Port Report: Metro: Last Light

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Port Reports are a new series of quick first impressions of the technical aspects of a PC game. This report was written by PCGamingWiki contributor Pharnaces. For an up to date account of Metro: Last Light′s fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

Metro: Last Light releases this week on May 14th in North America and May 17th in Europe. It is the highly anticipated sequel to the fantastic Metro 2033, one of 2010’s most graphically demanding PC games. This article will take a quick look at several technical aspects of Metro: Last Light, including game options, controls and comment on some controversial decision that were made, including the very low FOV value that cannot be adjusted, and the Ranger Mode difficulty being offered as a preorder bonus or paid-for ‘DLC’. Testing was done on a AMD Radeon HD 7870 XT, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and an Intel i5-3570K.

Field of view

Metro: Last Light’s handling of FOV is very disappointing, and is a serious black mark against the game. I get a bit motion sick and dizzy from playing a game with a low FOV for too long and I had to stop playing Metro: Last Light several times after some of the more chaotic battles.

Metro: Last Light FOV value appears to be very close to the original game’s vertical FOV of 45 (equivalent to horizontal FOV of ~70 at 1920×1080), which is extremely low for an FPS on the PC. Unlike many other recent first person shooters on PC there is no field of view slider, and delving into the config files shows a lack of any value that can be edited, the sick_fov setting found in Metro 2033 is not present in Metro: Last Light, and does nothing when added.

This comparison shot shows an extremely narrow field of view of approximately 70 degrees in both Metro games.

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The low FOV is not helped by how the game slathers blood, gore, rain, mud, glass cracks, and sludge over the screen as you take damage, reducing the effective field of view even further.

Performance

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Metro: Last Light comes with a benchmarking utility located in the installation directory. It allows you to set various presets for the graphics options and then run a benchmark in a fairly demanding scene. Unfortunately the option for tessellation was greyed out and its impact on performance was unable to be tested in the D6 scene, so instead of using the utility I used FRAPS to record the average framerate over 30 seconds in the Venice metro station while facing a large, open area with many NPCs.

The system that was used to test the game has an AMD Radeon HD 7870 XT, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, an Intel i5-3570K, and the game was installed on a Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB SATA III SSD. All overclocks were disabled for testing.

Graphics settings

Resolution

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Last Light offers support for all of the standard 4:3, 16:9, and 16:10 resolutions. Resolution has a moderate impact on performance. Note that I do not have access to a 1600p monitor and was unable to test 2560×1600.

Quality level

The graphical differences between low and very high are not very large, the main difference being ambient occlusion and higher resolution shadows.

Metro: Last Light, much like the original Metro 2033, puts the majority of its graphics options into a single setting, quality level. Texture resolution, bump mapping quality, shadow resolution, geometric detail, anti-aliasing, volumetric texturing, soft particles, ambient occlusion, etc are all controlled by this setting. Unlike the original Metro, however, Last Light does not tell you what is enabled and what is disabled at each setting level, which is a disappointing and unnecessary change.

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The performance impact of the quality level setting is most noticeable in the jump between medium and high, which lowers the framerate by roughly 20fps. All but the lowest-end GPU owners should be able to enjoy the game on medium settings.

Tessellation

The tessellation option allows for realistic shapes and rounder objects. Note how with tessellation disabled this character’s head is very polygonal and has many sharp points, whereas with tessellation set to very high his head is very round. Also notice how the arms of his coat have become slightly larger.

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Tessellation is one of the more demanding options in Metro: Last Light at higher levels, with a huge 30fps difference between off and very high. However, normal only costs a modest 7fps and can be enabled for a nice visual improvement.

DirectX

Tessellation

By changing r_api # in %APPDATA%\Local\4A Games\Metro LL\(numbers)\user.cfg to 0, 1, or 2 you change switch between DirectX 9, 10, and 11 modes respectively. DirectX 9 and 10 do not have access to the tessellation option, but there is a significant framerate increase from switching to DX9, so if you are playing on lower end DX10/11 hardware switching may give you a much needed framerate increase.

I noticed that DirectX 9 mode caused minor loading stutters throughout the game world, most noticeable in the underground metros.

Supersampling Anti-Aliasing

On top of any anti-aliasing governed by the quality level setting 4A has also included Supersampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA), which will render the game at a much higher resolution and then scale it down to your selected resolution. This eliminates aliasing very well, but it comes at a massive performance cost, as you can see in the chart below.

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It is also worth noting that you can set SSAA to 0.5 samples, which will render the game at half of your selected resolution (1920×1080 -> 960×540). This increases the framerate at a significant visual cost and should probably only be used by those with very low end hardware.

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Controls

Mouse and keyboard

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As a first person shooter Last Light works very well with a mouse and keyboard. Thankfully there is no native mouse acceleration and while the control menus look barebones they provide everything that is necessary (y-axis inversion, key rebinding, mouse sensitivity). Mouth smoothing, acceleration, and aim-down-sights sensitivity options would have been neat additions, but are not really necessary.

Aim assist is enabled by default and there is no option to disable it in the menus. To disable it open %APPDATA%\Local\4A Games\Metro LL\\user.cfg and set aim_assist 1 to 0.

Controller

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Last Light natively supports Xbox 360 compatible controllers and the player can switch between using a controller and a mouse and keyboard at will. More work seems to have been put into the controller options than the mouse and keyboard options and it features trigger/bumper swapping, as well as left/right stick swapping. Also included are three control scheme presets, y-axis inversion, and vibration strength adjustment.

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Other settings

Toggles for subtitles, hints, and the crosshair are available and there is a gamma adjustment submenu. AMD users will want to disabled the Advanced PhysX option, which is enabled by default but only optimised for Nvidia hardware.

