Metro 2033 is a first-person action-adventure game of fast-paced shooter combat, with strong elements of exploration, character development, and narrative. Based on the same-titled sci-fi novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky, the game is set in the subway systems beneath Moscow, in the aftermath of World War III. Toxic atmosphere and mutant monstrosities have forced the world's few known human survivors underground, where each subway station has come to serve as a sort of sovereign city-state. Players take the role of Artyom, who was born before the apocalypse but has lived his entire life underground. The play of the game leads the hero to gain new knowledge, gather new equipment, and grow stronger as he progresses through the story. Guns and other weapons can be constructed and improved from spare parts the hero finds in his travels, but bullets are so valuable a commodity they have come to serve as currency in the underground, dystopian realm.
Eventually, with the use of a gas mask, Artyom may venture above ground to collect valuable artifacts and equipment, yet the greatest dangers may lie below, where the territorial and ideological rivalries of human nature continue to drive people into deadly competition, even in the wake of the destruction of the world by human warfare. His unique insight on a terrible truth forces Artyom from the relative safety of the underground station that has been the only home he has known, to deliver a fateful warning to the other survivors who are rumored to live throughout the vast, subterranean rail network. As he follows his mission to a far-distant subway station, Artyom encounters constant challenges to his combat skills and equipment, as well as to his fundamental belief in the inherent good of the human species and his convictions for its survival.