Tag Archive: Deep Silver

People are always trying to combine things to make better and more interesting things: Peanut butter and chocolate; Batman with Superman—in comics, not in the movies; pineapple on pizza. Okay, the jury’s still out on that last one. In the case of Agents of Mayhem, though, all the best action of the 80s is being slammed together with the over-the-top humor and situations the Saints Row series was known for in a spin-off that takes place in the same universe. I recently got to go hands-on with Volition’s latest open-world foray, and it’s shaping up to be a love letter to everything great from GI Joe to Knight Rider.

In our demo, we got to play as nine of the 12 members of an elite super fighting force called Mayhem who, simply put, could care less about being heroes—the fact they’re saving the world from people even worse than them is a side bonus. They’re in it to win it for sure, but mostly just for themselves. It’s sort of like the enemy of enemy is my friend; they’re our friends just because they hate the really evil guys from a group called Legion a lot more than all of us. Each character fills a role on the team, offering up weapons and powers that make them great for different situations.


Hollywood, for example, is the team’s pretty boy who loves nothing more than, well, himself. He wields an assault rifle for great medium range damage, and can fire a grenade from his groin—don’t ask. Then there’s Hardtack, who immediately comes across as a more narcissistic Shipwreck from GI Joe. Hardtack is a shotgunner who can take a licking and keep on…errr…shotgunning. What’s great about Agents of Mayhem is that before most missions you take on, you can choose three of the 12 characters on the roster, then switching between them on the fly. Finding a balance is often the best strategy, but depending on your style, you can specialize and go heavy offense, defense, or the like.

The game takes place primarily in Seoul, South Korea. Exploring the open world to find collectibles and side missions is critical to leveling your characters, which leads to better skills and stronger survivability stats like higher defense or health. Even moving about the world provides options, as you can utilize your powers, every character’s built-in triple jump, commandeer a car from the world, or call in one of your nitrous-outfitted Mayhem cruisers (including some with Kitt-like robot voice) should you so choose to.


During our demo, we were able to check out five different missions. Two helped forward the story of the game as we took down high-ranking lieutenants inside Legion by blowing up basically everything in sight. Two other missions, meanwhile, were solo objectives that introduced us to new characters like Daisy, the roller derby girl with a Gatling gun and an alcohol problem (who ended up my favorite). Beating those solo missions unlocked new characters and gave us some critical backstory beats about the world and the team itself.

The last mission might’ve been the most interesting, because it was easily the most open-ended and tasked us with capturing a tower in the middle of Seoul. Capturing towers is great for experience, while also freeing areas of Seoul from Legion control. It’s a common video game activity at this point, but it definitely gave us a lot more reasons to explore the world. The mission also showed off some of the verticality of the game, as we had to climb several buildings to get to the capture point. It also highlighted the fast & frantic pace of combat, especially when swapping teammates as swarms of Legion soldiers attacked our position.


My time with Agents of Mayhem might’ve only been a small cross section of the variety of scenarios the game promises to throw players into, but it was enough to pique my interest for sure. Its cutscenes and interstitials look like they could’ve aired as part of a Saturday morning cartoon block—with more adult themes, mind you—while the action felt like a cross between what we’ve seen before in Saints Row and something like Crackdown. There’s not as much customization as some would expect from Volition, with each character having a limited number of skins for themselves, cars, and their weapons—but that’s because the cast fits more carefully into a story that pays homage in its own weird way to a bygone era. If you ever wanted to see what might happen if GI Joe took a turn for the adult, then maybe got spliced with Archer or something along those lines, Agents of Mayhem looks like it’s ready to deliver just that in the package of a fun, open-world action game.

Agents of Mayhem is dropping on August 15 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

Mighty isn’t the word I’d use…

You will be hard-pressed to find a more rabid Mega Man fan than me. For years now, my cries to Capcom for a new game in the series have fallen on deaf ears. When Mega Man co-creator Keiji Inafune decided to leave Capcom several years ago to start his own company, and it was announced that one of his first major projects was going to be a spiritual successor to the Blue Bomber, you can imagine the joy I felt. I clearly wasn’t alone, as the Kickstarter to back the project raked in just over four million dollars. Flash-forward nearly three years later, and after countless delays, finally, Mighty No. 9 is here. And—for both better and worse—I can tell you this isn’t your daddy’s Mega Man game.

