THQ may not have had much of a floor presence this year, but the publisher had plenty to show behind closed doors, including their 2012 shooter Metro: Last Light. To Ukrainian developer 4A Games, however, Last Light is more than just a shooter.
For 4A, the 2033 sequel is a means of combating "shooter fatigue," and they've taken full advantage of the Eastern European setting to craft their unique take on post-apocalyptic survival horror. That's right: survival horror.
The post-apocalyptic world certainly isn't a new concept, but Last Light isn't what you might consider conventionally "Western," in the vein of Fallout or RAGE. Instead of bandit or mercenary bands, players instead face down roving packs of mutant dogs and hungry flying "demons," all while fighting off the ghosts that haunt the Russian wasteland.
During our session with 4A, gameplay entailed a run from one haven to another. The environments are predominantly urban, comprised of crumbled structures and other environmental elements, like a downed (and haunted) passenger plane. Claustrophobic spaces -- practically a survival horror staple -- are abundant, as our explorers navigate old subway tunnels and decayed hallways. Lightning flashes cast eerie silhouettes on the wall, and a trip through the jetplane of skeletons yields quick hallucinations that reveal the unfortunates' final moments. It's all incredibly atmospheric.
Not all threats are so apparent though. Players need to periodically wipe their breathing masks clean (if it gets excessively dirty) of grime and blood, and all supplies must be treated as a precious commodity. The weather may also be your enemy, as dynamic weather effects turn nature against the player. Spend too long exploring, and you could very well find yourself stuck in a rain storm. Definitely not good times.
When speaking of Last Light's delay, which pushes the game all the way to 2013, 4A expressed surprising relief. For them, the push back means more time to improve the game and give it the polish that predecessor 2033 didn't have. Though the gameplay we were treated to seemed fairly solid already, the developers insisted we were seeing a pretty early build, so they've obviously got a lot more work ahead of them.
If a few extra months means a better (and scarier) game, I'm all for it. Hell, recalling those haunting sequences for this E3 piece was enough to make my skin crawl. Goodness knows the survival horror genre could use more lovin'.