Metro Redux impressions: bleak never looked so good

Late last month, I gave my impressions for Sony's The Last of Us Remastered, explaining how Naughty Dog was setting the standard for "revisions" of games that were popular over on the PlayStation 3. Indeed, that's a high bar to live up to, especially considering the dramatic power that game delivered in the first place. Still, if any game can keep up with Joel and Ellie, it's certainly Metro Redux, which delivers a compelling tale of its own. Better yet, two.

The Metro titles are the work of 4A Games, who first got its start with the underappreciated Metro 2033, released under the THQ label, before moving on to Deep Silver with the oft-delayed Metro: Last Light, which turned out to be worth the wait. Both of these titles, inspired by the Metro books by Dmitry Glukhovsky, have made their way inside Redux, and it's the ultimate package for those who have been with the series day one. For those who haven't, though, the welcome mat is certainly out for you as well, even if it is covered in radiation.

The games take place in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where a single survivor, Artyom, has his hands full. Along with haunting flashbacks that stop him at nearly every turn, Artyom has a lot to contend with, including fellow survivors fighting tooth and nail to survive, mutated creatures that hunger for human flesh, and even aliens that somehow play a strange but vital part in the story. As the shaken soldier, it's up to you to fight for survival.

What makes Metro Redux such a complete package is that you can play either 2033 or Last Light any way you see fit. Previously, 2033 was limited to merely surviving, as you conserved any ammunition you got your hands on while keeping your gear in tip-top shape to avoid succumbing to radiation. With Redux, 4A Games has tweaked the game with the inclusion of various modes to choose from, which also apply to the brilliant Last Light.

Spartan mode may be the best bet for those who prefer a more action-oriented affair. While this does take away some of the survival essence from each game, it makes them more exciting, as you blast your way through corridors and use a variety of weapons you'll snag and upgrade along the way. The shotguns are your best bet, but a good old assault rifle can do its own fair share as well. Stealth kills are also welcome in either game, as you can easily sneak up behind a soldier and plow a blade right into his neck.

Those who prefer the more traditional approach to Metro can stick with Survival mode, where the ammunition is limited and the enemies are a bit tougher. This is probably the experience that's best preferred with the tone of the game, as fighting your way through a post-apocalyptic Moscow should be anything but a cakewalk. Those who want it even tougher can turn on Ranger mode, which deactivates the heads-up display and makes each situation even more of a burden to get through. That's a good thing.

No matter what style of play you prefer, 4A Games has tweaked the controls so that they feel terrific. The run-and-gun action never loses a beat, and even if you prefer stealth, the responsive gameplay feels satisfactory, right down to nailing that perfect stealth kill.

In addition to tweaking the gameplay for both titles, 4A also remastered the visuals so that they run at 60 frames per second. This is whether you're outside running around in the bleak neighborhoods, or making your way through darkly lit corridors underground. The resolution shows a slight difference with the versions, between 1080p on PlayStation 4 and 900p on Xbox One, but, honestly, only the nitpickers are bound to notice the difference. Both games look magnificent across the board, with nary any bugs to get in the way, nor any lessening of the dark, harrowing worlds that Artyom must claw his way through.

Although Metro Redux doesn't introduce any new content for veteran players to discover--aside from DLC they might have missed, which is included in the package--the presentation and various mode styles are more than enough to keep you coming back. Both 2033 and Last Light have a great story to tell, and long-time fans and newcomers alike will find something to appreciate with Redux.

This piece is based on review copies provided by the publishers at Deep Silver. Metro Redux is available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. The game is rated M for mature.