I keep it no secret that Metro 2033 is one of my favorite games. It really opened my eyes to how fantastic FPSes could be thanks to its strong use of atmosphere. I equally loved Metro: Last Light, and at that point, I began to read the books to get more into the series. Now I finally got some hands-on time with Metro: Exodus, and I couldn't be more excited about where it's going from here.
Before we got hands-on time with the game, we got a quick introduction from the developers. For those worried, Metro: Exodus isn't quite an open world, but it does have very big levels that give you plenty of exploration room. The playable game area of Exodus is bigger than both 2033 and Last Light combined, which makes sense since you're leaving the Metro for good. In addition to this, the game has more dialogue than both games combined as well. The development team told us they were working with Dmitry Glukhovsky, the author of the books, to craft the story. Finally, we were told the engine has been completely overhauled for the new game, so it looks better than ever before. One odd yet understandable note is that 4A was pretty open about how Metro: Exodus was aiming to be optimized for the next generation of consoles.
We started a level called Bridge, which opened with Artyom and Anna having a conversation at the front of a train. Well, rather, with Anna having a one-sided conversation. Like with past Metro games, Artyom only really talks during loading screen monologues and stays quiet the rest of the time. Shortly after this, they go back inside the train where they meet Miller and his crew of Rangers. The train engine is damaged and Miller is worried that there may be "an opposition army" nearby, though it's not quite made clear what that means. As such he sends Artyom and Anna out to go check out a nearby town and figure out if there's a way to get help.
Before you go anywhere you're given a backpack. Not just any backpack. This is a special Ranger-branded backpack that serves as a portable crafting station. As you wander around the world of Metro you'll find materials that come in two types: scrap and chemical. Combining these two, you can make items like first aid kits, gas mask filters, and metal balls to fire out of a pneumatic gun. It's a simple system, and I liked that I now felt as if I was actually raiding the world to find supplies to survive, rather than leaving a bunch of useful looking items behind.
The first goal was to get to the town where people were situated. To do so I hopped into a boat so I could row across a lake while Anna covered me from "shrimp" that attempted to attack me. For those familiar with the Metro universe, this isn't normal shrimp. Rather, these are giant heavily armored mutants that have claws to cut people in half. So we should be thankful Anna provided this cover fire. It's a surprisingly tense moment, one that always made me question when one would burst out of the water and attack again.
Once I got to the village things only got worse. As soon as Artyom arrived the technology-hating priest has him imprisoned in the church's bell tower. Thankfully there's a woman and child already trapped in there that can help Artyom break out. Here I got to enter my first combat segment, although it was really more stealth focused. Those who have played previous Metro games should be happy to know that Exodus hasn't changed much here. A lot of the stealth involves staying in shadows and shutting off lamps and fires to keep yourself hidden. There's throwing knives to stealthily take out enemies from afar, and sneaking up behind them gives me the choice to lethally or non-lethally take them out.
Interestingly, I was met with a bit of a moral choice here. After taking out a few of the enemies, the rest surrendered. They got on their knees, threw down their weapons, and begged not to be killed. It wasn't something I was actually expecting, and I thought it was rather neat that enemies reacted this way. I chose to ultimately leave them be because that seems like the polite thing to do. Of course, I also ran into my first issue with Exodus here. The game doesn't really make it clear what you're supposed to be doing. It turns out the answer was to interact with a boat hidden away in the corner. It's not really clear you can interact with this boat, so I'm hopeful the full game makes these sort of things a little more so.
Back on the lake, I quickly began moving towards the shore to get away. Of course, the firefight pissed off all the shrimp from before, causing this trip to be a lot more full of action. However, there's always a bigger fish. Literally in this case, as a giant sprung out of the water and wrecked Artyom's boat, causing a mad swim to shore with the hopes that the giant fish couldn't catch up. Thankfully he makes it, and after drying off can talk a walk back to the train.
However, between my current location and said train, I saw some interesting things to check out. I settled on exploring a downed airplane for supplies. I found the supplies, but this leads me to my second problem with Exodus. During 2033 and Last Light there were several moments where supernatural events occurred. One of these games even had a downed airplane, and stepping onto it caused Artyom to temporally relive the crash. However, there was no such event in the demo of Exodus that I played. Once again, this is a "hopeful for the full game" sort of deal, since the lack of such events is a real bummer.
After I raided the plane I made my way back to the train and got my next assignment. On the other side of the track, there was a mechanic we needed who could fix the train and get the team moving again. After being handed a pneumatic gun I make my way to the factory he's held up in. Things moved into a more action focused segment as I found the factory overrun by mutants. Thus I needed to shoot my way to the roof so I could find the mechanic and convince him to come with us.
Once I reached the roof I hit the last action scene of the demo. Here I had to fight off waves of mutants as they climbed onto the roof, the mechanic occasionally throwing Molotov cocktails to assist me. The fight was long and tough, and near the end, I actually completely ran out of ammo. At this point I had to rely on clever melee attacks, knife throws, help from my new friend, and using the new crafting system to quickly bang out a few more rounds between attacks. It was honestly one of the tensest fights I've had in a game, and I wasn't sure I was going to survive.
Thankfully I did and, after having a chat with the mechanic, my demo ended. All of this took me about 50 minutes, and I had an absolute blast playing through Metro: Exodus at E3. There are still some rough edges to be worked on, but I'm significantly more excited for the full release. If nothing else, it makes me want to take another dive into post-apocalyptic Russia.
Metro: Exodus will launch February 22nd, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One for the price of $59.99.