Looking back at THQ's game library over the years, quite a few titles stand out when it comes to originality.  Nothing, though, really comes close to the nail-biting tension that's generated by 4A's Metro 2033, a chilling game where you not only have to use first-person shooting skills to stay alive, but also have to perform smaller duties, such as keeping your oxygen mask in place and keeping a clear view of the action.  Considering you're running through a post-apocalyptic Russia, you're getting a real run for your money.

THQ was recently kind enough to make the game available for free, provided you went over and liked their Facebook page, so if you haven't had a chance to check it out yet, now's the time.  That's because 4A is well into development for the follow-up, Metro: Last Light, which will finally make its way to retail next year.  And if you thought the first game was a rush, you haven't seen anything yet.

The game takes place exactly one year after the happenings in 2033, with Artyom, your main soldier, once again scavenging his way through a world ravaged by war.  If the surrounding, toxic-fumed air isn't enough to be a threat to you, there's also the wicked wildlife, a group of mutated freaks that will stop at nothing to kill you and gnaw away on your lifeless course.  But along with the conditions, you'll also be haunted by flashbacks, as you get a better idea of what could've created this disaster that you're in the middle of – and what might've been done to possibly stop it.  (You can't really go back and change anything, but at least you get context with the story.)

The weather is a bit warmer than the original game, but that doesn't exactly mean things are for the better.  Vicious creatures are still lurking about, and Artyom will still need to do whatever it takes when it comes to survival.  This includes keeping a close eye on ammunition, maintaining the condition of your tools and, most importantly, searching around every corner for restocks.  You never know where you'll find salvation – maybe even in a corpse.

For the sequel, 4A really put a lot of work into its engine.  Most of the condition factors of the original game make a return, including atmospheric touches like a cloud of vapor spraying in a darkly lit tunnel and steam and other materials building up on your face mask, forcing you to stop for a second and wipe it off, so your vision remains clear.  Judging from the short amount of time we had with the demo, it's a haunting, riveting sight, one that could very well pave the way for shooters to come in the next 12 months – and yes, that's even looking at such competition like Crysis 3 and Bioshock Infinite.  4A means business.

But where those games are more about high-tempo action, Metro: Last Light leans towards haunting realism.  You'll carefully search around corners and maneuver with a lack of speed as you watch out for incoming creatures (they can literally pop out of nowhere) and avoid making noises in certain areas so you won't draw their ire.  Sometimes that's impossible, like when you're required to operate a heavy lift to get to higher ground, and it grinds as much as possible in the process.  Fortunately, you have access to some authentic weaponry, including a powerful handgun that can really tear through an enemy up-close.  Others will be introduced over the course of the game, and what they lack in flashy design, they more than make up for in firepower.

Along with the kind of quality presentation that's expected for modern-day shooters, Metro: Last Light also comes with gripping voice acting, with Artyom and his fellow survivors speaking in convincingly tense tones, worried about what's going to happen next, but still keeping enough of a cool head on their shoulders to get the job done.  The sound effects are excellent too, really lending to the atmosphere, whether it's a creature's growl or the rickety machine you come across over the course of the game.  The interiors really shine, as you can hear some of the echoes coming down the darkened halls.

Metro: Last Light is really built as a single player experience, so if you go in thinking you can team up with friends to do damage, that's not really the case.  This is more of a survival horror style of shooter, with enough real aspects (like continuously pumping oxygen) to separate from the norm.  We're perfectly fine with that, since multiplayer would seem like a distraction, anyway.

We've included a gameplay video below to give you a better idea of the atmosphere that awaits you in this haunting sequel.  It's sure to live up to – and exceed – the power of the original, as good as it is.  

Be sure to check out Metro: Last Light when it drops in early 2013 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.