It's Story Time!
Themes of finding a new home and accepting loss are common in post-apocalypse media. For the most part, Metro Exodus’ main storyline fulfills both of these pretty well. But, what if you were already a stranger in a strange land before the nuclear holocaust began? This is the predicament that Sam, the titular character of Metro Exodus: Sam's Story, finds himself in. Unlike the rest of his Spartan Ranger brethren, Sam is not Russian. In fact, he’s not even from the same continent.
In Sam’s Story, the player finds out that Sam was a US Marine stationed at the American embassy prior to the war. Throughout his time in Russia, he longs to find a way back home to San Diego. His travels bring him to Vladivostok, which is where Metro Exodus’ latest DLC begins in earnest. As luck would have it, Vladivostok seems to have avoided a direct hit by any sort of nuclear weapons.
Despite that, it doesn’t mean that the city is safe. As you might expect, banditry is a lucrative business. New kinds of mutants make their home in Vladivostok, and some of them have very interesting interactions with Metro Exodus' lighting effects. Fortunately enough for Sam, there is a functional nuclear submarine in the city’s docks.
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Unfortunately, the submarine is under the control of Tom, a pre-war American arms dealer who is definitely not shady in any way whatsoever. Sam and Tom eventually agree that they have to refuel the sub, which means that Sam has to find the third major character of the DLC, the Captain, and convince him to help. While these three aren’t particularly unique characters, it is nice that the player character, Sam, actually speaks. Sure, some of the dialogue can be a tiny bit cheesy, but it’s miles better than playing as a mute. Doubly so considering how Artyom never says a single word outside of loading screens in Metro Exodus.
Still, it is a little odd how agreeable the three characters are with each other, almost to the point that it seems like chunks of the story got cut. Aside from that, Tom gets almost no character development over the course of the whole DLC. Normally, this would be insignificant, if it weren't for the fact that the ending essentially revolves around whether you trust the Captain or Tom more. It would certainly add depth to the final choice if one of your choices wasn't a cardboard cutout.
New guns to shoot new mutants in a new city
In more practical matters, Sam’s Story plays like a condensed version of Metro Exodus’ semi-open world. Vladivostok, being a single city, doesn’t have the environmental diversity of the main game, yet that doesn’t stop the developers from being creative. Flooded apartments, landmine infested ruins, and collapsed sewers are featured prominently. Radiation storms and fog also add to the creepy atmosphere of certain locations. As is the case in the main game, there are quite a few optional areas to explore if you want more resources and weapon attachments. The playable areas are admittedly smaller than what one may expect though. However, this is largely negligible thanks to the vertical nature of some locations and the minimized travel time.
In more ways than one, Sam's Story is a direct continuation of Metro Exodus. The setting may change, the characters may change, the weapons may be new and fantastic, but the core of both experiences is the same. Not particularly surprising given that Sam's Story is a DLC.
What is surprising is the inclusion of some rather odd, and decidedly player unfriendly, game mechanics. The most annoying of which is going to be the Universal Detector by far. Early on in the DLC, Sam gets some new guns and gear. Part of the new gear includes the aforementioned Universal Detector. It's basically a wrist-mounted metal detector that's terrific for exploration, helping you pinpoint where secret weapon parts and landmines are. The only problem is that the range is so great that it beeps constantly. It's like strapping a dying smoke detector onto your arm every time you go anywhere near a building.
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The good news is that like every other piece of equipment in Metro Exodus, the Detector is purely optional. You can get rid of it immediately if you wanted to. The bad news is that Vladivostok has mines everywhere. There aren't your normal game mines with beeping bright red indicators either. These are realistic looking mines that resemble a tin can with some wires sticking out of it. Almost 99% of the time, these mines are hidden in tall grass, rubble, or otherwise obscured by the environment. You can't run past them and they will instantly kill you (on higher difficulties at least). The only reliable way to find these mines is with, you guessed it, the Universal Detector.
The end result is that a blind run of Sam's Story is going to be filled with a near-constant beeping sound. Tying into this is the punishing open-world autosave/checkpoint system that almost never saves when you expect it to. The autosave function, ironically, works fine in the linear story segments of the DLC where no mines are present.
Choose your own adventure
In any case, if you can overlook the beeping sounds, Sam's Story is a wonderful extension of the Metro world. It's a little linear in certain parts, but that doesn't really detract from the overall game. The inclusion of some decent "boss" fights certainly doesn't hurt. The premise is quite interesting too, with two different and distinct endings to the story. From a narrative standpoint, the mental effects of Sam being away from a home that may no longer exist could've probably been expanded upon. However, the overall story is fine as is. Sam's Story isn't perfect of course, but it upholds the quality offered by the main game in a neat little package without compromising too much on gameplay length.
- A Vocal Protagonist
- Fantastic New Weapons
- Gameplay Combines Linear and Open World
- Great Weather Effects
- Cheesy Dialogue At Times
- Annoying Universal Detector
- Checkpoint System Lacking In The Open World
- Frustratingly Realistic Landmines