Mighty No. 9 takes place in a future that could be a result of people watching too much Battlebots. Robots do their fair share for humanity in this time, but many have the primary purpose of simply fighting in the local arena for entertainment. The most powerful of these, known as Mighty Numbers, are the brainchild of one William White. When a mysterious virus causes all the robots—including the Mighty ones—to go haywire, humanity looks ready to succumb to their new metal masters. Dr. White has one trick up his sleeve, however: Beck, his newest Mighty Number. Beck’s power allows him to assimilate other robots, and has seemingly left him immune to the virus. It’s now up to Beck—with a little help from his robot sister Call—to save the other Mighty Numbers and find a cure for this virus.

I admit, when I first started playing Mighty No. 9, I fell into the easy trap of looking for reasons why this game either could or couldn’t suffice as an entry in a series that dominated my childhood. The truth of the matter is that while there are some striking similarities—from the aforementioned story to many of the gameplay elements I’m going to speak on—Mighty No. 9 is different from Mega Man, but that alone does not lift up or condemn this title.

As a throwback to a bygone era of pinpoint platforming accuracy being a necessity, Mighty No. 9 does an admirable job of trying to scratch that nostalgic itch. Once I got over expectations and accepted the game’s mechanics for what they were—using my blaster to weaken enemies and then assimilating them by dashing through them—I found the level and enemy design to be familiar, and a bit on the bland side, but still enjoyable.


Several new features also give the tried-and-true Mega Man formula a bit of a tune-up. All the characters in the game have voice acting, and while some are better than others (sometimes due to the writing falling flat), at the very least, Mighty No. 9 tries to offer more depth to the characters and world than Mega Man ever did. Some levels, like Call’s single stage and the lair of Mighty No. 8 (a robot named Countershade—think Search Man from Mega Man 8), try to branch out from the standard formula, giving you objectives to complete before proceeding deeper into the level.  There’s also a meta-strategy with assimilating certain enemies to give you boosts to attack, defense, and speed, and assimilating multiple enemies at once will give you score multipliers—offering surprising depth to what robots you destroy and when.

Speaking of scores, setting high scores at the end of each stage gives Mighty No. 9 a greater arcade feel than its inspiration. I used to challenge myself to speed runs of the old Mega Man games all the time, even completing Mega Man 6 in less than two hours once. Mighty No. 9 already promotes that with not needing to destroy every enemy outside of bosses, and offering up many shortcuts that take advantage of the dash mechanic. I am happy to report that my first playthrough of Mighty No. 9 only took three hours and thirteen minutes.

Unfortunately, Mighty No. 9 then begins to falter. Beating the game for the first time on Normal will then unlock harder difficulties, but it still felt easy, and Hard isn’t much better; only the Hyper and Maniac (one hit and you’re dead) difficulties really start to give your thumbs a workout. Sure, there are those insta-kill spike traps that will make every Mega Man fan grind their teeth, but Mighty No. 9 falls into a very modern trap of holding players’ hands at times when not playing those higher difficulties.

Abundant one-ups litter each level, special powers recharge on their own without items, and when you defeat a boss, the game even goes as far as to tell you what other boss is weak against that newly acquired weapon. I wouldn’t have guessed that Battalion (think Mega Man 10’s Commando Man) was weak against Cryosphere’s (Ice Man, Blizzard Man, or any other cold combatant from over the years) powers until the game offered that up to me, and once that cat is out of the bag, it’s really hard to forget. The only thing worse about the special powers is not assigning the trigger buttons to easily switch between them all on the fly like in later Mega Man games.


Mighty No. 9 also has a couple technical issues, the worst of which is the horrendous load times. Whether waiting for a reload after dying, switching in-between levels, going into or out of cutscenes, or even just opening the menu, Mighty No. 9 spends as much time loading as it does allowing you to play. Considering how long this game has been in development, and how much it actually should need to load, the amount of time players will spend waiting for something to happen is atrocious. We’re not talking Skyrim size worlds here, folks.

