Post-apocalyptic shooters are a dime a dozen in this day and age. The year 2019 alone packs the release of several games with similar survival-based themes. However, 4A Games’ first-person shooter series has managed to differentiate itself from the crowd with an immersive experience that is grounded in realism. Metro Exodus continues this trend by further expanding upon these elements.
Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light were both known for their atmosphere and world-building, and Metro Exodus is no different in this regard. Dmitry Glukhovsky, the sci-fi author of the original book series, has once again lent his writing skills to the latest entry. You will reprise the role of series protagonist Artyom, who has been living in the underground Metro tunnels of the now-desolate wasteland of Moscow along with a group of survivors known as the Spartan Order, led by their commander Colonel Miller.
Miller’s daughter Anna is married to Artyom, and together they dream of life on the surface. Traces of inhabitable regions in other parts of Russia give the group a glimmer of hope, and for the first time in the series, they travel across the continent by train on a yearlong journey through all four seasons to realize their dreams. As such, compared to the previous games, Metro Exodus offers a meatier experience that spans across multiple regions.
While the end goal is what one would expect from a post-apocalyptic game, the journey remains unpredictable and interesting. Much of the character development takes place aboard the Aurora, the Order’s train. It’s here that you get to familiarize yourself with members of the Order and hear their stories. Artyom never makes direct conversation with any of the NPCs, however. Some of your comrades also accompany you on your missions.
The previous Metro games were limited in scale and scope. Much of the time was spent traversing the underground Metro system, which consisted of narrow corridors. Heading outdoors opened things up to an extent, but the series was largely a linear affair up until now. Metro Exodus, while also linear in progression, gives you chunks of large, outdoor regions to roam about in. As a result, exploration no longer feels confined, and you’ll often find more than a single route to your destination.
These regions are mini-sandboxes for all intents and purposes. The time of day affects how hostile your surroundings can get. Mutants are harder to spot and more dangerous during night time. You may even get ambushed by a group of bandits on your way to your destination. Certain safe zones will allow you to take rest to advance time, therefore you need to take note of potential threats and plan ahead of your mission. You’ll often have a vehicle at your disposal in order to quickly cover larger distances.
There are also several optional side activities to look into. NPCs will often ask you to scan the vicinity with your binoculars and take note of certain places of interest, after which they get marked on your map. Investigating these places is often meant for gaining greater insight about the Metro lore and is also rewarding for obtaining loot with which to craft ammunition and upgrades.
Metro Exodus’ indoors sections are narrower and more akin to those found in previous games. You’ll often find yourself in a labyrinth of dark corridors littered with mutants. While the game rarely throws scripted jump scares your way, the tense, spooky atmosphere that is created when traversing these tighter areas ensures that when you do run into a mutant, it feels no less than a jump scare.
Engaging enemies can either be done quietly, by going in guns blazing or using an effective mix of both. Taking out enemies via stealth is usually the sensible option, as it allows you conserve precious crafting material for use on crucial things like gas mask filters and repairing your gear instead of crafting more ammunition. However, Artyom’s inability to hide fallen bodies hinders its utility. Nearby human enemies will often spot their fallen comrades during patrol and alert the others. As was the case in previous Metro titles, Artyom needs to put on his gas mask when traversing regions contaminated with radioactive waste, and its filter needs to be replaced on a periodic basis. Things can get rather tense when you’re on your last filter and have a horde of mutants chasing you down a dark corridor.
In a game layered with several dynamics, it’s important for the core mechanics to be responsive and effective. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case in Metro Exodus. Artyom’s movement feels heavier and less responsive than it did in the previous games, as does the aiming, even with the controller sensitivity turned up to the max. As a result, your weapon fire tends to miss its mark at times, which makes the scarcity of ammo feel a little unfair. In addition, there’s a high amount of friction when colliding with environmental objects, hindering Artyom’s movement in confined areas. It can easily lead to frustration when you’re quietly trying to sneak up behind an enemy only to get blocked on the way by a small protruding ledge or object.
Unlike in previous Metro titles, ammo is no longer the equivalent for currency in Metro Exodus. There are no vendors to purchase upgrades or items from. Instead, you’ll need to craft everything, including ammo, using parts and materials you acquire during your adventure. It provides a meaningful reason for the player to explore every nook and cranny and can be the difference maker in life-threatening situations. The ability to craft isn’t accessible at all times, however. There are special workbenches designated for crafting, and they are found in safe zones as well as mission areas. It more or less feels like the developer is trying to attempt padding an additional task Artyom needs to fulfill.
The actual crafting mechanic is largely redundant and trivial in nature. Everything can be crafted using metal junk extracted from crates and fallen enemies as well as chemical from radioactive growth. Weapon attachments can’t be crafted, however, and they have to be looted directly from dropped weapons.
All in all, Metro Exodus takes great strides in evolving the series into a methodical sandbox experience that usually knows when to liberate and when to confine you. Held back from true greatness by its raw and clunky mechanics, it is otherwise a worthy conclusion to a near decade-long trilogy.