Metro 2033 the game, is an impressive piece of art. The developers clearly decided to use the closed suffocating intoxicating and horizon-lost environment of the underground to make an immersive trustworthy game that was acclaimed by all critics. Some linear feelings close to monotony was the drawback of such a success.
However, like a good PowerPoint slideshow, the developers managed to not entirely fall in the “rail shooter trap”, and surprised us during all the game, by giving us the choice of showing compassion or the opposite. They resisted, even if the temptation was big for an AAA production.
Inspiration came from a novel written by Dmitry Glukhovsky, called also “Metro 2033”, and the whole game is paying homage to his imagination. So let’s jump on the bandwagon before “Metro: Last light” goes out and see what we got there. The video game is presenting us a universe where the clusters of remaining human civilization is pushed to their psychological and physical limits, obliging themselves to hide in the tunnels of the Metro to escape the radiations and the mutants (who are just presented like a symptom of radiation as usual). The stunning graphics help the player to appropriate the world, to understand its mystical and mysterious dimensions. Each time you play the game, you have the feeling of taking a glance at the small perceptible pieces of a rich, heavy universe. You know there’s probably more to explore or to see about Artyom’s universe. So this is the moment where you should read the novel “Metro 2033”. It is a rich, complex description of “Metro 2033”, made of talks, information or feelings. It feels like the missing encyclopedia that you didn’t have in the game, or ironically like a lengthened loading screen. Still, it’s a pleasure to follow once more Artyom in his quest, a quest that will shape his mind and the world around him. Like Ulysses and many adventurers, he left behind the ones he loved and cares for, and devoted himself entirely to his destiny of saving his metro station … and the world, or what is left of it.
You want to know more about the enemies, the political factions, humans or mutants? Read the book! You will also be surprised by all the mystical, spiritual rumors and almost religious feelings that are spreading across the metro’s people, like some kind of uncontrolled and irrational chemical reactions. For example, the big bad dudes of “Metro 2033” are seemingly gaining power from the humans’ fear, uncertainty and despair. They become suddenly like a kind of psychological metaphor for the inner corruption, or chaos, that breeds and hides in every human soul that has lost its usual marks (the city, the sky, the world, and the nature). The physical anomalies that you meet in the game are maybe just a trick of your corrupted mind after all…
The outer world has become the cemetery of those broken dreams; an anti-verse of Utopia driven by anarchy, ignorance, hate and suspicion towards other living creatures. Post-apocalyptic social Darwinism. You get that same feeling in the game, but you have the choice if you make a perfect walk-through to choose a better ending than the one in the game, deciding to spare your enemies, stop the war, and to start to understand the incomprehensible.
When I’ve read the book it was hard for me not to see the station as the body of the neurons, and the tunnels as the axioms of those same neurons (it’s like the arms that are linking two persons). Between them, fireworks are the synapses, the accidental chemistry that perpetuate this big metaphorical human brain.
The characters have different positions and roles in the books and in the game. I guess the developers didn’t want to bore people that have already read the book, or perhaps they just took characters that they wanted to develop more. Khan or Hunter is for example less present in person in the book. However, you will be happy to find some characters from the game, in different positions or situations. The main drawback of the book can be an overall boring experience if you only like action game with big guns. The action and the real proof of mystery are distilled parsimoniously, unlike the game. The atmosphere is generated by the talks and the short glance at the supernatural that stalks in Glukhovsky’s universe. The style is mature and emotionally complex, asking us to use our subjectivity in an objective manner. Which is a paradox, I know. Be ready for some length in description, and no real “big revelations” on the way if you already played the game.
So eventually, reading that book is a bit like unwinding the pulleys and the gears that are holding Metro’s universe consistent. It’s the “making-of” of the story of a universe. I can already tell you that it’s a good prequel for Metro Last Light, which I’m going to review with “Metro: 2034“.
Have a good read!