyom seems immune to these attacks, making him a handy man to have around in the depths of Moscow.


One of the early encounters with these Dark Ones was definitely a highlight of our play time with Metro 2033. Artyom and three other survivors set off for another part of the subway using an old push cart to help speed up the traveling process. Shortly after leaving, all four of you are seemingly attacked by the Dark Ones, causing you all to pass out. Waking up a short time later, Artyom quickly tries to wake the others but is only able to successfully revive the man to his right. At the sight of mutated creatures careening down the tunnels after the pair, Artyom's right hand man begins frantically accelerating the push cart and it's up to him to keep the creatures off of them until they make it to safety. This was a very intense segment in the game; shooting at mutant beasts coming at you from every angle while hoping that you have enough ammo to make it to your destination was powerful.

Unfortunately, this also brings me to a major concern that I had with the game during my limited play time, which is also why I'm more likely to compare it to Resident Evil rather than Fallout 3. The extremely limited amount of ammunition in this game makes it feel significantly more like a survival horror title than a first-person shooter. You're able to carry several firearms with you at any given time, but no matter which ones I had, I always seemed to be out of bullets. Sure, you may find some bullets here and there by exploring, as well as a few on most defeated human enemies, but taking down foes in the numbers in which they come at you will quickly deplete your supply. This leaves you using whatever gun you happen to have bullets for, or more often than not, swinging away with your knife because you have absolutely no ammo left. As you might imagine, your knife is also an extremely underpowered weapon, meaning that your last resort is most likely that, since you will usually get killed very quickly once your bullets run dry.

Metro 2033 screenshot

Another aspect that somewhat compounds this bullet shortage problem is that bullets are also your currency in the game. Any bullets made after the bombs dropped will be dingy and of poor craftsmanship, making them somewhat less powerful and accurate. However, pre-nuclear bullets are shiny and more formidable but are also what you'll need in order to purchase weapons, weapon upgrades, and more post-bomb ammunition. Having better weapons or swapping one shiny bullet for three or four dingy ones certainly can help you in the fight to stay alive. But in order to survive you'll frequently find yourself firing what is essentially your cash at foes because it is your only hope of making it out of combat alive since you are already out of every other type of ammunition. This usually leaves you with empty pockets when it comes time to actually buy some better weapons or larger quantities of post-bomb bullets. Of course, I'm hoping that this may just be a slight balancing issue that can be easily addressed before the game's March release because I quite enjoyed the rest of my experience with the title.

On top of all the time Artyom will spend skulking through Moscow's subway station, he'll also be called upon to explore the long-devastated topside of the city. Going above ground is one of the only ways for survivors to find pre-bomb goods such as better weaponry and ammunition, making it a very important, yet very dangerous, part of life. In these segments Artyom will need to wear a gasmask in order to protect himself from the poisonous gasses left behind by the nuclear holocaust. This adds an interesting element to exploration, trying to check things out thoroughly, but also quickly so that you won't run out of filters, which are basically the only things keeping you breathing. Your gas mask can even get shattered if you take enough damage from foes, so sneaking around and staying clear of as many enemies as possible when topside is also quite vital. However, if your gasmask does happen to break, you'll still have a few seconds in which to run around wildly looking for another mask before finally gasping your last breath.

Metro 2033 screenshot

Metro 2033 certainly has a world that I'll be quite eager to fully explore once it is released in March. From walking the dark and claustrophobic tunnels of the Moscow subway to surveying the aftermath left behind on the surface, it was quite easy to get sucked into the game's surroundings and story, even early on. Hopefully, 4-A Games will pour a few extra dump trucks full of bullets into the game before it ships, but we'll have to wait until we get our hands on a finished copy to find out for sure. Either way, Metro 2033 looks like it'll definitely be worth checking out come this March.

By Adam Brown
CCC Staff Contributor

Game Features:

  • Brave the darkness of the tunnels, where mutants hunt their prey and ghostly spirits lurk.
  • Explore the desolate city-surface, trusting your gas mask and rifle to protect you from a poisoned world and the creatures that roam there.
  • Steel your nerve and prepare to face the terrors that await.

  • Screenshots / Images
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