There are also challenge, co-op, and versus modes in the game, most of which are blamed for the game’s countless delays. Unsurprisingly, these modes feel mailed-in at best. Challenge mode offers up a variety of single-player time trials and target quotas that will test your skills in no way close to the way the main game does. Co-op allows a second player to join in and play as Call in a similar set of lackluster objectives and levels. And finally, there is Race Mode, where players can compete directly against a friend in the game’s levels for the same objectives. Not a bad idea, but I’d rather just be put in an arena against a buddy at that point along with a roster of the Mighty Numbers, and duke it out the old fashioned way. Besides, you’ve already got leaderboards for scores and times in the other modes, so Race Mode seems redundant.

Mighty No. 9 had some big metal shoes to fill, and nothing short of the hopes of an older gaming generation on its shoulders. Beck and company may still be in the shadow of the Blue Bomber after this first adventure, but although not perfect, this isn’t a bad start. Mighty No. 9 might be a little easy, a little short, and have side modes that are absolute wastes of time, but the core is solid, and there’s definite room for growth and improvement that will at least keep me from calling Capcom so often anymore.


Developer:  Comcept, Inti Creates • Publisher: Deep Silver • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 06.21.16
Mighty No. 9 has a strong gameplay core that isn’t better or worse than Mega Man—it’s just different. The further the game deviates from that core, however, the worse it becomes.
The Good It takes time to get used to the dash mechanic to defeat enemies, but once you do, you realize the game is really well designed around it.
The Bad Challenge, co-op, and versus modes are wastes of time; surprisingly long load times.
The Ugly All that mighty number family drama.
Mighty No. 9 is available on Xbox One, PS4, PC, Wii U, Xbox 360, and PS3, with 3DS and PS Vita versions coming later. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review copy was provided by Deep Silver for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Publisher Deep Silver announced today that Yager Development is no longer working on Dead Island 2.

“With Dead Island 2, Deep Silver has always been dedicated to delivering the sequel that Dead Island fans deserve. After careful consideration, today we announce the decision to part ways with development partner Yager. We will continue working towards bringing our vision of Dead Island 2 to life, and we will share further information at a later stage,” Deep Silver said in a statement through a spokesperson.

This comes as a shock to many since Yager had been working on the game for quite some time now. Red flags emerged, however, when it’s mid-2015 release was pushed all the way back into 2016 a couple of months ago.

Yager is best known most likely for developing 2012’s Spec Ops: The Line from 2K. They had taken over the Dead Island franchise from Techland, who developed the first Dead Island and Dead Island: Riptide, after Techland parted ways with Deep Silver to do Dying Light for Warner Bros.

The premise behind Dead Island 2 is that the epidemic that ravaged the fictional island of Banoi in the first game now hits the California coast. Players will be tasked with traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco while they try to survive the quarantine put in place by the US government.

There is no word yet as to who will replace Yager as the primary developer, or how this will affect Dead Island 2’s planned release for 2016.

Only McCarthy would disapprove


Three years ago, THQ released a first-person shooter called Metro 2033 to little fanfare. Based on a self-published book of the same name, the game found a niche among those looking for more than the standard military-shooter experience. Players embraced a rich, enthralling story—even if the gameplay itself was flawed and ultimately detracted from the experience.

Back in the present day, that cult status has given 2033’s sequel, Metro: Last Light, a groundswell of buzz. Looking to deliver an even more in-depth experience and to fix the technical problems of the past, developer 4A Games has overcome mid-process publisher problems to deliver a game that picks up on Artyom’s story two years after his initial adventure in post-apocalyptic Moscow. Yes, fans of the novels, I said “Artyom.” Instead of following the storyline of the books—which would carry us right into Metro 2034 and follow Artyom’s friend, Hunter, Metro series author Dmitry Glukhovsky penned an entirely original script that continues Artyom’s tale.

Since Metro 2033 featured multiple endings—one where Artyom destroyed the Dark Ones, (humanoid creatures with charcoal skin and telepathic abilities), and one where he spared them—Glukhovsky and 4A Games looked at gamer tendencies to see how they would proceed. An overwhelming majority of gamers chose to destroy the Dark Ones, so Last Light considers that ending the canonical one.

