Metro 2033 EP5: You Could Climb Up

 By Shamus Oct 17, 2013 64 comments


Link (YouTube)

In this episode I mentioned one room where I died several times. Josh said he got cornered and killed in the same spot. I tried it again yesterday, but this time I was using the volt driver. I killed everything without taking damage.

And then I blundered into the radioactive canal and died. Damn it.

We compared the game to Alan Wake. While I agree it does probably throw more foes at you than it needs to, I think this game doesn’t become a chore like Wake did. The better atmosphere, more interesting weapons, stronger combat, and lack of stupid manuscript pages makes this a lot more bearable. Also, I like how the game doesn’t feel the need to grab your camera and aim it at incoming foes at the start of a fight.

I re-watched bits of Alan Wake recently, and I think we cut the game a lot of slack and put up with a lot of crap because it had interesting ideas.

The section where you fall down and have to take the long way around is really interesting. It’s exactly the sort of thing that usually annoys me: An arbitrary contrivance arises that forces you to take a convoluted route through monster city rather than spending a minute climbing something.

But here it works, because the game designer took the time to justify it. You’re at the bottom of a canal with outward sloping walls, so climbing would be fiddly and dangerous. Not impossible, of course, but it would be difficult. You’re over radioactive sludge, so you don’t have a lot of room for error. The game establishes that there are flying beasts around, so you wouldn’t want to spend several noisy minutes in the open, scrambling over cars, stacking up debris, or searching for handholds.

It’s also not too long. Ignoring the optional basement detour, it’s only a few extra minutes to take the long way. Far too many games get the ratio of obstacle-to-detour difficulty way out of alignment. To put it in terms that other games use: No, I wouldn’t try to MacGuyver my way past a locked wooden door to save myself from a couple of blocks worth of travel. But if the detour around the door takes you halfway across the city and through the enemy base? Yeah, the doors starts looking like a lame fig-leaf justification.

Also, it’s good to put the obstacle at the start of the journey rather than at the end. If I was already sick of an gameplay area and a bridge collapsed just before I reached the exit, then it would be a lot less welcome. But in this case we’ve just arrived and probably eager to explore on our own for a bit. The detour ends up justifying a route the player wants to take instead of denying one.

I always appreciate it when games spend the time to justify my goals, rather than forcing me to roleplay a shooting-obsessed dullard who can’t solve simple problems or climb over trivial obstacles.


202020426 comments.


  1. EBass says:

    Gonna repost this as prob won’t get discussion now new one is up as I posted it. Also first, (apparently saying this is compulsory in comments threads, wouldn’t know, never been first before).

    I’m surprised actually no one has commented on what I feel is the biggest failiure of communication to the player, which makes me feel like an idiot.

    Namely that the devs don’t really do anything to distinguish between “The Dark Ones” and “Mutated Monsters”. I mean early on in the game a scared dude says “The Dark Ones will kill us all, we must defeat this threat”, and then you are immediatly attackhed by Pig-Snout mutants. Surely I can’t be the only one who felt that “The Dark Ones” was a catch all term for the aggressive mutants you just want to rip out your entrails?

    • Trix2000 says:

      I dunno, I didn’t have much trouble catching the distinction past the first fight or so. If I recall correctly they mentioned the Dark Ones being in a league of their own compared to the normal beasties. Oh, and the first time a dark one shows up it’s preeeeetty different.

      I can see the potential for confusion, since they don’t elaborate on the differences much… but personally I didn’t have trouble.

      • EBass says:

        Yea the first time a dark one shows up its pretty distinctive, but there’s no ingame explanation that this weird looking creature is any different from all the other weird looking creatures you’ve been gunning down. I just figured it was a big baddie mutant of some description.

    • Josh says:

      Hunter also specifically states, after that first fight near the hospital, “No dark ones here. Just tunnel trash.” And then he and Alex have the argument over what the Dark Ones actually mean for humanity, which, for me at least, indicated the Dark Ones were a far bigger and more specific threat than a few mutated rats.

      But if you missed that from their conversation, I can see how you might get confused.

