Platforms: Xbox One, PC (Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4
Release Date: February 15th, 2019
Reviewed On: Xbox One X
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Price: $59.99 USD
Based on the series of novels written by Dmitry Glukhovsky, the Metro games have always been somewhat niche. While they’ve had a dedicated following of fans who enjoy the somber mood, unique setting, survival-horror elements and philosophical ideas in the story, they never hit truly massive, mainstream appeal. With Metro Exodus, 4A Games is looking to grow the series and possibly change that.
After several years in development, Metro Exodus is finally here. Now, due to the nature of this game, talking about the story in any fashion does spoil some of the events of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, so please be aware of that. Now, let’s dive in. Here’s my Metro Exodus review.
In Metro Exodus, we play as Artyom, the protagonist of the first two games. In the year 2036, two years after the events of Last Light, Spartan Rangers Artyom and Anna have settled down some. They’re married now, living quiet lives. Yet still, Artyom returns to the surface. Day after day, week after week, he’s desperate to make radio contact, to learn that there are others out there beyond the tunnels of Moscow. To know that they aren’t alone. He hears nothing but static. Yet things aren’t what they seem. On one outing, a startling series of discoveries quickly unfold, and events conspire that see Artyom, Anna, Colonel Miller (Anna’s father) and a squad of the Spartan Rangers thrown into a trip across Russia in a functioning train, the Aurora.
As this band of companions take a train ride across the frozen land, along rivers and through deserts, we see an interesting balance emerge. The cacophony, tension and rage of battle is juxtaposed with the quiet moments you spend with the other Spartan Rangers on the Aurora. These conversations result in a balance between the point of serenity and chaos, with a very heartfelt story told, of people in search of a place that they can forever call home. This is a story of perseverance, hope, love, family and brotherhood.
Anna and Artyom’s relationship is developed well, with plentiful tender moments that emphasize their love for each other. One of my favorite new mechanics simply involved them holding each other. That’s it – just the option to engage in a simple moment of connection. It made their bond tangible in a way that completely reinforced why they are looking for a new home.
It comes across as weird that Artyom still doesn’t talk except for in loading screens or in the intro and epilogue. He’s in an awkward, in-between stage where he’s somewhat of a defined character but the player is still supposed to imagine themselves in his shoes. As a result, other characters tend to talk “at” Artyom rather than with him. It would’ve been nice to see a Dishonored 2-style leap, where the main character becomes voiced and talks throughout the game.
The “moral points” system, measuring how kind of cruel you choose to be, does return. Fortunately, it is far more forgiving and straightforward this time around. Past Metro games were unclear about whether or not it was “okay” to kill someone without adversely affecting your moral standing. Without giving specific examples or spoilers, Exodus is much clearer and much more lenient in letting players let loose and get rid of your more disgusting human enemies without issue.
This is a first-person shooter however, that doesn’t mean you can just run in and gun everything down. The controls and the gunplay have a heft and weight to them, which is affected by how you customize your guns. There’s an extensive crafting and weapon customization system, letting you swap out barrels, change cylinders, adjust stocks and more, all within seconds. Better range, damage, stability and more are all easily interchangeable, but the more you bolt on to your guns, the heavier they’ll be and the more tiring it’ll be to run. As a result, you have to consider your modifications and what guns you carry very carefully.
You can find weapon parts by stripping them off of enemy guns, so you’ll need to loot enemy bodies and your environment very carefully. It’s also important to note that the bullets-for-money Military Grade Rounds system is gone – after all, you’re not in the metro of Moscow anymore. Instead, you’ll want to gather resources to craft ammunition, medpacks and filters for your gas mask.
While not a true open-world game, Metro Exodus features several large areas, large enough that you are given a map to navigate your way. During your exploration, different things will be marked on the map, from mutant nests to side objectives. This map is pretty straightforward and will keep you from ever getting lost, while allowing you to optimize your path.
Metro Exodus looks absolutely stunning. When I first booted up the game and the opening cutscene finished, my jaw actually dropped as I realized the game was in-engine and control of Artyom was handed over. Even sharing screenshots and video clips doesn’t really do this game justice. The detailed materials, from leather uniforms to the scratched metal on guns, simply look wonderful. Character models look good and the facial animations are a big step up from the E3 2018 build I played before. I truly believe it is the best-looking game I have ever seen on my Xbox One X.
The varying environments and weather create incredible atmosphere, wherever your journey takes you. The wind, rain and snow spatter against your gas mask while lightning crackles in the distance. Oftentimes it’s simply breathtaking, especially with the incredible HDR implementation.
The 4A Engine has been heavily upgraded to handle the more open environments and it really pays off. The game hits a full 4K on Xbox One X, with graphics equivalent to the high-end PC settings. It does run at 30 frames-per-second (fps), so if you’re coming off of the Redux editions of the older games, which run at 60 fps, you will be able to feel the difference. Still, despite expanding to the biggest, most open environments yet, the framerate never dropped for me and always felt consistent.
Part of what helps to create the incredible atmosphere in this game is in the audio design. From the echoes of gunfire to the shrieks of mutants and call-outs from enemy soldiers, fighting is filled with the sounds of chaos. Enemies take note of where you are and will accurately call out your location to their comrades. If you remain stealthy and eliminate their compatriots, some foes will even surrender and plead for their lives, which was a really neat addition.
The soundtrack is excellent, with several standout tracks that always suit the mood, from the quiet, somber sections to the frenetic, horrific chases as you desperately run from mutants that are barreling down on you. One thing that really surprised me is just how hopeful most of the music sounds. It isn’t depressing and it really helps the optimistic, persevering tone of the story shine through.
The voice acting isn’t perfect but it works for the most part. Anna, Miller and most of the Spartan Rangers are well-performed, though as I mentioned above, Artyom really should be voiced. Only hearing him talk in diary sessions on loading screens really is distracting.
As an addendum, I do need to mention that I’ve heard from some friends who are having technical issues such as crashes and some bugs. While I haven’t run into any bugs and the game only crashed once for me, you should be aware of that. These issues should be addressed soon, as 4A Games is on top of things and has already patched the PC version of the game, with a console patch coming in the near future.
All in all, Metro Exodus is a fantastic game. I spent around 25 hours in my first playthrough and I know for a fact I’ll be returning to try out Ranger mode and finish grabbing the collectibles. 4A Games has crafted an apocalypse with purpose, a dark story with light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, the fact that Artyom doesn’t talk is distracting but don’t let that dissuade you. Metro Exodus is one of the best first-person shooters to release this generation and whether we get another Metro game or this is the finale, I’m really looking forward to the DLC.