Artyom’s been plagued with nightmares since the end of the first game, even though many laud him as the hero who saved the Moscow Metro from the insidious Dark Ones. But Artyom knows the truth: He made a terrible mistake when he launched those missiles from the local TV tower. Redemption may be near for Artyom, though, as his good friend and adviser, Khan, says he’s spotted a young Dark One that survived the blast near the Botanical Gardens. If Artyom can save this child, he hopes that he can still save what’s left of his scarred soul. Unfortunately for him, the other factions within the Metro have plans for Artyom—and this young Dark One as well.

As one of those fans of the first Metro, I was blown away by how far Last Light has come compared to its predecessor. If you thought the narrative was intriguing before, now it’s downright intoxicating. The game’s pacing and levels are broken up like chapters of a book—a clear indication of Glukhovsky’s involvement—each introduced by Artyom’s narration, which allows for both simple character development as well as a streamlined setup for the action. And if you want more of Artyom’s inner voice brought to the forefront, the game includes 43 collectible journal entries that flesh out the longer sequences and Artyom’s thinking.

The story’s constantly moving forward, which helps the pacing and narrative tremendously. The game offers few optional missions, and the ones that are included are well hidden within the context of the happenings around you; this way, even if you miss them, you probably won’t realize it.

When you combine how the plot unfolds with the brilliantly designed world of the Metro, you have one of the most immersive, atmospheric experiences you’re likely to get on consoles. I wish some survival-horror games would take a page out of Metro: Last Light’s book when it comes to building tension and atmospheric presence; I couldn’t put my controller down, as I got sucked into Artyom’s sad existence. Yet I was still in awe and aware of Artyom’s insignificance compared to the sprawling mass of Metro tunnels or to the ruins of Moscow’s mightiest monuments on those rare sojourns to the surface, which only sucked me further down the rabbit hole.

The improved graphics definitely help here; many of the creatures, people, weapons, and locations have an intense amount of detail, often so minute that you can actually count how many expended shells are in your six-shooter or watch as the flame of a broken lantern slowly engulfs dried-up cardboard boxes or furniture.

Not all of the creatures are as frightening as the developers intended, however. The Demons and Watchmen from the first game look better than ever, but new monsters that lurk in the water—or are sequence-specific—look like they belong more on a Ray Harryhausen stop-motion stage than they do in a modern game.

The biggest improvement between the two Metro games, however, is clearly in the gameplay. Sure, you’ve still got your typical first-person shooter mechanics, but Last Light also sports an interesting weapon-customization feature. If you’d rather save your military-grade shells (returning as the game’s currency), you can actually make it through most of the game with very few weapon upgrades. I personally picked up only a few along the way and was fine throughout, modifying my pistol so it acted more like a sniper rifle, adding night vision to my assault rifle, and picking up a quad-barreled shotgun along the way that put most any monster down very quickly.

The idea of needing to survive is also still prevalent here. Much like in 2033, keeping an eye on your air supply when in toxic areas, charging your headlamp with a portable generator, and making sure the visor on your gasmask doesn’t crack all add extra tension to several scenarios, where facing off against giant spiders or a Communist patrol are unavoidable.

I realize I keep referring to Last Light as a first-person shooter—and although that’s technically true, that description makes the experience sound more action-oriented than it really is. Sure, you can go through the game guns-a-blazin’, but the true sense of playing in Artyom’s shoes comes when you must play stealthily: trying to time patrol patterns, shooting out ceiling lights with silenced weapons, and making sure dead bodies won’t alert guards. And this leads us into the next major improvement: enemy AI.

Foes will now actively search you out if they suspect you’re near, and they’ll go to great lengths to try to flank you or flush you out with grenades and other tactics. At several points, however, I took advantage of standard stealth strategies to fool the AI and easily overcome drastic numbers disadvantages, meaning that the AI has come far—but not far enough to put Last Light on par with more traditional stealth titles.

The game also makes it more difficult to be stealthy, because it lacks one simple mechanic: dragging away dead bodies. Oftentimes, it wasn’t that I made noise or missed an instant-kill headshot—it was the fact that a guard stumbled upon a corpse strewn across the floor. I’m not expecting Artyom to be like Agent 47 in Hitman, hiding bodies in every container known to man, and I get that his character’s a somewhat-naïve twentysomething, but just let me drag the bodies out of sight!

Despite these flaws—along with the occasional ragdoll-physics glitch and a convoluted user interface for selecting secondary weapons and items—I found Metro: Last Light to be one of the most complete experiences I’ve had from a game in quite some time. The story is all-consuming and made me lose sense of the world around me—and myself—as I poured hours into helping Artyom save the Metro.

