Metro Exodus is a game I've been looking forward to for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the previous two post-apocalyptic first-person shooters in the series. To my delight, Exodus promises to open the world up a lot more. For the first time, you'll leave Moscow and see parts of the world spared by the radiation. 4A Games has taken a risk with such a drastic change, and you'll soon see why I think it's paid off in spades.
Your adventure begins with a cutscene. A very long cutscene, in fact. It wonderfully details the history of the Metro franchise up until the present day, serving as a perfect introduction for people who are getting into Metro Exodus without having played Metro 2033 or Metro Last Light. (They are very fine games indeed, but you probably don't need to play them to enjoy Metro Exodus.)
You then enter into the game proper. Metro Exodus' gameplay starts off with you running around somewhere on the surface of Moscow, just like previous entries in the franchise. It's not long before you end up in a fight against some mutants, get your butt kicked, and find yourself in the hospital. Colonel Miller (your commander), Anna (your wife), and pretty much everyone else asks you to give up the search for other people—but you refuse.
Eventually, you stumble upon the Aurora and learn that everything you know about life outside the Metro is a lie. There are people all over the world! The men who own the Aurora aren't too happy about your knowledge of it and you end up having to make a run for it with Colonel Miller, your wife, and some of your fellow Spartans. It is here that your yearlong journey begins in earnest.
Metro Exodus splits its levels up into two categories. In the first category, you're actually running around, shooting bad guys and trying to accomplish your mission. The second acts as an interlude where you and your fellow traveling companions hang out on the Aurora while it's moving. Your overall actions in Exodus directly affect the content of these interlude levels. They represent the most emphasis on the story that I've ever seen in Metro to date. I found myself spending far more time here than necessary, simply because I enjoyed this little pocket of peaceful travel.
I wanted to see how much my choices matter, so I decided to replay one of the levels and act differently than I had in my initial playthrough. Where I had previously tried to minimize casualties against the enemy, I became absolutely ruthless. At the end of it, a crew member was no longer on the train whereas they had come with us in my first playthrough. The change to the interlude level was stunning. What was previously a bunch of jubilant, uproarious soldiers telling funny stories about their missions turned into a goodbye party of sorts. Things became muted and less fun. I can't help but wonder if I had made all the best choices my first time through. Your choices and actions have a tangible effect on the game in terms of how everyone behaves afterward.
As for levels with actual gameplay, my preview took place in the mostly dried-out Caspian Sea. When compared to past games, this is a pretty big locale. I hoped to see one similarly large level per season. Unfortunately, that just didn't turn out to be the case. The Spring section is generously large, the Summer section is somewhat larger but with a lot of empty space (it is a desert, after all), and the Autumn section feels much smaller and less open. The Winter sections are closer to previous large worlds in the Metro game: open, but not with a lot of room to move around. It's a little disappointing, but it's understandable for a game making the transition from linear levels to more of an open world.
Another new and welcome addition to the game is vehicles. Aside from the Aurora, you'll have access to controllable rowboats and a frankly terrible Russian truck at certain points. While the boats were often necessary, the truck was not. I went for more stealth than open combat so I abandoned it. The developers had the sense to have the truck moved to critical plot points by another Spartan if I decided that I needed it, but I was quite content to simply run around the desert playing special forces soldier.
[gallery columns="2" size="full" link="file" ids="274440,274437"]
You can craft many items in the field with your backpack. However, changing out your equipment and cleaning your guns requires a proper workbench.
One of the more interesting things to note in Metro Exodus is the sheer level of customization. The ability to plop down a backpack and change out gun attachments on the fly is certainly useful for the situation at hand. One of the loading screen hints highlights that you could carry two of the same kind of gun with different configurations. While this is possible, you can't increase your ammo pool beyond a certain limit. You're still better off with a varied arsenal.
You can increase that ammo limit by finding one of the many equipment upgrades scattered out in the world. I've found a compass for my bracer, an ammo vest attachment for my armor, and additional reinforcements for my gas mask. It's a little confusing, unfortunately—it's difficult to tell which equipment carries over to subsequent levels. I can see that my gas mask has retained its improvements, but the same can't be said for my ammo vest. Where did it go? I have no idea, no explanation, and that's one of the tiny (but nonetheless grating) flaws about this new system.
