Metro Exodus: Review

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Metro Exodus is the third entry in 4A Games Metro franchise based on the book series by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The story follows main character, Artyom, as he and a group of fellow survivors venture beyond the mutant-filled subways of Moscow to find a new home amidst the remnants of post-apocalyptic Russia. In addition to the hordes of irradiated abominations roaming the wasteland, the player must also contend with their fellow humans in the form of bandits, cannibals, and fanatical cults. Along the way you may be presented with a number of moral choices, often depending on your approach to combat, which can shape the outcome of certain events for better or worse. Even an act of violence which may seem justified at first can potentially come back to haunt you later on.

Despite being ostensibly the most Russian games in existence, the studio is entirely Ukraine based, so take that little bit of geopolitical irony as you will.

Despite being ostensibly the most Russian games in existence, the studio is entirely Ukraine based, so take that little bit of geopolitical irony as you will.

Exodus is noteworthy for being the first game in the series to take place almost entirely outside of the titular Metro featuring a number of different open world locations with a far greater emphasis on exploration. This is in stark contrast to the claustrophobic, mostly linear levels of the previous installments. Not only are these locations incredibly distinct on a visual level, but each one also features unique gameplay elements such as environmental factors and even vehicles. The variety in the locales not only serves to keep things fresh and interesting, but also lends itself to some world building as you get to see how different areas adapted to life in the apocalypse. Some turned to religion, viewing the technology of the old world as sinful and the cause of their suffering, while others simply went mad, becoming monsters themselves in order to survive. In one such area we discover that a local despot was formerly part of an oil corporation and had used his control over the remaining reserves to effectively enslave those in the area around him. World building has always been one of the strongest qualities of the Metro series, down to the use of bullets as currency and the prevalence of shoddy homemade weapons and equipment with “modern” technology being seen as an incredible luxury. Collectibles are another incentive for exploration and for those with a lore addiction, the game is rich with audio and text logs which serve to further flesh out the dreary and unforgiving world of Metro.

One of the biggest changes in this entry compared to previous Metro games, aside from the open world gameplay, is the removal of the “bullet economy” that I briefly mentioned before. In the lore of the Metro, pre-war bullets were considered extremely valuable since the vast majority of ammunition was homemade and thus unreliable and under-powered. The older bullets were considerably more effective and thus became bartering tools that could be traded for goods and services. The player had the option to use these bullets, which did substantially more damage, but this essentially meant you would be shooting your own money. Exodus removes this feature entirely in favor of a more practical crafting system, which allows you to utilize the materials scavenged from the world to replenish your ammunition and equipment. While some sticklers may resent the loss of this distinctly unique gameplay feature, it can’t be argued that there is a level of convenience to being able to restock on the fly, especially on the massively up-scaled maps where the player could find themselves far away from a potential shop. Not to mention the existence of said “bullet economy” would not really make sense canonically considering the players are no longer within the confines of the Moscow metro.

The influence of other post-apocalyptic franchises are apparent in a number of places; the desert level has a very distinct Mad Max vibe to it.

The influence of other post-apocalyptic franchises are apparent in a number of places; the desert level has a very distinct Mad Max vibe to it.

When it comes down to the action of Metro: Exodus it is fairly similar to previous incarnations. Players have the option of stealthing through areas and taking down enemies through non-lethal means or storming in guns blazing, taking no prisoners. Occasionally, if you are deadly enough, enemies will lose heart and attempt to surrender. This is where some of those moral decisions that I spoke about earlier come into play. You can choose to either knock them unconscious or execute them on the spot - depending on your choice, it will shape how some NPCs react to you later on. As for the actual shooting mechanics, they may be one of the bigger points of contention when it comes to the Metro games as whole. Oftentimes shooting can feel sluggish to the point of clunkiness, while your actual movement speed even during a sprint seems almost glacial compared to other contemporary shooters. However, I see this more as a design choice rather than a legitimate flaw. Due to the game’s nature as a survival-horror/shooter, it makes sense to increase the difficulty of prolonged engagements in order to encourage more stealth or tactical based gameplay. Other survival-horror games, such as the Resident Evil series, are similar in this respect.  There are also other mechanics set in place to hamper the players offensive capabilities such as the inclusion of wear and tear on your weapons. Overuse of a specific gun as well as environmental elements such as mud and sand can drastically reduce the effectiveness of your equipment. Going too long without maintenance can lead to poor accuracy, lowered rate of fire, and worst of all, constant jamming. Obviously, this can slow down the action, and I can definitely see it being a turn off for some, but I feel that it helps in creating a much more tense atmosphere. The game seems to be cognizant of this though, and every so often it will throw an intense run and gun segment that allows you to really let loose with your arsenal.

Changing the audio also helps to avoid those awkward moments when characters specifically say they are speaking Russian…in English

Changing the audio also helps to avoid those awkward moments when characters specifically say they are speaking Russian…in English

Metro: Exodus demonstrates some of the highest production values of the series so far, and represents a massive leap forward both graphically and in terms of scale compared to its predecessors. The environments are gorgeously rendered and are even strangely beautiful in that “end of civilization” sort of way. With that being said, 4A Studios and their publisher Deep Silver hardly have the resources of industry giants such as EA or Ubisoft, so it’s not a surprise when a few bugs slip through the cracks. Most of the bugs I’ve encountered have tended to be either graphical in nature or minor annoyances; these include enemies walking through walls, textures popping in, or the flashlight not working. Most of these were few and far between and resolved themselves fairly easily. The only game breaking one I've encountered so far was an instance where every single enemy in the area suddenly became aware of my location for no apparent reason and killed me almost immediately. The most recent checkpoint I had was only seconds before said encounter and resulted in the same scenario playing out every time, thus forcing me to load an earlier save and lose considerable progress. While these glitches can be quite irritating at times, I feel that Metro is due at least a small bit of leniency, especially when we live in a time where fully polished AAA games are a dime a dozen even from massive game studios. I’m not excusing the presence of bugs in the game, but rather clarifying the sad reality that the odds of us ever seeing a 100% complete blockbuster tier game again are exceedingly rare. I still believe the Metro team did a commendable job in not biting off more than they could chew and hope they continue to address said issues in future patches. My only other complaints would probably have to go to the voice acting, something that’s never been the strong suit of these games. While Exodus seems to have better VA’s all around than the other titles, it’s still pretty hit and miss. I tend to circumvent this gripe by switching the game to its native Russian voice dubbing, which is substantially better and has the added benefit of further immersing you into the setting.

Despite being a radical departure from previous titles in some respects, Exodus still feels very much like a Metro game where it counts. The survival mechanics, grim post-apocalyptic tone, and excellent world building that have defined the series thus far are still in full form for 4A Games’ most ambitious title so far. The newly introduced open-world gameplay has done much to expand the scope of the setting in a way that doesn’t leave it feeling empty and lifeless (despite it being, you know, post-apocalypse and all). I highly recommend Metro Exodus for any fans of the Metro franchise as well as any survival-horror enthusiasts.