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(Deep Silver for Xbox One)
By Mike Delano
I love it when a developer has a clear vision, and that vision comes to glorious life on the screen. It's a beautiful thing, and something that is increasingly rare in today's world of tremendous outside pressure, whether from corporate (gotta have multiplayer, gotta have microtransactions, gotta have a second screen experience) or finicky gamers (it's too short, it's too derivative, it tricked me with temporal reprojection).
Developer 4A Games' gripping vision of a post-apocalyptic Russia (based on novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky) came to vivid life in 2010's Metro 2033 and 2013's Metro: Last Light. The games have been packaged together and updated with gorgeous new visuals and other tweaks in Metro Redux.
As you control capable survivor Artyom, you'll explore the vast underground Metro system, which acts as both a shelter for survivors and a battleground for humans vs. mutants and humans vs. other factions of humans. At times you'll don your gas mask and venture above ground, remaining mindful of terrifying winged beasts that stalk the skies as you trudge through the irradiated, desolate landscapes on desperate missions of survival.
The alternating above and below ground parts of the game keep it engaging, not only because of the changing scenery but because it swaps out one type of tension for another. In the Metro, it's dark and cramped, and monsters can surprise you, making you crave a shard of daylight. The confines of the tunnels are a more manageable battlefield than above ground, though, where the constant threat of an aerial attack, a mob of mutants or a sprawling manmade blockade brings its own flavor of nerve-shredding unease.
4A Games' singular focus on the singleplayer experience does wonders for the game. Your journey through this world isn't compromised by invasive business models or unnecessary modes. It's free to revel in the details, from wiping splattered blood off your gas mask visor to contemplating the nature of humanity in crisis. It also features a fascinating overarching narrative about The Dark Ones, mysterious supernatural creatures that may have appeared to save the human race, or destroy it.
Most importantly, both Metro titles and now Metro Redux doesn't seem to have a particular need to please everyone. These are dark, often bleak games, with an emphasis on mood rather than overblown setpieces, and relatable characters rather than fist-pumping caricatures. Rather than straining to incorporate passing trends, the developers have created their own thing and polished it to grimy perfection.