Despite this flaw, I greatly prefer the ability to change out my attachments on the fly as opposed to having to visit one of the few merchants in the previous games. Attaching a new optic or changing out a barrel shouldn't be that challenging for a well-trained soldier and it's a little silly that it took this long for us to have this ability. Strangely, there is a lack of the option to switch firing modes or change out a gun's lower receiver. I would have liked to turn my Kalash or Bulldog into a semi-automatic rifle, but I simply wasn't provided the option. The use of semi-automatic fire is crucial for situations where you'd want to conserve ammo and its absence is noticeably painful and annoying to deal with.
[gallery link="file" size="full" ids="274442,274443,274438"]
Metro Exodus has interesting characters, creepy underground facilities, and more than its fair share of terrors on the surface, too.
Exploration is just as vital as it was in the previous games. In fact, it may well be more vital. One might think that the bullet economy's removal would mean less running around scavenging for goods. That is absolutely not true anymore. I had plenty of fun digging into the various locations to uncover weapon modifications, materials, chemicals, and other valuable supplies. The use of gas masks often put you under serious time pressure in a good portion of the previous games. Here, the open world above ground largely removes this barrier. That's not to say you still won't have to dive underground every now and again. You just have a little more room to breathe.
Another major change is the Aurora. Your train is practically a character unto itself. It changes and grows over time, serving the same function as the previous games' Metro Stations. You can't always access the Aurora, so it won't always be there to help you. The only real gameplay difference when it is there is the ability to access the gun rack and swap out your weapons. Otherwise, you'll be fine with stopping at the various workbenches peppered throughout every level.
Metro Exodus has made some pretty big changes to the established formula. Sure, there was some more open levels and there was always the chance for exploration, but some of the opportunities afforded to you (especially in The Volga and The Caspian) are at a scale never before seen. It keeps that Metro flavor while abandoning the claustrophobia of the Moscow Metro tunnels. I was curious if 4A games would be able to make it work and I think they did. In fact, I think they may well have changed the face of future games in the franchise forever. Metro Exodus managed to take most of the good things from the previous games and change the formula without losing too much of its soul.
Graphically, Metro Exodus is gorgeous. The level of care and detail put into the world was wonderful. Even pocket flaps and loose bits of equipment will move around on characters. I did see the occasional model clipping into itself or an animation bugging out, but it was quite rare. As for the sound, the audio engineers at 4A games knocked it out of the park. The music is particularly wonderful, especially the parts where you or one of the other rangers plays guitar. My only criticism in this respect is that they didn't take the time to properly animate the guitar playing. It's a good facsimile, but it doesn't line up to the sounds you hear if you're paying attention. It's a strange omission considering how much detail they've put in elsewhere in the game.
The story, too, was excellent. If you asked me to name the characters from the previous games, I could rattle off a few names but the only Spartans I could really recall are Artyom, Anna, Hunter, and Miller. The tight-knit crew and the interludes really let you get to know Exodus' characters, making the world feel more alive. You're able to sit down and listen to conversations, read journal entries, and explore Metro lore like never before.
So, what's the verdict? Metro Exodus is undeniably an evolution of the franchise. I was only troubled by some mildly annoying flaws. Dmitry Glukhovsky said he has no plans to write any more Metro books. However, he also stated that the series may very well continue on as games. 4A Games and Deep Silver are well-equipped to continue the Metro legacy.
It took me around 24 hours to play Metro Exodus from start to finish. I was absolutely enthralled by Artyom's newest adventure. If I had the energy, I ran the very real risk of playing the whole thing in one go. It's easily twice as big as either of the previous games without sacrificing any of their charm or quality. The final product of Metro Exodus is everything that I asked for and more. It's absolutely a game worth playing.
<em>Metro Exodus</em> builds on the gameplay of the previous titles and expands it into a much broader world, adding new mechanics and expanding the narrative without padding things too much.
- Open World Gives You More Freedom
- Game Changing Weapon Customization
- More Opportunities To Explore The Story
- No Fire Selector On Guns
- Equipment Upgrades Not Well-Explained