Metro: Last Light - Interview with Huw Beynon Part One
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During the summer, when listening to Olympic athletes discussing their training and subsequent dreams, hopes, ambitions and expectations for the games, it was interesting to see how their serious tone, steely determination, unwavering focus and honest clarity during interviews often masked their passions and potential smiles simmering underneath – many of which were delightfully revealed during giddy medal ceremonies when their hard work had paid off. Not completely devoid of warmth, emotion or smiles, each interview, regardless of the athlete, was delivered with cautious optimism, avoiding verbose expressions or overly enthusiastic medal claims.
Having just celebrated all things Post-ApocOlympic at our Novemberfest in Stratford, we chatted to Huw Beynon who invokes the very same mix of restrained positivity, realistic and weighty expectations with dreamy ambitions as previously seen in the athlete’s pre-Olympic interviews. When we last chatted to Beynon, he claimed "By the time we release in early 2013, we believe we will be on the edge of graphical fidelity." So how are things progressing?
Having spent the last 9 years at THQ in a variety of roles, Beynon is currently the Head of Global Communications and speaks honestly about how in the past, THQ didn’t fully appreciate having the cult hit Metro 2033 in their portfolio and how by their own admission, they did a miserable job of supporting and marketing it. Working closely with the title’s 80 strong Ukrainian studio 4A Games, Beynon is determined that the post-apocalyptic, survival horror FPS sequel Metro: Last Light isn’t going to suffer the same oversight. Not that he is starting from scratch as despite its cult hit status, Metro 2033 sold more than a million copies on PC and has been played by over a million gamers on Xbox. "Metro has had a phenomenally strong word of mouth, despite THQ’s efforts the first time round. It’s hugely encouraging that despite them not doing the job they were expected to, over two million players are still engaging with the game. It gives me faith in human kind to be honest" says Beynon sincerely yet without the hint of a smile. "Metro: Last Light is a very different style of game. I think there’s a relatively high barrier to entry maybe compared to your average western pop-up shooter. I like to think there’s an even bigger audience who want that more mature, sophisticated, cerebral game to sink their teeth into. It’s also encouraging to have the support/response from the press and media, some of whom recognise Metro 2033 as a fantastic, albeit slightly flawed game. It got a rough ride from some sectors that have retrospectively looked at it again and realised maybe they were a little unfair on it and I’ll take that. I’ll take all the goodwill we can get because the guys in Kiev really deserve it. They are trying to make something and do something completely different from the motivations and powers that drive a lot of western development."
This intense determination to ensure that Metro: Last Light reaches the right audience for the game whilst giving 4A Games all the latitude to make the kind of game they want without compromising their traditions is clearly what drives Beynon. With dark eyes sparkling fervidly under thick eyebrows that are framed with tight dark curls, Beynon might not smile much but his ambition and drive is frank and natural. He’s obviously very proud of the live action trailer that aims to introduce the post-apocalpytic Moscow underground to newcomers and tell the backstory to the whole series. "It’s a moment that’s not covered or dealt with in the games and in the books but it’s an incredibly powerful moment itself. We didn’t have in-game assets that could effectively tell that story though the end shot where it pulls back is actually in-engine. We always had a very strong concept that we wanted to represent the game’s aesthetic spirit as much as anything as well. We’ve seen a trend for live action, paraphrasing what happens in the game so if it’s a game about people shooting people, you get a live action trailer brilliantly produced of people shooting people etc. We wanted to use this trailer as an opportunity to tell this origin story and there’s a certain amount of pride that we made a trailer for a first person shooter in which there is no shooting and actually you don’t see anyone die. I mean, millions of people do die but you don’t actually see it happen. We built it very much as a short film that would act as a trailer rather than a trailer that was just going to showcases stuff that happens in the game and we’re really thrilled with the response we’ve had so far which has been more emotional than anything else. We go through all the comments on YouTube and the sites where it’s been posted and look at the discussions that spring up about it and it’s a completely different kind of discussion to that we usually see for video game trailers, people are talking about how they felt when they saw it and that to me suggests that we’ve created something that in its own right stands up as really good piece of creative art work."
Metro: Last Light could become one of THQ’s most important titles next year as the publishers have reported last week that they are struggling financially. President Jason Rubin acknowledged to MCV that THQ "Simply cannot afford to release any sub-standard games going forwards." Despite Metro: Last Light being slightly delayed from January to March 2013, Beynon remains confident and excited about what the game is going to be when it’s finally done. "Where we are right now, the game is basically playable from start to finish. There are already some extraordinary environments and you can see how the story pans out but the most exciting thing for me between now and whenever the game launches is seeing the polish and things coming to life in ways we haven’t seen. Everyone is always surprised by this studio. Sometimes you can be forgiven for thinking that delivering textured stuff as their work in progress, rather than in white or grey boxes is how it’s meant to look. Then low and behold, they start working on it and you see their real crafting. What you saw and thought was close to finish, you realise you were just looking at the prototype, when it all comes to life, that for me is what I love. Hopefully, the potential that this studio has will be realised and we’ll end up with a classic single player experience that we’ve set out to make."
Metro: Last Light is due for release in March 2013, for Xbox360, PS3 and PC.