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Comparing Player Motivation in the Metro Series

A discussion on the flexibility of play style given to players of the Metro games, as well as the superb level design of the Metro series.

Michael Palmateer, Blogger

December 16, 2018

6 Min Read

One of the most compelling features offered by many video games is the feeling of openness and freedom for a player to do whatever they please. As games become more intricate and complex, gamers are left with a plethora of ways to experience a game differently depending on their play style. It can also be entertaining to observe the different effects a certain play style can have on a game’s story, environment, and characters. Prime examples of such games are Metro: 2033 and Metro: Last Light, which both give gamers the choice to play however they see fit. This means that players of varying play styles and preferences can enjoy the Metro series without feeling like the game is forcing them to play a certain way or make certain decisions.

Taking place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, the Metro series can seem like an average first-person shooter on the surface. However, the series has much more to offer than meets the eye, with elements of survival, horror, and mystery tying in masterfully with the superb gameplay and narrative. The level design in both Metro titles is beautifully laid out, with each level of the game allowing players to make decisions by their own actions rather than through dialogue. This means that, in most cases, the player can choose to approach a situation in a variety of ways. For example, one level in Metro: 2033 takes place on the front lines of a battle between two of the game’s factions. Both factions are hostile to the playable character Artyom, and the objective is to cross from one side to the other. While this seems like a simple task, it can actually be completed in many different ways. For one, the player can choose to battle through every enemy with brute force, taking the most obvious path from one side to the other. However, even this can be done in a few ways. The player can become a ghost, killing every enemy while remaining unknown to the rest, or they could walk in guns blazing and have an all-out firefight with every enemy on the front lines.

On the other hand, the player can choose the path of least resistance to save ammunition, decrease risk to Artyom’s health, and avoid confrontation with enemies completely. Instead of battling through the front lines, the player can sneak below the bridge that the factions are fighting over and complete the level without killing a single person. Although this may seem like an easy way out, the path below the bridge is dangerous in a different way and presents its own challenges for different types of players. In this situation the player must carefully traverse narrow sections of pipe and metal beams, and eventually make their way safely to the ground underneath the bridge. Then, they must avoid tripwires and carefully manage their time spent in the lingering toxic gases to avoid running out of filters for Artyom’s gas mask. Eventually, the player makes their way back up and behind the enemy lines on the other side of the bridge where they can sneak to the end of the level, having never interacted with a single enemy.

Having such intricately designed levels in a game can be hugely beneficial to its replayability factor, since many players may feel encouraged to play through the games multiple times, making different decisions and utilizing a different play style to experience everything the games have to offer. This would appeal greatly to a completionist and explorer, since these types of players tend to get everything possible out of a game by finding all collectables, experiencing every Easter egg, earning every achievement, and exploring anything interesting in a game’s world.

Metro could also appeal to those looking for a stealth experience, as the game offers a plethora of silent weapons, allows the player to silently neutralize enemies, and builds levels around giving the player the option to avoid confrontation. On the other hand, this series could also appeal to players who enjoy a fast-paced first-person shooter experience, since hostile humans as well as the variety of monsters are challenging and engaging. Many unique enemies offer varying challenges and require different methods to combat. For example, one of the most challenging enemies in the game, called ‘librarians’ by those in the metro, can be killed by conventional means if one chooses take on the challenge of fighting one head on. They can kill Artyom with only one or two successful hits and take enormous amounts of damage without flinching. However, they only attack without being provoked if the player has their back turned, and players can avoid conflict with a librarian by keeping a distance and staring directly at it until it runs away. This means that this enemy can either be an incredibly difficult challenge to those looking for one or can be peacefully avoided for those who would rather steer clear of a fight.

The Metro series could also be enjoyed by those who primarily play survival games, as resource management is vital to survive in the unforgiving metro as well as on the surface. The games also give you the option to choose a more survival focused experience in the beginning, and harder difficulties mean that resources are increasingly scarce. Artyom must find and hoard resources including gas mask filters, health syringes, weapon ammunition, and premium military-grade ammunition. This military ammunition can be used as currency in the metro, as well as a more powerful ammunition type to use against stronger enemies, which means that if the player decides to use the currency as ammunition, they will literally be losing money with every bullet fired. Furthermore, Artyom’s gas mask cracks as he takes more damage and will eventually break with further damage if not swapped out for another one. To prevent this from happening, players must decide whether confrontation is worth the risk at times and must approach each situation cautiously when above the surface or in toxic areas underground. On the one hand, attacking an enemy may result in a broken gas mask and eventual death, however if killed silently, the player can switch out Artyom's damaged mask with that of the enemy. This is just one of the many situations where player choice is intertwined with survival elements throughout the Metro games. 

The Metro series benefits greatly from how much choice and flexibility it gives players to approach every situation. It opens the game to a wide audience of gamers, welcoming various play styles and themes to captivate any type of player. Furthermore, those who play through the game with a specific style may feel encouraged to replay the game in a different way, since the player is essentially experiencing new content that they may have missed by choosing to shoot down every enemy they could find in the first playthrough. The Metro series offer a truly unique and entertaining gameplay experience for any type of gamer by giving the player the choice to play however they like within a rather linear game, while also offering themes of survival, horror, stealth, mystery, narrative, and well-designed FPS mechanics.

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