Developer: 4A Games Publisher: Deep Silver
Review Platform: Xbox One Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
I believe the Metro series is one of the most underrated franchises that spawned from last generation. The Metro franchise delivers a unique brand of ‘survival shooter’ that the genre rarely offers, creating an incredibly tense affair where ammo is limited, and so are your chances of survival.
While Metro has always created an anxiety-inducing atmosphere from the underground Metro tunnels of Moscow, players have been given the brief opportunity to explore the apocalyptic world above during previous games. Metro Exodus expands on exploring the previously uninhabitable world above, with an adventure that is for the majority spent topside.
Set after the events of Metro Last Light, we once again take control of Artyom. Following Last Light’s conclusion Artyom becomes obsessed with finding civilisation above ground, and believes he can have a new life with his wife Anna, in the wasteland above. While Metro Exodus is third entry in the series, this is a perfect entry for newcomers. Exodus rarely acknowledges important moments from the original two games, and instead focuses on moving the series forward with a fresh set of goals.
Metro Exodus does suffer from a slow start, but after the initial few hours Exodus embraces the adventure it is trying to offer, becoming more enjoyable and enticing the more I played. Metro Exodus also features a Reader difficulty mode. This difficulty is encouraged for fans of the Metro series of novels that haven’t much experience gaming, this is a nice addition that should hopefully allow fans of the Metro novels a chance to explore Metro Exodus.
After a series of events explaining why it is now safe to explore the wasteland, Artyom and his squad begin the adventure to find safety above ground. The main narrative itself has strong similarities to the storyline of The Walking Dead, with a cast of characters seeking survival moving from one destination to the next. The comparisons become stronger when the crew visits each new location, encountering new villainous leaders, new characters, and warring factions.
While each area has its own unique story thread, finding safety above ground is always at the core of the journey. Due to only spending a few hours at each new location, the story threads for each area don’t always deliver. Some areas have memorable stories and elements that are thrilling to experience, while others are over so fast that you won’t remember them once you leave. Sometimes more isn’t always best, and while the main narrative is a fantastic adventure, some of the other stories don’t feel fully formed.
The squad inhabit a train they brand as the Aurora, which will become your home and method of travel throughout the roughly 15 hour adventure. Within this location players can spend time with the fantastic cast of characters, listening to their cheerful banter. Players don’t have to do this, but experiencing the personalities aboard the Aurora enhances the adventure. Exodus offers a fantastic and diverse group of loveable personalities. While the voice work can still be so-so at times, both the cast of characters and their dialogue delivery are the best the series has seen.
One of my bigger issues with Last Light was Artyom’s silence as a main hero, despite his character having a voice that appeared in-between missions explaining current events. Exodus once again implements this feature, and while I have no issue with a silent hero, the fact Artyom has a voice but is never used in-game is particularly strange. Characters even refer to his silence, almost mocking the fact this silent behaviour exists. It also becomes quite bizarre when Anna is begging for Artyom to respond on the radio (as she fears he is dead), and yet he remains completely silent. It’s an unusual choice that I truly believe needs to be corrected if the series continues, to finally make Artyom a more interesting and memorable character; at the very least the option to choose dialogue similar to Fallout 3.
Metro fans that might’ve worried the claustrophobic brilliance of the previous games may be missing due to the open world evolution, can breathe a sigh of relief. The main story missions in Metro produce some of the most intense, atmospheric, and frightening moments the series has seen. 4A Games has almost perfected the ability to create incredibly intense situations, and the main story missions deliver a diverse range of encounters. In fear of spoiling these missions I won’t explain too much, but let me assure you some of these are genuinely terrifying.
The open world features of each hub area are completely optional. Players can tackle enemy camps, find hidden locations, and monster dens if they choose. When players tackle enemy strongholds, if enough enemies are eliminated the AI will actually surrender to your attack. It’s a refreshing change that makes these encounters unique compared to similar instances in other games. As these take place in open areas, there is an emphasis on choice when tackling situations. I personally tried my best to tackle each encounter with a stealth focus, turning off lights as I silently incapacitated enemies as I went; players can also kill enemies if they choose. Metro Exodus will also take your method of killing or sparing enemies into account, which can affect the main story. Exodus doesn’t do a good job at explaining this fact, and I only realised this was a factor when an Achievement revealed I was able to ensure a character survived an encounter.
