The demise of THQ created a diaspora in the industry. The ailing publisher dismantled itself in bankruptcy, selling off its parts to different bidders. Sega picked up Relic Entertainment, the makers of "Company of Heroes." Take-Two bought the WWE license, while Crytek paid for the rights to "Homefront."

Koch Media made the biggest splash, adding developer Volition to the fold. While the Illinois-based team is already generating massive hype with "Saints Row IV," fans shouldn't discount the company's other purchase -- "Metro: Last Light."

The sequel to the underrated "Metro 2033" continues the story of Artyom, a young Ranger living in post-apocalyptic Moscow. Based on the sci-fi novel by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, the game returns to the city's subway tunnels, where the remnants of humanity struggle to survive against radiation, mutants and each other.

Courtesy of Deep SilverIn "Metro Last Light," players once again take on the role of Artyon who once again has to explore the ruins of a Moscow
Courtesy of Deep Silver In "Metro Last Light," players once again take on the role of Artyon who once again has to explore the ruins of a Moscow ravaged by nuclear war. ( Courtesy of Deep Silver )

The follow-up takes place after Artyom bombs the Dark Ones, a race of evolved humans that live on the irradiated surface. Kahn, an old friend, tells him there's a survivor of the blast. Artyom's boss, Cmdr. Miller, sends him to finish the job. But his mission goes awry, and the protagonist ends up embroiled in a plot that could lead to a war that may destroy the underground society.

For the most part, "Metro: Last Light" stays true to its survival horror roots. The developer, 4A Games, streamlined the gameplay so it's less clumsy. Players still need to put on a gas mask when walking the Moscow ruins, but this time, Artyom has an easy-to-read digital watch that tells them when to change filters.


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The button layout is more familiar to veterans of "Call of Duty," and accessing tools like a battery charger and lamp is easier via a few button presses. These changes improve the experience and make the campaign more accessible to novices used to more conventional shooters.

Meanwhile, "Metro" veterans may find the changes off-putting until they realize the survival element still exists in the Ranger Mode. It brings the Russian mentality to the gameplay, where scavenging and rationing scarce resources such as bullets and weapons is important. It's what made the original so brilliant, capturing the knife's edge desperation of the world.

That same feeling is in "Last Light," but to a lesser degree. Stealth is still the most efficient path, but there doesn't seem to be that ethos encouraging players to judiciously use ammo.

When it comes to the story, "Last Light" has its share of twists and turns. The game does rely on deus ex machina too much to get Artyom out of trouble, but that can be forgiven when it gives players a chance to explore more of the fascinating "Metro" universe. It's basically a fantasy-type world set in a hard sci-fi reality that can be dangerously close to coming true.

Contact Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or gcacho@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read his blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei.

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last light'

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Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Rating: Mature