When Metro 2033 originally released back in 2010, it was something of a graphical showcase that really put the latest consoles and custom-built gaming PCs through the wringer. Rebuilt from the ground up in 2014 for this enhanced 'Redux' edition in order to bring its visuals and gameplay more in-line with its sequel, Metro: Last Light, it seems almost impossible that we're now looking at such a heavy-weight behemoth being ported successfully over to what is, essentially, a mobile platform.
And yet here we are. Not only has 4A Games managed to squeeze the entire experience onto Switch, but it has also done so with a port that sits right alongside another excellent survival horror title, Alien: Isolation, as the most impressive we've seen so far on the console. This is the full-fat Metro 2033 Redux experience, looking almost identical to the enhanced PS4/Xbox One versions of the game and running at a completely solid and stable 30fps in both docked and handheld modes. Pадоваться!
For the uninitiated, Metro 2033 is based on the 2002 novel of the same name by Dmitry Glukhovsky. It tells the story of the last remaining pockets of humanity struggling to survive in the aftermath of nuclear war; haunted survivors who eke out a rough existence deep in the subway tunnels beneath the irradiated ruins of Moscow. You assume the role of Artyom, an idealistic young ranger who's sent on a life or death journey through the guts of the Metro system – and a handful of sojourns to the frozen, skeletal remains of the city above – in order to seek help for his beleaguered home station, Exhibition. It's a journey that sees Artyom sneak, stab and shoot his way through mutant-infested tunnels, battle across irradiated city squares and take on post-apocalyptic Nazis on his way to save his home and find out the truth about The Dark Ones, mysterious visitors who've made their home on the ravaged earth above the Metro and with whom Artyom seems to share some sort of psychic bond.
Metro 2033's main strengths lie in how it manages to expertly combine slow-paced stealth and survival horror gameplay with moments of all-out action carnage whilst still making time to focus in on its compelling central narrative and – in its Redux incarnation – all of these elements have been polished to near perfection with a host of changes that get rid of a lot of the jank that existed in the original version of the game.
Here, Artyom's voyage benefits immensely from improved enemy AI and stealth mechanics that have been fine-tuned to fix the valid frustrations players had with the 2010 version of the game. Stealth works as it should now, weapons handle more smoothly and there are easy-to-use radial menus that streamline the once cumbersome selection of Artyom's various gadgets and guns. Visuals, too, have been completely overhauled with brand new character models, advanced lighting, dynamic weather, fancy particle effects and reworked levels, all of which means that the whole thing flows much more smoothly. Amazingly, all of this has made it over to the Switch version of the game intact and uncompromised.
The haunted tunnels of the Metro that you traverse are bursting with mutant and human enemies to take down or circumvent as you see fit, but there's so much more to think about on top of this. You'll need to constantly be aware of your surroundings, with tripwires, traps and irradiated sections both above and below ground that call for you to equip your trusty gas mask and constantly monitor how much time you've got left with your air filters.
Light plays a huge part, too, with Artyom's watch indicating whether or not he can currently be seen by his foes. You'll need to move slowly and cautiously through areas, extinguishing light sources to stay in the shadows and tactically removing enemy threats with silenced weapons or takedowns where possible; doing everything you can to attract as little attention as possible is the order of the day. There's also a massively satisfying sense of weight in how Artyom goes about his work, with detailed and believable animations conveying the effort of his every action, no matter how mundane it might be. This physicality does wonders in drawing you totally into the slow-burn tension of proceedings as you methodically creep your way towards your objectives.
indeed, it's from this slow and methodical gameplay that Metro 2033 derives most of its tension and it's only when the game forces loud action segments on you that the intoxicating spell is temporarily broken. There are a handful of occasions where you'll need to face off against waves of mutants, and these are easily the weakest parts of the game, highlighting a combat system that doesn't lend itself particularly well to full-on assault and enemy AI that does a much more convincing job of playing the unaware adversary being hunted from the shadows.
Aside from all the stealthing and sneaking, it's also the portrayal of life in these horror tunnels that Metro 2033 manages to pull off so well. As you journey from Exhibition to your final destination high above Moscow, you'll happen across pockets of humanity; desperate people living desperate lives, refusing to give up, holding on to a past and a way of life that has been nuked out of existence. It's often surprisingly stirring stuff, with families huddled together around campfires, ramshackle bars, bewildered and confused children... people trying their best to normalise their terrible situation. The ugly side of humanity is here, too; old conflicts and politics are still thriving, even in the face of final annihilation.
On top of the huge technical overhaul, Metro 2033 Redux also adds a new play style that gives players more choice in how they experience the game. Alongside the original's default survival style that sees every gas mask filter, every bit of ammo and equipment that you scrounge become invaluable, here you get a Spartan mode which apes the gameplay style of its much more action-oriented sequel. Weapons, ammo and basic survival kit are all found in plentiful supply, ensuring Artyom can bring the fight to both mutants and human enemies at a much faster and more mainstream FPS pace. For us, the original slow, stealthy, save-scumming style – where resource management and careful planning are the order of the day – shows off the gameplay mechanics at their best, but it's still great to have the choice here and the newer action-oriented style is certainly a gentler introduction to the world of Metro.
Once you've chosen either of these styles of play you then get to choose from four difficulty levels, from the base normal difficulty – which is no cakewalk – right up to the fabled 'Ranger' hardcore, which sees your entire HUD, UI and all hints and tips entirely disabled, leaving you to battle it out using your wits alone with hugely stripped-back resources at your disposal. It's the ultimate test; an absolutely brutal way to experience the horrors of the Metro but one that is worth having a go at for those amongst you who like a proper challenge.
In terms of this Switch port, as we mentioned, 4A has done a stellar job here. In both docked and portable modes this one plays at a flawless 30FPS with portable resolution topping out at 720p, while docked sees the game stick to 1080p for the majority of its running time. A quick reminder: this is a game that runs at 900p on a base Xbox One; it's nothing short of miraculous just how well it performs here. It looks strikingly similar to its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts and it's only on very close examination that you'll notice the expected texture and detail sacrifices that have been made to make this all possible.
In portable mode, the smaller screen also makes everything look beautifully crisp and clear with the inherent darkness of the game helping to hide the tricks and sleights of hand – such as some pretty heavy resolution scaling – that keep that framerate running so smoothly during your adventure. It may be running at half the framerate but, to be honest, the slow and heavy nature of the gameplay means that this really doesn't matter nearly much as it might do in a faster-paced FPS. Controls feel tight and responsive; we didn't notice any input delays or lag during our playthrough and those revamped weapons and gadget radial menus make selecting your guns, ammo, gas mask or night-vision goggles a breeze. This Switch version also brings HD rumble and motion aiming to the table, with the latter really helping out with those exacting long-range night-vision shots on pesky enemy snipers.
One area that hasn't fared quite so well, however, is the loading times. For the most part, levels do load up pretty quickly but there are occasions where we sat for a good long while (up to around a full minute) for some missions to start up. It's not ideal for sure, but it is tempered somewhat by the fact that once you're in a level, reloads upon death are almost instantaneous. Taking into account everything this port manages to bring to the table, we're pretty much willing to let this one factor slide.
Metro 2033 Redux is a top-class first-person shooter/survival horror game, a breathless experience that's been almost flawlessly ported to Switch by 4A Games. Artyom's desperate, haunting voyage through the irradiated remains of Moscow is every bit as engaging today as it was when it first released back in 2010, and this Redux version benefits massively from overhauled AI, gameplay mechanics and visuals. In terms of first-person shooters or survival horror games on Nintendo's console, this is one of the very best.