There’s a common misnomer that PC gaming has a crippling effect on your bank balance which requires consistent upgrades every 6-12 months. While this may have been true eons ago, the modern era is predominantly dominated by console ports which entail fairly low technical requirements to run games at maximum settings. This means that PC hardware is quite iterative with various GPUs being rebranded or slightly faster whilst reducing the overall power draw. The lack of graphically intensive games can be a major issue when benchmarking top tier GPUs but there are a few anomalies such as Crysis 3 and Metro Last Light. To be blunt, I am perplexed that the PC platform has received a remaster given the extraordinary detail throughout the original release. Metro Redux was designed to be a massive overhaul for console players who were accustomed to horrible screen tearing and a sub-720p resolution output at 30fps. Nevertheless, let’s see if the PC version has been improved in terms of graphical fidelity and optimization.
The aesthetic alterations to Metro 2033 and Metro Last light are incredibly subjective as the sombre, claustrophobic lighting system adopts a brighter hue. In my personal view, this negatively impacts on the atmospheric setting and detracts from the feeling of being isolated in a desolate world blighted by pain and suffering. The lighter areas make it much easier to spot enemies lurking in the darkness. However, other users could argue that this new tone accentuates the glorious models and improves the overall clarity through improved visibility.
Metro Redux has been comprehensively reengineered from the ground up and implements the 4A engine from Metro Last Light. The end result is a significant refinement in the terrain tessellation and texture quality. For example, wooden surfaces and tarmaced roads exhibit a greater level of visual wear and tear which makes the environment more believable. The overhaul isn’t perfect though as there are intermittent issues with volumetric lighting not permeating through transparent objects. Furthermore, this can make certain textures appear less impressive than in the original game.
These enhanced features and requirement to attain a stable framerate have come at the expense of advanced particle effects which were one of the the strongest assets throughout Metro 2033. I particularly enjoyed the murky clouds of fog and monsoons of snow which obscured my vision and created a tense ambience. Metro Redux’s distinct absence of particle effects is extremely noticeable during tight corridors which visually seem rather empty and lacking in detail. On the whole, this impairs the dynamic shadows and makes for a less immersive experience.
There has also been a number of tweaks which streamline the gameplay and offer contrasting playstyles. The Survival mode revolves around a stealth approach with restricted supply of ammo and mask filters. Resource management is key and you must use all your equipment sparingly. If this seems too daunting, you can select the Spartan option which contains plentiful supplies of ammunition and creates a more traditional shooter feel. This level of customizability in Metro Redux is an attractive selling point since Metro 2033 only featured a stealth playthrough.
There is further accessibility in the form of 4 very different difficulty settings. The Normal and Hardcore mode require a vigilant attitude and watchful eye over your resources. Things become perilous when you select the Ranger or Ranger Hardcore setting which disables the HUD, removes hints and increases the damage inflicted by enemy strikes and your own firepower. The heightened sense of danger adds a whole new dimension to the game as it takes on a more occult setting.
Metro 2033 was plagued by clunky animations which could be awkward to watch at times when interacting with various NPCs. The character models have been completely revamped and have a natural appearance. Their clothes are sharper and add some individualism to each person you encounter. I was enthralled by the new hand gestures and understated body movements which are less rigid than before. Strangely enough, the default expressions are quite cheerful and the depressed, solemn look has been dropped. I’m not sure why this has occurred, but it makes the theme seem absurd when people are not distraught and at odds with their own emotions.
Another major improvement comes from the cutscenes which now utilize a first person perspective. This new camera angle allows you to be more invested in the minor characters and care about their situation. As a result, the story leaves a lasting impression which is bound to resonate with you. Metro Last Light’s upgrade is subtle and difficult to distinguish from the previous incarnation. This is because it uses the latest 4A engine and employs the same volumetric lighting system. The developer acknowledged this fact and stated, “Metro: Last Light Redux, we will readily admit, does not represent as significant a change over the original.” The only revisions I noticed was the use of softer AA on side objects but this may have been the placebo effect at work.
