Moscow may be a radioactive, mutant-filled necropolis, but stoic survivors still drink in bars far under the surface in the metro’s ruined system

the first-person shooter (FPS) genre remains one of gaming’s most popular sections – and the easiest for non-gamers to take critical potshots at (pun intended) – with many additions seeming to be just more of the same.

Gamers know the over-familiar drill by now: typically, some angry, scruffy guy (often a Cockney) will tell you to go somewhere, shoot other angry, scruffy guys (often Middle Eastern/Russian), and thus save the world, America, capitalism, the president, the queen, a kitten – whatever. Bang. Bang. Yawn.

So, given the legions of near-identical shooters popping up lately, it’s increasingly hard for a FPS to really hit the mark, and stand out.

Step forward Metro: Last Light (M:LL), the multi-platform sequel, out this Friday, to 2010’s Metro 2033; a generally well-received game that had numerous bugs and flaws, as well as broken AI in parts, yet which was liked for the strength of its characters and story.

Long story short: in M:LL, it’s the near future, a generation after World War III broke out, raining nuclear death down upon the whole world.

In the radioactive ruins of Moscow, her survivors eke out a living in the vast, labyrinthine remains of the city’s world-famous Metro system, with its different stops now acting as independent communities – as well as representing a wide range of political outlooks, from Nazism to Fascism, Capitalism to, naturally, Communism, and more.

Given the scarcity of dwindling resources, and the wildly different political ideologies at the stops – not to mention the also present threat from dangerous mutants above and below the surface, caused by decades of radiation – conflict is inevitable, with civil war at hand.

However, there’s more than just the issue of hard-pressed survivors looking to outgun each other to deal with as, of course, there’s a much bigger problem for you to deal with, thanks to a powerful doomsday device that’s at stake. I guess one Doomsday already wasn’t enough for some of the Muscovites …

What makes M:LL stand out is its pretty singular vision, and strength of storyline (see panel, left). While apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic games are two-a-penny, few titles manage to create a memorable setting, or to make gamers think beyond the game.

This is a particular problem for FPS titles – sure, the Call of Duty series, for just one example, get acres of press coverage and sell shedloads of copies, but nobody really notices their stories, or recalls their individuality, after the bombastic set pieces have passed.

However, M:LL builds upon the strengths of the first title to create a striking world, whether from the claustrophobic world below ground, full of men and politics, or the storm-lashed world above, full of ruined landmarks and dangerous mutants.

Thankfully, the lamentable AI of the first title has been beefed up, with the hardware providing a satisfying challenge for FPS fans, while the story, too,  will appeal to a wide range of gamers.

Definitely an adult title for mature gamers, given its content and some provocative scenes, M:KK’s Ukranian developer 4A Games has produced a highly-accomplished title that deserves a shot at the top of the charts.