Metro Exodus delivers an uneven yet satisfying conclusion to Artyom’s journey.
Developer – 4A Games
Release Date – February 15, 2019
Platforms – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
As I was rowing a boat through a bleak, flooded village and got closer to a larger than life church, memories going back to the original Metro more than 9 years ago came to my mind. Metro 2033, a tight, focused shooter with a very unique world. It was an adaptation of author Dmitry Glukhovsky’s novels of the same name. It was a different experience, in a world where bullets were currency and bad Russian accents were as plentiful as the radiation keeping everybody underground. It told a different, more stripped down tale of the Apocalypse and the humans and mutants who live in it.
Those early days of the very linear, almost claustrophobic subways of the metro are briefly visited during Metro Exodus’s opening. Once again players will play as Artyom, who yearns for a home outside the underground and free from radiation. Like the title implies you quickly move away from the stifling underground, and will find yourself on a sprawling journey with your fellow soldiers and wife at your side.
Most of the gameplay mechanics of the Metro series are back in Exodus. To survive the radiation you must swap filters, your gas mask can be cracked and needs cleaning, and the pneumatic pump weapons are back and better than ever. One big change is the removal of the old ammo currency. While a unique gameplay mechanic, it doesn’t really fit the style of game they are making and honestly nothing of value is lost in it’s removal.
In it’s place is a new backpack system. Artyom carries a pack that players can use at any moment to swap weapons, do upgrades and change out weapon parts to fit your current situation. Enemies range from deranged mutants, enemy soldiers , cultists and sometimes a mix of all of the above. Being able to assess your current situation and adjust things on the fly is a welcome change.
Metro Exodus is a much more ambitious game in terms of it’s scope and design than it’s predecessors. Most of the game takes place in huge, bright, open world environments that are the complete opposite of the normal dark and dingy corridors of the older games. Not that you wont still go to places like that, but they take a back seat to the freedom Exodus throws at the players.
The environments aren’t just pretty levels for Artyom to trudge through, Metro Exodus truly shines not due to it’s ambitious world, but it’s restraint in game design. Exodus resists the urge to meddle with leveling up, getting loot drops and the need to fill the open world with trivial tasks meant to fill any possible gaps in the action. You can go for several minutes at a time without ever shooting your gun. In fact, keeping the gun holstered and dealing with situations without violence is just as viable as killing everything in sight. The scene I described earlier at the church is almost like a mini sandbox in design. You can go long range and snipe these random people before you ever meet them, or you can enter their base guns holstered and see more of the story within.
If you do decide to attack you can opt to keep enemies alive and knock them out instead of killing them. These choices matter and will effect the ending you receive. It’s a big change for Metro and traditional shooter campaigns in general. Metro Exodus does have it’s major set piece moments but it has just as much moments of quiet. The choices you make in each new location can have a game play and story impact later on. The best part is 4A Games never felt the need to attach a game mechanic to it. Saving people doesn’t make your home base get stronger. Killing everybody never fills up a morality meter which makes you evil, many choices you make just fill out the world.
A person saved may hang out on your train. You can talk to them, hear them interact with your fellow soldiers or your wife and all of these moments give depth and nuance that hits harder than huge shootouts with endlessly respawning enemies. One of my favorite aspects of Metro Exodus is the lack of a major antagonist. The world is already oppressive, and the end plays out in a subdued, quieter way that perfectly matches the tone the rest of the game carries.
Just like the previous games, the world is brought to life with often stunning graphics. On PC this game is the one of the most impressive thing I’ve seen grace my monitor. Ray tracing, hair works, every Nvidia buzzword you could possible make up and more are all present. Despite the visuals my machine ran the game smoothly, but even on a lower spec performance is o.k. The consoles can suffer a bit in this regard, as load times, crashes and frame-rates can suffer a bit in the more impressive locations. For a far more comprehensive deep dive on the visuals, please check out our very own NX Gamer’s analysis.
Not quite living up to the games visual splendor is its audio design. Great, atmospheric music and sound often clash with a very mixed bag in terms of voice acting. A mixture of accents and Artyom’s complete lack of voice really hurt the overall story presentation in spots. Unlike most other mute protagonists Arytom isn’t actually a mute character. Every new level and environment is book ended by him narrating the experience, his thoughts and what will come next for his crew. He speaks in the present tense which makes his silence during actual gameplay a very strange decision that works against the games favor. Everybody on your crew talks, shares stories and interacts with you on a personal level. Multiple long one sided conversation with your wife of all people has Artyom just standing there, moving his hands around but never actually speaking. It’s an odd choice, and despite the games 20 plus hour run time I was never able to get accustomed to it.
Also detracting from the experience are the frequent bugs and glitches throughout my time with it. Despite some updates it still has its fair share of issues. Moments of AI completely breaking and some inconsistent stealth can break the immersion in spots. Metro Exodus has really tried to reach triple A blockbuster heights but the older, smaller budget bugs and inconsistencies bring those dreams back to reality just a bit.
Despite the problems I had with the Artyoms silence or the assortment of bugs and AI inconsistencies, I really enjoyed the expanded scope and vision 4A games brought to Metro Exodus. The solid narrative and world building compliment the bleak, but optimistic adventure story it tells. Metro Exodus breaks away from it’s small beginnings, and grows in scope to deliver a satisfying conclusion to Artyoms journey.