The optimization of Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light was a polarizing issue as the game’s performance was either due to its graphical quality or poor coding depending on a person’s viewpoint. Whatever the case, Metro Redux allows for a stable, higher framerate than its predecessor with increased minimums which makes for a less jarring experience. I would theorize though that a large proportion of the improved framerate comes from reduced particle effects and not enhanced optimization.
I decided to use the benchmarking tool in each game and compare the results at 2560×1440 and 1920×1080 using an i7 4770K @4.6GHz, 16GB 2400Mhz RAM and AMD Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X OC Card (similar specs to a GTX 780 Ti when overclocked). My original methodology was to set everything on maximum including SSAA but turn off PhysX considering I was using an AMD GPU. However, the supersampling had such a monumental impact on performance that I decided it wasn’t a good judge of how the game should run for most users. For example, even with a top of the range PC, SSAA would cause the framerate to hit lows of 3-5 (2560×1440) and 6-9 at 1920×1080. These figures would have negatively impacted on the average framerate and given a less than accurate depiction. Then, I decided to run everything once again without SSAA and PhysX to see what framerate was possible with a top of the range graphics card.
The original Metro 2033 attained an average framerate of 29 fps at 2560×1440, and 53 fps using 1920×1080. In contrast to this, Metro Redux managed an impressive 38 fps at 2560×1440 and 59 fps when selecting a 1920×1080 resolution. For arguments sake, I also benchmarked Metro Last Light against the Redux version and there was virtually no difference. With my GPU, I was able to achieve 52 fps at 2560×1440 and 64 fps when using a 1920×1080 setting. So what do these figures show? Metro Redux has a noticeable improvement in performance but still needs a very capable GPU to get even close to 60 fps at near maximum settings.
The Metro games are mainly GPU bound so a heavy overclock on your CPU from 3.4GHz to 4.6GHz on an i7 or i5 haswell chip will only yield minimal results. In addition, faster RAM clocks will have a similar and less noticeable effect. When you create a game to push the limits of consumer’s hardware, it is vital to implement a detailed options menu. The settings within the previous incarnations was disappointing and almost bare bones in Metro Last Light with no FOV Slider, windowed mode or advanced settings outlining individual texture quality or SSAO. FXAA is covertly applied through the quality setting and cannot be turned off which can have an impact at 4k where AA isn’t necessary.
The Redux games haven’t been improved in this area whatsoever and the options menu is fairly sparse. You can change the Resolution, Global Quality, SSAA, Anisotropic Filtering, Motion Blur, Tessellation and apply a 60fps Vsync lock. While this may seem like a decent array of settings, I would find it difficult to balance the performance:visuals ratio on less expensive hardware. The main piece of advice would be to turn SSAA off as supersampling absolutely destroys your overall framerate. Another problem is the standard FOV which is set to an extremely narrow 73 degrees (horizontal). You can manually alter the FOV by following these steps:
1) Navigate to %LOCALAPPDATA%\4A Games\Metro 2033\\user.cfg
2) Open user.cfg
3) Locate line r_base_fov X and change X to your desired field of view value
Please note that the game uses the less common vertical FOV so 73 degrees horizontal = 50 vertical. Here is an excellent tool which coverts between the two formats – http://www.rjdown.co.uk/projects/bfbc2/fovcalculator.php
Here is the modification to enable a Windowed mode:
1) Navigate to %LOCALAPPDATA%\4A Games\Metro 2033\\user.cfg
2) Open user.cfg.
3) Locate line r_fullscreen on and change it to r_fullscreen off.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
It is refreshing to see two impeccable shooters which prioritize the single player experience given the amount of Multiplayer first-person-shooter games in recent years. However, the caveat is that this Redux version is quite open to interpretation and doesn’t massively alter the visuals. The revisions are based upon its aesthetic style rather than an improvement to the graphical fidelity and some consumers might consider this to be a move in the wrong direction. The package is definitely worth it if you haven’t played the games before, but veterans of the two games might feel let down. As a result, I would wait for a substantial discount if you fall under this demographic.