While exploring the open world areas in Exodus can be interesting, I found the rewards never truly incentivised the risk. You can find the occasional upgrade for your weapons and equipment, but the majority of the markers on your map offer very few rewards (if any). As ammo and necessities are scarce, players must consider which areas are worth the risk for potential reward. Learning when to fight and when to run is essential to survival the world of Metro Exodus, and those playing the game like a typical run and gun shooter will experience a world of death and despair.
Combat in Metro Exodus is at the best the series has seen, with weapons delivering a satisfying kick and offering responsive controls. While some may be annoyed by the fact these weapons can suffer inaccuracy, I found appreciation in the fact these ‘make-shift’ weapons were not perfect. While you can upgrade weapons with different attachments, visually the weapons will always look like a Frankenstein creations and it makes sense they cannot provide the accuracy of new weapons.
As you evolve these weapons throughout the adventure, you will also need to clean them to ensure they don’t jam during vital encounters; similar to the weapon cleaning featured in Red Dead Redemption 2. Cleaning weapons takes place at workbenches that are scattered throughout the world, and inside the Aurora. Players can also craft items on the fly using their backpack, which features a simplified version of the workbench and allows attachments to be changed for the situation. Notice an enemy perched in a prime vantage point? Well, change your pistol’s scope and eliminate the threat from a distance, before alternating to a different scope for close quarters combat in mind. It’s a simple system, but implemented well and allows for any weapon to be altered for the situation at hand.
Metro Exodus also improves on the AI issues from Last Light, and while it’s still not perfect, it’s a step in the right direction. Human enemies can be fooled by throwing garbage, or you can hide your approach by removing sources of light. Despite these improvements, there are still some inconsistencies with the AI I encountered. Situations where I would be shrouded in darkness behind a piece of environment would have me spotted, but times I was clearly in an enemy’s line of sight, I didn’t exist. While the human AI improvements are appreciated, there are still areas that could use improvement for future instalments.
Mutant AI is as relentless as ever, with mutants swarming you once they discover your presence. There was a moment I was stalking an enemy encampment, only to be picked up by a winged demon and flown high into the air, before being dropped back down to the solid ground below. While on another occasion I was completely outnumbered by a plethora of mutant beasts and found myself out of ammo, forcing me to dive into the icy water below as I made my miraculous escape. The mutant AI never allows you to feel powerful; it is versatile, unpredictable, and dangerous.
Metro Exodus has one of the most detailed and beautiful post-apocalyptic worlds I’ve ever experienced. Regardless of which area you explore; every abandoned car, every demolished building, and every inch of the wasteland is littered with gorgeously detailed pieces of the world after the catastrophe.
Exodus looks particularly amazing when exploring the desert location, with powerful sandstorms creating a vicious visual spectacle. I particularly found myself in awe of the beauty found within the snowy locales, especially when the snow is falling around you as the wind creates a frenzy of haunting sounds that mask out everything else around you. This is a world that has seen hell rain down from above, and 4A Games have captured that haunting image perfectly.
One of my biggest gripes with Metro Exodus would be the long loading times after death. These can take upwards of a minute in some cases, which can be annoying when tackling a difficult encounter. Load times between each distinct area are upwards of two minutes, but these are usually accompanied by Artyom’s voiceover which keeps the wait interesting. The only real technical issue I experienced was a severe instance of screen tearing during the middle portion of the game. For about an hour, regardless of gameplay or cut scene the screen tearing was a blatant occurrence. It eventually subsided, but hopefully this noticeable issue is fixed in future updates.
On the whole, Metro Exodus runs incredibly smooth, especially with the detailed and beautiful vistas on display.
Metro Exodus is an experience that continues to improve as you dive deeper into the fantastic adventure. Once Metro Exodus finds its feet and embraces the type of game it wants to be, it becomes a unique shooter that evolves the series, but never strays far from the true claustrophobic core of the original entries. Metro Exodus could easily have suffered from the same problems that plagued Dead Space 3, but instead of creating a third entry devoid of its past, it embraces these elements while evolving the series. 4A Games should be commended for this approach, as it was certainly no easy task to accomplish.
Metro Exodus is still not a perfect experience, with inconsistent AI, long load times, and an out of place silent protagonist its main issues. But Exodus takes great strides for the series in the right direction, and continues to improve Metro’s identity with every entry in the franchise.
Metro Exodus is a methodical shooter, with incredibly haunting missions, a beautifully detailed world, and a fantastic cast of characters. I cannot wait to see what 4A Games will offer in the future, when we eventually receive the next entry in this underrated ‘survival shooter’ series.
The Final Score: 8.5/10
Digital Xbox One review code was provided by publisher.