There is also a very standard sound settings page, which only has sliders for master and music volume levels. The addition of voice and text language selection is a nice feature. Voice acting is available in English, Russian, German, Spanish, French, and Italian and subtitles are available for all of them, as well as Dutch, Polish, and Czech.

The very long introductory cinematic that displays a few company names and other unnecessary information. To remove it delete or rename legal.ogv in \Steam\SteamApps\common\Metro Last Light\.

Ranger Mode difficulty

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There has been a lot of controversy lately over the Ranger Mode difficulty, “The way it’s meant to be played.” The DLC comes bundled with all pre-ordered copies, but it will cost $5 after the game launches. This kind of day one DLC is incredibly disappointing, especially considering that the Ranger Pack was released as free DLC for the original Metro 2033 on PC (the 360 version cost 240 Microsoft points, as Microsoft stipulate that all Xbox LIVE DLC must have a cost).

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As you can see in the above image Ranger Mode is still an option in the New Game menu, even if you don’t own it. There is also a link in the main menu to a list of Last Light’s DLC where you will eventually be able to purchase Ranger Mode and any other expansions that are released.

Note that the vanilla game does have three difficulty settings (easy, medium, and hard), Ranger Mode is a separate set of difficulties that do not have a HUD or a UI and have much less available ammunition, making the game much more stealth-oriented. Once Ranger Mode is made available for reporting, it will be covered on the PCGamingWiki article.

Conclusion

Despite a few minor issues and a missing field of view slider Metro: Last Light is a good game and is filled with all of the settings that you would expect of a quality PC game.

To summarize:

Good
+Lots of video and control options
+Included benchmarking utility
+Well optimized
+Multiple languages
+Gorgeous visuals

Bad
-No FOV slider
-Very low default FOV value
-Ranger Mode greyed out as a $5 DLC or preorder bonus
-Limited audio options
-Aim assist enabled with no in-game option (but fixable)
-Tessellation greyed out in benchmark utility

For an up to date account of Metro: Last Light′s fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

  • xalener

    That’s just sad.

  • milco

    I really starts to likes all this port reports, great job

    man :)

  • http://twitter.com/labtec512 Mark

    Ranger mode was released for free around a month or so after release, suck it up nerd

    • heinrich

      The game will be released in a few days.

    • Black Dahlia1147

      are you talking about metro 2033? Yes it was added later because the community wanted a hardcore mode. In this game, it is there and ready at launch. it’s not going to be available for free later, it will cost $5 for the foreseeable future. And the irony of you commenting just to tell “nerds” to suck it up and pay for something they should just get with the game is almost as hilarious as it is backward and wrong

  • disqus_m9jMFsigG1

    Yep, I’ll be pirating this game.

    • Drew Reagan

      Oh, the entitlement.

    • adas

      you would be pirating regardless.

      • lolusux

        You fucks like to think that.

    • virtualmatrix258

      Now you’re putting a PC version in the future at risk. And risking these getting fixed in the near future. What a douche you are.

    • http://www.facebook.com/LeetPete Erlend TheUser Hall

      That doesn’t help.

      What you need to do:
      - Do not PLAY the game
      - Give the devs and the publishers lots of shit for doing this. They need to know that the risks of not including stuff like FoV slider and advanced graphics options will result in a giant turd of whining and bad PR hitting the fan.

  • 0AGAMES

    After reading this you couldn’t even pay me to pirate it. This is absolutely pathetic.

  • Sycobob

    I love the site and frequent it for information on games I’m about to play. However, this is my first time reading a blog post here, and there seems to be a fairly big flaw. The pictures aren’t big enough for me to see anything! It’s difficult to appreciate Boris’ smooth dome when I can barely see the polygons on his untessellated twin.

  • That One Guy

    Hmm, “Ranger Mode is a separate set of difficulties that do not have a HUD or a UI”, so DLC on game settings… (ouch) seriously though, what’s next, graphical settings?
    I can tell why it’s a controversy.
    Anyways, good report.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.kartis.3 Alex Kartis

    I strongly disagree with good optimized. I have a 4870 and I can run everything with a few sacrifices here and there but always maintaining above 30fps if not 45-60fps.MLL drops my fps to 10 with average 20 even when I turn everything to low (res 800×600 and ssaa 05) not that it has many options to turn down.
    You may rightful point out and argue that my card is old and yes it is but I have absolutely no need to upgrade when every game that released is a console port and runs slower in my pc than its equivalent ps3 port (which I also own) in inferior hardware.

    I cannot justify bad coding and just a preset from low to v.high for old hardware and low fps.
    I grew up making mods for q3 and maps for ut99 and if something I learned is how flexible the pc is.

    • http://twitter.com/sotona てゐ

      There are some issues with AMD GPUs which apparently has been fixed in today’s patch. And your GPU is indeed very old, what have you expected from it? 1600p on Very High? I’d say it’s you who is very high. MLL is promoted as a AAA PC game with high end visuals, so it’s only natural that it expects you to have newer GPU. Try forcing DX9 in user.cfg, I’m sure it’ll help you run with decent quality picture and good FPS. All in all, MLL runs much smoother on my not-so-new PC than 2033, so I strongly agree with “good optimization” point.

      • http://www.facebook.com/alex.kartis.3 Alex Kartis

        Ofc not 30fps on normal like console hardware which the patch made it happen something that shows alot about optimizations.
        If it runs on ancient console hardware its hypocritical not to run well on pc with twice *at least, the power.

        And still if I want to use v.high textures its poor decision that I cant manually select which features I want on or off. Same poor decision was Crysis3 as dx11only

  • CrimsonArmada25

    I really don’t understand why everyone keeps complaining about this game…