PART ONE l TWO
Strolling into a swanky pub at Sydney’s famous Circular Quay is not the way I usually spend my Thursday nights. I’m much more of a stay at home with the wife and kids type bloke. So what could drag me off my comfortable couch and into to the car for a three hour drive? Well how does a special showing of four upcoming games from THQ and Capcom sound? The promise of hands on time with Darksiders 2 and Lost Planet 3 as well as demos for Company of Heroes 2 and Metro: Last Light was just too tempting to ignore, so it was with an overnight bag, a copy of the new Slash album for the car ride and an extra-large cappuccino I headed off to this fancy schmancy bar anticipating some gaming goodness.
Walking into the venue I was greeted by some lovely bar staff offering a beer, which naturally I accepted, and was shown to my seat. First on the agenda was the recently announced Company of Heroes 2. For those late to the game, the original Company of Heroes had you playing as the US forces during World War II in a RTS that concentrated on unit tactics rather than base building and resource management. The presentation indicated that the focus on small groups of units remains. What has changed is the faction you control. Gone are the ole “Stars and Stripes” and in their place is the Hammer and Sickle of the Soviet Union. The location has also been moved from the familiar Western Front to the largely unexplored Eastern Front. Gone are the trenches of Normandy and in its place are the frozen wastes of the USSR.
The discussion started with a humbling fact. “During WWII over one million Russians were killed on the Eastern Front.” It is a fact that I hadn’t considered previously. As my knowledge of the conflict had consisted mainly of the Western Front and the War in the Pacific, this new location was both intriguing and horrifying. The narrator went on to explain that Stalin had decreed that any Soviet soldier who retreated was to be put to death. This ‘all or nothing’ approach has led to core changes in Company of Heroes gameplay. There is no option to fall back, just a need to keep pushing forward. This fundamental change as well as a striking new graphical engine, a brand new line of sight system and some interesting new units, such as flamethrowers, convinced me that Company of Heroes 2 is not only keeping the strategic tradition alive but bringing something new and exciting to the table.
The second game shown to the already impressed audience was Metro: Last Light, the sequel to the very dark and moody Metro 2033. A showing of the short film Enter the Metro was an exciting way to start. A live action short depicting the events that lead to the Russian population living in the sewer and subway, it was both gripping and informative. It served to up my interest in the game considerably. I’m not usually a fan of these live action clips, but when they are done as well as this, it is hard not to get brought along for the ride.
Following this stunning introduction, we were treated to some equally impressive gameplay footage. It showed the protagonist traversing the post apocalyptic hell hole of mother Russia. Shockingly bleak surrounds, creepy audio and an almost palatable sense of tension shone through. I was taken with how this atmosphere was carried across to the gameplay. Having to manually charge a torch, wiping blood from a gas mask, managing an oxygen supply and investigating clues are all gameplay mechanics that serve to both increase the tension and add to the immersion. Rarely has a gameplay trailer conveyed such a sense of involvement, such a feeling of dread. I was immediately comparing Metro: Last Light to the likes of Half Life 2 and BioShock, games that rose above simple FPS gameplay to provide something more. I didn’t just play these games, I experienced them and Metro: Last Light is certainly shaping up to be just such an experience.
When I played the original Metro, I had some big issues. It was moody, bleak and atmospheric for sure but it had major problems on a gameplay level. A broken economy, subpar combat and a general lack of polish all soured my experience. The developers look to have taken all of this on board and from the vision I saw, all of these issues have been addressed. Metro: Last light is certainly one to keep an eye on for those of us looking for something more than ‘run and gun’ style first person shooters.
As this session concluded, the mass of video game press were encouraged to break off and grab some hands on time with both Darksiders 2 and Lost Planet 3.
PART ONE l TWO