Developer: 4A Games • Publisher: Deep Silver • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 05.14.13

If you love a great story and some fun first-person shooter action, Metro: Last Light is sure to please. Only a couple of minor shortcomings hold the experience back, including the much-improved—but still not completely polished—stealth gameplay.

The Good One of the most immersive, atmospheric games you’ll play this year.
The Bad AI and stealth have come a long way—but not far enough. 
The Ugly How much free advertising for Dmitry Glukhovsky’s books you’ll find.
Metro: Last Light is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

Dying to disappoint

The first Dead Island turned a lot of heads by blending open-world and RPG elements with survival horror. It lacked the polish to make a truly significant impact, but this solid core led many to believe that the inevitable follow-up would only improve on the strong foundation laid by the first game and deliver an experience that could be enjoyed by zombie slayers everywhere.

Man, were we ever wrong.

Dead Island: Riptide opens with the four heroes from the first game—along with terrorist hacker Charon and Yerema, patient zero of the Banoi outbreak—landing on a military ship in their commandeered helicopter. The soldiers on the ship immediately take everyone into custody, as a mysterious figure named Serpo wishes to experiment on the immune for undisclosed reasons. Yerema freaks when grabbed by the soldiers because of her bad experiences with male authority figures and bites one of her assailants, thus spreading the infection onto the ship.

Following a short cutscene where our heroes awaken from a drug-induced stupor and exchange pleasantries with new playable protagonist John Morgan, we take control of the characters for the first time and discover the ship has now gone to hell. After a brief tutorial segment, the carrier crashes onto the nearby island of Palanai, and a very familiar scene is laid out before us: a tropical haven torn asunder by the zombie outbreak.

And while this paradox of hell in paradise is still an interesting concept, the punch it had with the first game will be lost on returning players, as they’ve seen this before. In fact, as you continue to play through the game, you’ll realize in many instances how very few differences there are in terms of story pacing and location from the first Dead Island to Riptide. The result is usually a less than satisfying sense of déjà vu.

Even the things that were being hyped as major additions were simply meant to fool us into thinking there was something new to be found in Riptide. The “improved gunplay” we were promised has been instituted by removing most of the required gunplay from the game and putting an even stronger emphasis on your melee weapons. Using a boat to get from point A to B is available in only one section of the game—and ended up making for a more frustrating experience, as all that water consistently causes framerate drops and horrendous screen-tearing. At the least the themes of water and flooding are consistent throughout the game—even if you can avoid it in most areas.

And the new quest types we were promised? They’re there, but they’re every bit as much of a grind as the fetch quests that dominated the first game. There are still plenty of fetch quests here, too—so many that almost you almost want to willingly dive into the waiting, diseased maw of some flailing zombie just to end it all.

The first new objective type involves the relatively straightforward task of saving a survivor who’s stuck on high ground, surrounded by zombies below. The second type is the highly touted siege quests. The survivor quests were fun the first couple of times, but when you realize there are literally dozens of survivors scattered about the world—too stupid to help themselves or realize that the zombies can’t climb—a part of you wants to leave these pitiful NPCs to their fate. By contrast, the siege quests are actually a lot of fun and require some complex thinking and strategy, but given that they only occur a handful of times through the entire game, I can’t help but wonder why Techland stressed something so relatively insignificant.

And that’s the kicker, really. If you played the first Dead Island, it’s hard not to notice how little has changed between the games. Even the glitches from the first game have returned, imparting the sense that Riptide needed at least another six months of polishing before ever reaching the hands of consumers. There are the little things, like radios that magically and inexplicably rotate 90 degrees when you turn them on, and big things, like times when the audio drops out completely, breaks whatever quest you’re on, and forces you to quit out and restart from your last checkpoint. The zombie respawn timer is also far too fast. In many instances I would see zombies I just wiped out literally start respawning not 15 seconds later. Polygon by polygon, they would fade back into existence right in front of me, and I’d have to run or deal with them all over again. It’s always nice when a developer uses an in-house engine, as it usually gives them mastery over that which they are trying to create, but it comes off that the Chrome engine still can’t give the smooth experience most gamers demand from a game nowadays, especially one with so much hype.