      • EBass says:

        Guess I’m gonna have to chalk it up to a brain fart on my account then, I last played the game more than a couple of years ago now, so I can’t remember what I did and did not hear. I’m the sort of player who tries to fastidiously pay attention to every story element, but maybe I was off searching for ammo the couple of times it’s mentioned.

        I guess basically my thought process went – Everyone banging on about Dark Ones being a threat. > The tunnel monsters things & Assorted mutants seem to be the things we’re fighting all the time and encroaching upon our settlements > The tunnel monsters are the Dark Ones

        I guess this was kind of reinforced insofar as you really really rarely see Dark Ones and see mutants all the time, so I figure if something is being labelled as the biggest threat it must be the stuff we’re fighting all the time and seems to be mindlessly aggressive.

  2. broken says:

    Wait, you can sneak around/up on the Nosalises??! I never figured that possible and went all shotgun on their ass and as a consequence got several swarms of them show up (I did stealthkill the one lookout before the kindergarden though, and that avoided the others from showing up).

    About the hallucination: I’m pretty sure that you don’t get a morality point (I call them exploration points) for taking off your gasmask, but from not shooting during the hallucination (shooting disrupts the mirage), and from not shooting at the Dark One that’s looking at you shortly after the mirage ends.

    • hborrgg says:

      In Last Light the nosalise levels generally jumped back and forth randomly between the usual “as long as you’re in the shade you are basically invisible” and scripted swarms of them you couldn’t do anything about.

      It actually became pretty easy to tell when they were coming because you visibility sensor would suddenly start staying on no matter how dark it got.

    • Corpital says:

      To be honest, I think it’s ridiculous how Josh was able to sneak past them in the house. They are unable to notice a guy breathing like Darth Vader shining a flashlight on them, turning it off and then walking away? Or do all the blind and deaf monsters get exiled to the overworld by the others?

  3. hborrgg says:

    The gas masks definitely felt like they had to compromise quite a bit for the sake of gameplay. They’d send me outside with some NPC and I’m thinking “Ok, I will literally be dead in 5 minutes! why are you just standing there talking? Let’s go! let’s go! let’s go!”

    • Henson says:

      This really killed me in the late game. My companions would be talking to me about some such thing and I wouldn’t hear a word, frantically searching dead bodies for a gas filter before I choked to death. This happened a lot.

    • It’s a long while since I was in the force, and I haven’t looked into the specs of gas masks since either. But that must be the lousiest gas mask filters ever (if they are unused). and if the player fins used filters, how does he know how much use is left?

      Finding masks or filters laying around in this world one would assume they are all used. After all, while they know how to make bullets and pre-war bullets are money, then pre-war filters would be like gold bars or diamonds now as nobody can make them.

      Also any filters or masks laying outside would be compromised, and it would be better not to use (or use a cloth instead) as you could end up with a lungfull of dust trying to breathe through a found mask.
      Unused masks and filters would be in a pre-war box or in some locked box by current people, and the mask filters would be either in the original boxes or plastic wrapper etc, poossibly with a tear off sticker/seal/rubber/plastic plug on the holes on them.

      So I have to agree with Rutskarn, this is just a halfassed mechanic they added that could have been way more interesting, like…

      What if the filters was really rare, and that while most areas (even outdoors) you do not need it, but a few places there are radioactive or other dangerous gasses, so you would need one of these rare filters to pass through or get items from that area. A filter would last some time, but a cracked/compromised mask would be really bad news too.

  4. Spammy V says:

    You know what the thing is, we’re going to talk about the Volt Driver in the comments all season and Josh is never going to use one. It’s going to become the reverse incinerator/gauss rifle. Gaussinerator.

    Also, I too think of Alan Wake more fondly that I did when I played it because I like the ideas so much.

    You know what’s funny? You did this level in one episode. I always remember this level as being huge and sprawling. Maybe it’s because I always took it slowly and looked for all the bodies. And always got turned around after you exit the first building and have to take a couple of minutes to figure out where to go. I seem to remember a lot of these levels being bigger and taking more time to play than they actually did.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Very much this on Alan Wake, whenever I talk about the game with someone I’m usually kinda surprised how good it sounds as a concept. And then I remember, and need to point out, how tedious the combat is… and how underused all the interesting themes were in the end.

