Metro: Last Light – Tech Demo


4A Games’ Metro 2033 was a smash hit in 2010, impressing PC gamers with its incredible graphics and unique gameplay, which bucked the bombastic trend that permeated the ever more explosive shooters of that era. The story, too, was a cut above the rest, having been adapted from a Russian novel that went viral online before becoming a best-selling published work. Unsurprisingly, a sequel was commissioned, and now players can experience it on Steam. Called Metro: Last Light, this long-awaited sequel offers a direct continuation of Metro 2033’s story, putting the player in the shoes of Ranger Artyom once more. Having done what was asked of him in 2033, regardless of the repercussions, Artyom must now explore long-forgotten sections of Moscow’s underground metro railway to confront his greatest fears, and to save what’s left of his post-apocalyptic world.

Making a head, a cup, or a light bulb look completely smooth and round in a game requires an unfeasible number of polygons that would reduce performance and would be of better use elsewhere to add entirely new objects and detail. With DirectX 11, developers can leverage GPU technology to ‘tessellate’ pretty much anything, adding the required extra detail for a comparatively minor reduction in frame rates. In Metro 2033, 4A Games tessellated characters, supernatural enemies, and some objects, adding extra detail and rounding out surfaces to make them appear more realistic and less angular. For Metro: Last Light, 4A has tessellated anything and everything that would benefit, greatly improving the detail of every scene.

Like Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light uses PhysX to power both general physics and hardware-accelerated physics effects. With general effects, objects can be manipulated and destroyed, and characters fall realistically when killed. Dozens of smaller, less obvious, less exciting examples can be found throughout the game, and though each effect is of a high quality, with destruction being singled out for praise in particular, each effect’s realism is limited by the need to retain compatibility across all GPUs.

To enhance these effects, and to bring them to a level of quality on par with the game’s other cutting edge features, 4A has once again implemented NVIDIA GeForce GTX, GPU-powered PhysX effects, using the PhysX SDK. Each is realistically simulated, enabling effects to persist in the world, to interact with other game elements, to move without unrealistically clipping through geometry or objects, to be dynamically shadowed and self-shadowed, and to be manipulated by the player, other characters, and other effects. They are also automatically shaded, shadowed and lit like the game’s general geometry and objects, allowing them to blend in naturally without any additional work from 4A’s developers.

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