And the shortcomings aren’t just technical. The story this time around has even more plot holes, and does nothing to further develop any of the characters. Not to mention that Charon and Yerema—two of the most important characters from the first Dead Island—completely disappear once you leave the ship from the game’s opening cinematic/tutorial mission. Characters don’t ask about them, collectibles don’t explain their absence (if you can even look past the all the typos in the various collectibles’ scripts), and when you meet the bad guys again later in the game, it never comes up that two people you arrived with are just gone. Their existence is ignored in order to help further a plot that maddeningly undoes much of the first game’s. All this leads up to one of the most pitiful and poorly developed end bosses I’ve seen in a while, one that pales in comparison to the Ryder White fight from the end of Dead Island.

As much as I may be bashing Riptide, though, some of the good from the first game was able to make it over into this sequel, and there are a couple of nice new features as well. Being able to import your original character is a great touch; it was nice playing with Sam B and already having my skill trees largely filled out. Since the level cap has been raised to 70, you’re also able to further flesh your imported character, as well as try out new abilities, like the Charge maneuver. If Riptide is your first experience with the Dead Island franchise, however, there’s nothing to fear. You’ll automatically start at level 15 with a new character, so you can fill out your tree a decent amount and jump right into co-op without having to worry about other players having to carry you.

The co-op is also a critical returning feature, as many of the missions have been specifically tailored to take advantage of group play—specifically those where you have to carry weapons or supplies to a vehicle while other players cover your rear. The addictive nature of bashing zombies in the face with some trusted cohorts, especially with the weird assortment of weapons you can craft at benches, is as enjoyable as ever in Riptide.

Also, the new enemy types, like the Wrestler, the Butcher, and the Screamer—along with the addition of 13 boss zombies scattered throughout the world—provide some nice monster variety that was noticeably absent from the first game. If as much effort was put into the rest of the game as was put into creating the new zombie monstrosities, I suspect my review would have a dramatically different tone.

Still, as much as I hated the glitches and lack of story development, there were times I couldn’t put Riptide down for hours upon hours. The sheer fun of the co-op zombie-slaughtering gameplay was strong enough to carry the burden. The fact that the rest of the game can’t live up to this promising foundation is nothing short of heartbreaking. It’s a reboot of a game that only came out two years ago. It’s a nightmarish expansion pack with only a handful of new gameplay elements and two new bugs for every one that’s been fixed. If this is your first experience with the franchise, then you might be able to look past some of the more glaring flaws, but if you played the first Dead Island, Riptide is a difficult game to recommend.

Developer: Techland • Publisher: Deep Silver • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 04.23.13
Newcomers to the franchise will likely be more forgiving of many flaws, much like many of us were with the first Dead Island, considering the fun zombie-bashing core and unique dichotomy of an apocalypse in paradise has remained intact. Veterans of the first Dead Island, on the other hand, will feel cheated, as they’ll recognize the cheap carbon copy that Riptide actually is. Combine this with glitches galore and a plot with more holes in it than the sinking ship the game starts off on, and it’s hard to recommend Riptide to all but the most naïve of zombie enthusiasts.
The Good Enjoyable zombie hacking and co-op remains intact.
The Bad Frequent screen-tearing and quest-breaking glitches; tons of plot holes.
The Ugly The fact that I’d actually hoped this would be better than the first game.
Dead Island: Riptide is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

The Mushroom Cloud Kingdom

Editor’s Note: This preview will reference events in Metro 2033 and might spoil some things for those who have yet to play it. Consider yourselves warned. 

It may not have been the prettiest game, and the AI was definitely flawed, but Metro 2033 was able to immerse gamers in ways other properties only dream of. Because of that, it earned a special place in the hearts of those who played it. In fact, it was difficult not to get sucked in to the hardship of everyday life that our hero Artyom had to go through, feeling like you were indeed living in Moscow’s Metro system after a nuclear holocaust.

You had to keep track of the air in your gasmask filter, scavenge for military grade bullets to use as currency, and use nothing but an old-school compass to navigate the world around you. And then, as many of these stories go, you became caught up in events much larger than yourself.