    • guy says:

      To be fair, Josh seems to have a point. The guns he’s got now can put down the mutants pretty well, and the Volt Driver is inconvient to use.

  5. Eric says:

    If you hit the demon with a sticky grenade at that spot before Hunter’s stash, it starts to fly away then blows up. It’s pretty fun.

  6. Nytzschy says:

    Hey Shamus, have you ever played Hide?

    It’s a kind-of-sort-of survival horror game that is almost entirely about the anticipation of combat, but doesn’t actually have any in it. Although it takes minutes to play, it’s a lot more memorable than a lot of games that are ostensibly horror themed.

    • ET says:

      I tried playing this yesterday, but couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on.
      I get that I’m crawling around in a field, looking up at the sky/trees, but I don’t know what objects in the game I’m supposed to moving towards, away from, or anything.
      I just assumed that since the “run” feature is only from tapping W, that I was supposed to be moving in that direction.
      Eventually I ran into a tree that had some kind of billboard glued to it.
      I think it said I moved onto section 4? 2?
      I’ll try it again tonight, though! :)

  7. Wulfgar says:

    Comparing Metro to Alan Wake is little unjustified when you don’t have to shoot every enemy you see. You can stealth kill or sneak.

    • AJax says:

      Yeah, I mean I still haven’t played Alan Wake yet and probably never will due to the SW season, we’re five episodes into Metro and it already has way more variety in gameplay than Alan Wake ever had.

  8. DIN aDN says:

    *quiet cough*
    Er, actually, ‘bitch’ [I'm assuming the word he uses is "сука" in the Russian] is much less of a polite word than it is in English – I’ve heard people use it as an expletive in much the same way you would ‘crap’ or something stronger. The translation is accurate as far as most shades of meaning go, but it’s missing a bit of the bile.

    Substitute ‘SOBs’ or ‘nasty bastards’ for ‘bitches’ and you get something similar to that part of the meaning.

    That is assuming I still know Russian well enough to have got this right *fingers crossed* but yes.

    • Michael says:

      My recollection is that, pretty much across the board, profanity is a lot stronger in Russian. That said, profanity is basically the one part of any foreign language you can’t fake. It usually takes decades with a culture and language before you can really swear in it.

      • anaphysik says:

        But if you are able to fluently swear in Russian via mat, then for certain situations you can be *completely* fluent in Russian.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mat_%28Russian_profanity%29

        • Michael says:

          That’s not what I meant. Proper use of profanity is, as a rule, hideously contextual. Without a lot of experience with the language, you can’t fake it. Anyone who’s played Wolfenstein can swear at you in German (or at least they think they can), but what they can’t do is properly use it in a sentence.

          The best illustration I can think of is to look at the way “fuck” is used in the English language. Based on context it can be a noun, verb, or adjective. And, all I can say is, if you’re not a native speaker, good luck parsing out what it is at this moment. You can fake it. Just sprinkling it randomly into a sentence, but I think we’ve all seen those comedy sketches that key off incorrect use of profanity.

          • That reminds me of something humorous I heard on NPR once. The FCC was apparently having a big problem trying to police Spanish-speaking radio stations. They were running into words that might be innocent in, say, Mexican Spanish but meant something completely filthy in Puerto Rican Spanish. I believe the word for “cow” meant what it said on the tin in one dialect but was one of the larger insults one might direct at an enemy’s mother in another dialect.

            It just goes to show the rich fluidity of language and warmed the parts of me that had to live through the insanely awful (though sometimes unintentionally funny) FCC-dodging dubs of movies like Robocop and Die Hard 2 when they aired on network TV.

            • Michael says:

              Yeah, there’s also a fun issue where idiomatic translation can go really off the rails. In French “c’est la vie” is innocuous, but the English equivalent is “shit happens,” and a direct translation (“that’s life”) doesn’t carry quite the same connotation.

