Metro: Last Light Redux sees the first-person survival horror adventures of post-apocalyptic Metro ranger Artyom continue in a sequel that seeks to up the ante in terms of big-budget bombast. There are lots of OTT on-rails sections here and even a couple of traditional boss battles thrown into the traditional Metro mix, but it's when it returns to the slow and methodical stealth gameplay introduced by its predecessor that this title finds most of its success.

The story here picks up exactly one year after the events of Metro 2033. Artyom is still struggling with the decisions he made in the first game and is given an opportunity to put things right when a single surviving Dark One is found by the mystic Khan. Khan believes this creature could be the key to survival for mankind while the Rangers, now fortified deep in the D6 complex you discovered in Metro 2033, are adamant that it must be destroyed at all costs. You're sent out to find and kill the last remaining Dark One but, of course, things get complicated pretty quickly.

For the most part, the rhythm of gameplay here will be instantly familiar to those who played Metro 2033, with Artyom spending the majority of his time making his way slowly through the game's trademark enemy-infested subway system with some brief trips above ground to the irradiated ruins of Russia's capital. Indeed, both Metro: Last Light and Metro 2033 play almost exactly the same in these updated Redux editions, with identical user interfaces, menus and the ability to choose whether to play in either survival or spartan modes.

Spartan – the more action-oriented play style that sees you blessed with much more in the way of ammo, health and gas mask filters – was the default way to experience Metro: Last Light on its initial release, but here you have the opportunity to run through the game in survival mode, which sees the more constrained, resource management style of the first game implemented. Personally, we're much bigger fans of playing these games in survival mode – even stepping the difficulty up to 'Ranger' for a more full-on experience that gets the most out of the intricate stealth and combat systems at work under the surface – but it's great to have choices to suit any type of playstyle you might prefer.

As we mentioned, Metro: Last Light goes big on action set pieces in comparison to the first game in the series, with mixed degrees of success. The combat system here is never really at its best when you're forced into ferocious gunfights; the whole thing works much better when it allows you the freedom to explore areas at your own pace, stealthily taking out your enemies and using your various gadgets and silenced guns to attract as little attention to yourself as possible. Fortunately, when this sequel does settle down into the series' signature stealth action, it absolutely trumps Metro 2033 with some delightfully large environments to fool around in, as well as one truly excellent section that calls to mind Half Life 2's free-wheeling vehicular levels as you get your hands on a busted-up car on rails and can choose to barrel along to the next settlement on the subway line or stop at a bunch of locations en-route to engage in some lone survival horror action.

In fact, this prolonged section may be a highlight in the entire Metro franchise; each little area that you stop at is a self-contained playground jam-packed full of enemies to dispatch. These are tough fights that really put you to the test and reward you with gas mask filters, ammo and new equipment that – provided you're playing in survival mode – will be absolutely vital to your continued success further on down the line. Thankfully, for as much as Metro: Last Light does throw a few cumbersome boss battles and tedious on-rails sections at you (we hate you, Big Momma) it still manages to contain plenty of these extended playgrounds for you to sink your teeth into.

Enemies have also had a nice overhaul here; humans remain the standout foe and you'll still find yourself facing off against the big shaggy mutants from the first game, but they definitely display some better AI this time around, waiting for their moment to attack rather than just appearing en masse and making a beeline straight into the business end of your gun. A new light-sensitive enemy is also introduced which can be forced off ledges using your torch or even flipped onto its back, revealing a soft underside for you to pump a couple of shotgun rounds into. Delightful stuff.

Light, of course, still plays a huge part in proceedings here, with Artyom constantly required to snuff out light sources in order to keep himself in the shadows, as indicated by the helpful blue beacon on his trusty wristwatch. The heft and physicality of Artyom's movements also continue to ground the entire experience, with detailed animations for everything from snuffing out an enemy to changing your gas mask, charging your torch batteries or climbing a ladder. All these little details combine to give the game a real sense of atmosphere, sucking you right into its world and creating a genuine sense of tension as you go about your murderous work.

Indeed, atmosphere is something this entry in the series continues to nail. Just like Metro 2033 before it, the world here is a beautifully realised creation packed full of mysterious, creature-filled tunnels and Metro stations that are home to rag-tag pockets of human survivors. You may be funnelled through populated areas as though you're on some bizarre amusement ride, with no real opportunity to deviate from the set path, but there's a ton of detail packed in as you go. You'll overhear tales of human misery and survival, see families huddled around fires, children being entertained by street performers and soldiers preparing themselves for whatever the Metro's haunted tunnels throw at them next. These games really do feel alive with detail – whether you're slowly creeping through mutant territory alone, inching your way across the frozen tundra topside, stealthily bypassing enemy checkpoints or shuffling through one of the populated station areas.

On the downside, Metro: Last Light may have a couple of naff on-rails sections here and there, and there are a few tawdry exchanges with the working girls of Venice Station which we're not sure should have made the cut. We're also not big fans of the boss battles it introduces, but overall, this is another excellent entry in the franchise that manages to nail that trademark mixture of stealth action, survival horror and engaging story that saw the original become something of a cult classic.

In terms of this Switch port, 4A Games has once again knocked it out of the park. Metro: Last Light is a better looking, bigger budget game than its predecessor, and yet it still runs at a flawless 30FPS in both docked and handheld modes. With the resolution set at 1080p and 720p respectively, this one really does look phenomenal whichever way you decide to play, but it's in handheld mode that it impresses the most. Playing Metro: Last Light in portable mode – curled up in some dark corner with a pair of headphones jammed in your ears – is a truly phenomenal way to experience this game's rich atmosphere and amazing audio; the smaller screen also hides any pixelated edges and blurry textures, so the whole thing looks remarkably sharp.

In fact, we were really hard-pressed to notice any major differences between this Switch port and the PS4 version of the game. Yes, there's the expected downgrading of textures here and there and some resolution scaling working away to keep that framerate running smoothly, but it's "blink and you'll miss it" stuff, for the most part completely hidden by the dark nature of the environments in which the game plays out. This Switch port also includes HD rumble and brilliantly-implemented motion aiming controls, which really do help out when you're trying to pull off some sneaky stealth long-shots in a room packed full of enemies.

If there's one area that did disappoint us in terms of this port, it's the loading times. Similar to the Switch version of Metro 2033, there are a handful of levels which can take around about a minute to load into; it's a little painful, but once you're in a level, reloading upon death is pretty much instantaneous – which certainly lessens the blow.

Conclusion

Metro: Last Light Redux is another strong entry in the Metro franchise that adds plenty of big-budget bombast to Artyom's adventures, but truly excels when it decides to stick to the more slow-moving, methodical stealth action of its predecessor. It may not quite hit the highs of Metro 2033 and is dragged down in places by some ill-advised boss battles and a few too many hands-off, on-rails moments, but overall, this is an excellent first-person survival title, presented in a fantastic port that's an absolute must-play for FPS and horror fans.