These events led to one of two endings in Metro 2033. The good ending saw you save the Dark Ones, strange creatures who were desperately trying to communicate with human kind and accidentally harming them in the process, and helping them learn how best to help us. The bad ending, which was much more common for most players, is also the canonical ending that Dmitry Glukhovsky penned in the book the game was based off of. In that ending, Artyom destroyed the Dark Ones, only realizing his blunder when it was too late, and then returning to the Metro, guilt-ridden and dejected.

After Metro 2033, Glukhovsky wrote a sequel titled, appropriately enough, Metro 2034 that took place one year after Artyom’s failure. But instead of having 4A Games craft a game directly around that novel, Glukhovsky wrote a new story, original to the video games, that follows Artyom down a different path. And thus, we have Metro: Last Light, which we were able to finally go hands-on with recently.

Still picking up a year after the events of the first game, Artyom, who was a bit green behind the ears before his encounter with the Dark Ones, has become a grizzled veteran Ranger of the Metro under the careful guidance of Miller, of the Spartan Order, since last we saw him. While going about his daily business, Artyom is confronted by one of his other mentors, Khan, who reveals to Artyom that a young Dark One survived despite his misguided efforts and was seen fending for itself amongst the shattered nest the creatures had once lived in.

Since many still perceive the Dark Ones as threats and that Artyom did the right thing, he is ordered by his superiors to destroy the creature, even if Artyom may have his doubts. Things have a habit of going sideways whenever you venture to the decimated surface, far away from the Metro, though. So, soon after beginning his search for the creature, Artyom runs across members of the Fourth Reich and things just get worse from there.

With the Metro series being so story driven, I really can’t go any further into the rest of the tale I saw unfold before me, but let me tell you, that if you’re a fan of the first Metro’s story, this looks to be shaping up to be even better.

I can talk a bit more about the game play, however. A lot of the great survival features from the first game are coming back. You still have to monitor your air when you go to the surface, ammo is scarce, and you still have to charge your headlamp manually. The entire idea of having to really struggle to survive is still perfectly in tact as you wrestle with situations like only having one clip left in your assault rifle, yet there is a room full of Nazis ahead of you and who are ready to turn their fully loaded rifles on you if you step into the light or make too much noise. Do you run or fight? And if you do fight, do you go the stealth route with your knife or go all out hoping to find extra ammo on dead bodies?

There are some critical differences to these situations as compared to the first game, though. 4A has crafted their own in house engine and have really keyed in on enemy AI with it. Should you alert one foe, the “hive mind” AI where the entire room would be aware from the first Metro is gone. Mind you, if you make too much noise you might alert the entire room anyway, but it makes sense now. Or if you’re too slow to take out the one enemy whose attention you’ve drawn, he will go get his trigger-happy buddies.

But should you choose to not fight and run away, or duck into air ducts or sewer grates and try to hide, the AI won’t stop looking for you after they’ve spotted you. You can’t trick the AI as easily in that regard. Like rabid dogs, if the AI knows there is an enemy nearby, they will continue to think their enemy is there, somewhere, until they get an all-clear from someone who has actually shot you, or you clear them all out first.  Or you keep moving away from where they are and hope they don’t follow, which sometimes they will!

And that is something else the AI impressed me with, even of the new mutant animals you’ll face: it is completely random. No situation will play out the same way twice. Paths enemies will walk around in a room, where monsters will or won’t spring up from, even who will attack whom when different species of monsters or conflicting human groups come across each other. You might be able to sneak by a firefight between the Reds and the Fourth Reich, or a shrimp monster (think of the prawn mutated to the size of a person) sparring with a dragon while on the surface looking for supplies.

The AI isn’t the only thing that is benefiting from this 4A engine, however. The graphics have been drastically improved, especially in terms of lighting effects. You can shoot a lantern and it will start a slow burning fire if it was set amongst dry boxes or kindling. Lighting is also a more critical factor in order for you to take the stealthier route through combat situations, as darkness is your greatest ally when you’re alone in the Metro.

In real life though, I hadn’t been alone and just as my hands started to work a groove into the controller from gripping it so tightly, it was time for me to relinquish it as my time with Metro: Last Light was up. When I was done with my slice of this post-apocalyptic first-person shooter, I was mighty impressed with how far the franchise had come technically in terms of game play, and I couldn’t help but immediately be sucked into the new, original story. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for May to go even deeper into the Metro.