      • ET says:

        Good thing when my class had exchange students in high school, we spent most of the time trading swears’ definitions in English and Ukrainian.
        I think I still remember the words for pedophile and…that’s it actually.
        Підраз? *
        I guess that’s not technically a “swear”, but I can’t remember the other stuff, and I lost my notebook from that time. :P

        * OK, so according to the WIkipedia page on Russian Mat **, that’s more likely “faggot”, although the swears might be different enough in Ukrainian that I’m still wrong.
        ** Reading further, the root word is “pederasty” which is homosexual relations between an adult male and a child male, so I might still be right.

      • DIN aDN says:

        I don’t know about it being the one part of a foreign language you can’t fake, but yes, it is difficult to translate properly. All I wanted to say there was that the dude saying ‘Me, I call them bitches’ actually makes sense in Russian, and has to do with him reading them as something familiar and very negative, rather than something more distant and mysterious. [Or, at least, he is telling you that's how he views them]

  9. Thomas says:

    That playground moment is incredibly beautiful. That could be the centrepiece of an indie game all by itself.

    And I imagine so much time and effort must have gone into creating something that you only see for a handful of seconds
    ———————————
    This is going near territory people are probably bored of visiting, but as a personal thing, my desire to save spam is so strong, that whilst watching this video I feel a huge need for Josh to save, and then when I realise he can’t my tension levels go up

    • Syal says:

      …it took me three reads to realize that ‘save spam’ wasn’t about stocking up on in-game canned meat.

    • Pete says:

      I visit Twenty-sided infrequently, so I did not see the long series of posts about the Metro, and the first thing I saw was the Youtube still with the playground. I knew it was in Russia right away. It’s just that faithful to the iconic mass-produced design, and I did not happen across a similar one anywhere in the world.

  10. I don’t know where they got their gas-mask sounds, but I wear a gas-mask on a fairly regular basis, and mine doesn’t sound anything like that. I mean, it kind of sounds like he’s got some water in the filters or something. Either that or the wearer has a pretty bad cold. It’s that little “rattle” in the breathing that really sells it. Nasty.

    On the other hand, my gas mask doesn’t really sound like anything except for the diaphragms actuating, so I guess they had to do something to tell you “hey this gas-mask is damaged” with audio cues. Still, it sounds more like “terminal pneumonia” than “damaged gas-mask” to me.

    • guy says:

      I think the various horrible mutagenic radioactive gases and dust clog up the filters something fierce.

    • X2Eliah says:

      So because I don’t know much about gasmasks, I’ve got to ask – are these interchangeable filters in any way cleanable/reusable, or is it literally a ‘plug in once, use up, discard as useless’ type of thing? Because if it is the latter, and we’ve established how fast they run out in the game, then I have a bit of a difficulty believing that they wouldn’t be globally exhausted/gone in a matter of weeks.

      • Traiden says:

        There is no way to clean a gasmask filter, it is charcoal and a few other chemicals that are in those filters and unless you have a way to break the chemicals down you would be better off making a new filter. Making a new filter is way less resource intensive process, as it just mean making more charcoal.

        Granted I don’t know as much as an actual gasmask maker, that was the impression I got when I was taught how about my gasmask in the military.

      • Traiden says:

        There is no way to clean a gasmask filter, it is charcoal and a few other chemicals that are in those filters and unless you have a way to break the chemicals down you would be better off making a new filter. Making a new filter is way less resource intensive process, as it just mean making more charcoal.

        Granted I don’t know as much as an actual gasmask maker, that was the impression I got when I was taught how about my gasmask in the military.

        • Corpital says:

          These filters might, like some early WW1 era filters, be mostly composed of several layers of tissue to filter out dust of all kinds. Those *might* be washable.
          Maybe everyone in the unventilated, dank Metro full of mushrooms has asthma. Would at least explain why they need their gasmasks so badly, but don’t bother to cover up their bear skin while walking outside.

      • So, that’s a very interesting question as it turns out. Gas mask filters are designed to remove bad stuff from the air. They do this (generally) in one or both of two ways; Mechanical and/or chemical.

        Mechanical filtration is the “put a rag over your mouth” method. A wet bandanna actually works quite well, as the particles will “stick” to the water, but when it dries out those particles come un-stuck and get in your lungs anyhow. Nearly all gas mask filters incorporate some kind of particulate filter, basically a tightly folded filter paper like the one in your car, vacuum cleaner, air conditioner, etc. All mechanical filters can (in theory) be cleaned simply by forcing clean air “backward” through the filter. The manufacturer will tell you to not do this though, as most filter membranes need support, and are often supported only from one side. Cleaning the filter can break the seal, which allows particles to bypass the filter. But usually it’s fine, and anyway it’s better than nothing, so I expect the poor folks in Metro 2033 would “clean” their filters like this on a regular basis.

        The second method is chemical filtration, normally (as pointed out above) activated carbon, which tends to bind to anything remotely chemically active, which is usually the bad stuff you want to take out of the air you’re breathing. Activated carbon can be refreshed fairly easily by baking it, which drives the bad stuff back into the air. However, this process is cumbersome, and generally involves disassembling the filter, certainly more difficult than making new charcoal… unless you don’t have access to trees, or all the trees are impregnated with radioactive materials that you don’t want to breathe. Other types of chemical filter media is possible, but also more difficult to manufacture and refresh.

        Generally and broadly speaking, fallout hazards are particulate, not chemical, so I’d expect that the gas mask filters in Metro 2033 would be fairly re-usable. If the threat is anything remotely exotic that requires chemical filtration, the cartridges would be pretty difficult to refurbish. But of course, it’s a fictional world, so anything could be true!

    • hborrgg says:

      I once picked an old wwii soviet gas mask at a shop in Estonia and found it really hard to breathe. It was a full face rubber mask and i could feel the whole thing expanding and contacting like a balloon. The glass eye slots began to fog up and i started getting a little woozy, and then I discovered that the filter actually had a little rubber plug which I was supposed to remove first.

  11. A. Hieronymus Bosch says:

    Buying the silenced revolver was just a way to troll us, right?

    Because you keep walking into new areas and letting loose with the loudest weapon in the game on a single enemy, and then get swarmed by everything that heard it.

    @Chris, Try the game on Ranger Hardcore mode when you finish your current game. If you try to find everything (without knowing where it is in advance), you will be hurting for gas masks for the rest of the game.

    I actually feel like that mode is the way the game was intended to be from the start, and the other difficulty modes were compromises.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    There was this cool survival horror game where you dont get much shoot outs,because you usually have just a single bullet in your gun.But,you can use your gun to make enemies stand away from you,and then come up to them to machete them.Its a really fun mechanic,where fighting anything more than a single guy is really dangerous.

    And I again forgot its name,which is a shame.

    • Ryuko says:

      Sounds like you’re talking about I Am Alive. Couldn’t really get into that game but I was a big fan of the mechanics you’re talking about.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yes,thats the one.Its a cool little survival horror where all you are fighting is a bunch of scavenging humans(and a few wolves,I think),and your best weapon is to avoid fighting.

  13. Blov says:

    I’ve been playing a bit in advance of the SW season and I find this game really stressfully horrifying to play. After a chapter I just have to go make a coffee and watch a film. (With Amnesia, by contrast, I just got bored and stopped taking it seriously almost as soon as I started).

    To Chris’s point about scavenging – the game seems to give you a weird introduction to the ammo conservation that becomes really important. It starts you off with a couple of levels where you’re encouraged to blow through ammo, then gives you a mission where the enemies all have ammo and have an NPC to shoot things for you, so you don’t feel that pressured for it, and it’s just now that you’re coming to this -

    Which is the first time in the game you’re really alone and that ammo pressure starts to kick in a bit and consequently when starting fights starts to feel kind of wasteful and scavenging starts to feel like you’re stocking up against the uncertainty of the world. I mean, it’s not really kicked in yet, but this is the first bit of the game that sold me on the gameplay a little.

    Yeah, the shooting’s kind of meh. I’m not sure if it not being that much fun in a conventional sense makes the game more emotionally convincing to me. I think it probably does.

  14. weimer says:

    Aw, you missed both of the Dark Ones.

  15. RCN says:

    I’d vote for the next game to be Max Payne if for no other reason than being a game I can talk a lot about the setting… but you know what? You guys HAVE to try The Stanley Parable. Here’s the Demo.

    http://store.steampowered.com/app/221910/?snr=1_7_15__13

    It is a game where the entire gameplay is about game narrative and gameplay. At the very least I believe Chris might already have played it a couple of times.

    • Michael says:

      For some reason, the last episode was recommending me to a Dead Space 2 LP. I could certainly get behind Spoiler Warning doing one of the Dead Space games. They clock in at around 10 hours, the first two are both up on Steam, only 3 requires Origin. And it could be a solid look at the mainstream treatment of horror franchises. On top of it actually having some interesting elements in it’s setting.

    • Thomas says:

      I think they’ve all played it because I believe they’ve discussed it a few times in various situations (although naturally back when it was a mod and not standalone)

    • Michael says:

      I like how suggesting Dead Space for next season gets the moderation system to go haywire, but literally swearing in another post does nothing. *headdesk*

  16. anaphysik says:

    Aww, darn, “phsychic” got corrected to “psychic” in the credits. Naturally, I was secretly hoping that it would have something to do with Josh failing to pronounce my name.

  17. Grudgeal says:

    One thing I sort of like about this game and yet not (it’s a sort of conflict between setting/narrative and gameplay thing) is how horribly confusing and down-and-dirty the combat can get, like in that encounter Josh had halfway through. You can’t always tell if you hit or not, you waste ammo, you lose sight of your enemies… For me, that actually helped increase immersion into the setting’s tone of desperation rather than making me quit in disgust like confusing gameplay usually does.

    It’s almost even worse on the lower difficulty settings: Although you can take more damage, the game’s HUD still has no health bar and thus you don’t *know* just how much more. All the while, enemies soak up your all-too-precious ammunition like sponges without you having any indication that they’re hurt. Especially mutant fights get frantic: The difference between two swipes and five before death is significant, but that each of the eight mutants bearing down on you can take five shells instead of two is even moreso.

  18. Oh and Shamus (or someone) just need to make a game just to have an excuse for Rutskarn to do some voice acting for some sarcastic punizing character.

    Josh the millitary grunt with the tough guy smartass remarks that goofs up on occation.
    Shamus the techie that like to avoid fights and has a bleak look on the world.
    Rutskarn is “that guy”.
    Campster is the guy you just got dragged into it all by chance and turns out to be the most normal one (the one that the player can associate with?).

    Hmm! No wait. Brainstorm continuing….

    Now that I think about it. Maybe a simple (and very short) 2D classic point and click adventure game?

    Call it “Spoiler Warning” and the plot is to try and get a episode of a Spoiler Warning made, but obviously it all goes tits up and the player must help the gang to get it made. (you know classic Monkey Island / humour some dirty Larry “teen” humor thrown in and).
    And all the characters are voice by the cast obviously (and guest/cameos by Mumbles and a couple of others I sadly do not remember the name of right now).

    Just a quick hour/hour half game.

    Maybe the player character could be unvoiced and simply called “The Fan” ?

    I’m sure all would be able to contribute (besides their voice) like writing, and maybe some of the art (characters, backgrounds, signs/stuff etc).

    And then when it’s “done”, in addition to letting folks play it, Spoiler Warning will also play it in a one off episode… (ooh how meta)

  19. Venalitor says:

    All the wonders Kahn shows us and you can still bitch about the physics of big flying things. . .

    And didn’t that tihar in the safe room used to be a volt driver?

  20. Ooo! That demon that blocks the stairwell outside? I managed to land a sticky grenade on him. He took off, exploded midair, then gracefully fell to the ground. It was glorious.

    I keep forgetting that the stairs in the building off to the side are the level’s exit as well. >.<
    I've missed actually going down the stairs outside both times I've played through this section.

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