I’ve always had a soft spot for post-apocalyptic games, no matter what form they take. There’s just something about Earth after civilization that makes a really interesting video game setting for me. Luckily, there always seems to be a glut of these types of games, so there is never a lack in flavor varieties.
Metro Exodus is an occasionally open world first person shooter. It’s the third game in the Metro series, which is based on a series of novels. While the previous Metro games spent a lot of time in the titular metro (though you did wander outside more in sequel Last Light) you will spend a lot (if not most) of your time outside in Exodus.
The Metro games have been known for their graphics and atmosphere. Metro Exodus is no exception, as it feels almost oppressively atmospheric from the very beginning. It has an insanely detailed world, with graphics that come close to photorealism at times. The character models aren’t always the best, but the facial animations are impressive. The fidelity is just outstanding, and makes everything in Metro a pleasure to experience.
The animations for the player character are amazing. You’re in first person the entire time, but wiping your mask, or pulling out your lighter all looks and feels great. The animations for some of the monsters…are not so amazing. In fact, some of the character models for the mutant beasts you run across tend to have mixed results. There are still exceptional examples—especially the feral mutants, with their stabilized heads and bobbing bodies—but there are a few clunkers in there.
Metro Exodus is open world flavored, but doesn’t stay open world the entire time. Instead, when you and your group come across a new point of interest to explore, you usually have a new open map to run around and explore. These open world sections are varied in their environments: you have frozen wastes, deserts, verdant forests and wet swamplands. Each of these locations usually has enemies unique to it—something suited to their specific environment. The further you get from Moscow on your journeys, the more you’ll run into different creatures. Those open world sections are punctuated by more linear sections you will be familiar with if you’ve played the other games in the Metro series.
Combat in Metro Exodus is probably one of the weaker aspects of the gameplay, but not by much. The gunplay isn’t very satisfying overall, despite the weapons being interesting, and feeling hefty. There is just something off about the way the guns feel, that make it not as fun as even the recently released (and panned) Fallout 76. There is a heavy stealth focus (though you can choose to run and gun) but even the stealth approach actually manages to feel overpowered. You have the normal lethal, and non-lethal options—with the ability to one punch people unconscious in the middle of a pitched battle (with huge cheese potential if you want to save bullets)—but whatever morality system that Metro Exodus uses to keep track of the player’s actions aren’t always immediately apparent. If you aren’t a murderous dick, human NPCs will even give up and surrender to you, rather than die fighting a pointless battle.
Ammunition, as is Metro tradition, is rare. You can craft it, but you won’t always be at a crafting bench to make bullets. Luckily, you can carry a weapon that allows ammunition crafting away from benches—the ball bearing gun, or the crossbow. Gone is the mechanic of premium bullets and bullets as currency. No more worrying about saving your “good” ammo for hard encounters—thankfully.
Crafting is a major part of Metro Exodus, as it’s one of your main sources for filters, ammo—and it also serves as a way to clean your weapons, and repair your protective mask.
Metro Exodus’ story is epic, sprawling across Russia, and into many interesting locales. Despite the sprawling nature of the narrative, there are so many cheesy lines and an undercurrent of juvenility that often took me out of what would otherwise be a great story. The way the relationship is between Anna and Artyom is especially egregious, with moments that make me cringe despite their sincerity. Anna is almost a manic pixie post-apocalyptic dream girl. Your companions aren’t portrayed much better, either. While riding the train between stops, there are some charming moments of characterization for the small crew travelling these rails, but the supporting cast is never elevated past being props for the purpose of pathos. Also, the initial event that serves as the catalyst to leave Moscow’s metro seems a little far-fetched.
It also doesn’t help that Artyom still doesn’t speak in-game, just his loading screen narrations. This keeps it in line with the previous Metro games, but makes moments of genuine characterization feel hollow, and strange as Artyom remains silent. I feel like it’s carrying some sort of design philosophy from the silent FPS protag days, but this decision is baffling to me.
Regarding difficulty, no real survival mode feels a little bit like a missed opportunity, but it’s good that they didn’t cram a hunger/thirst mechanic into a game where it really doesn’t belong. Still, I was hoping we would get a Metro title that felt a little bit more like the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, but it ends up standing on its own merits, even if it doesn’t quite deliver that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. experience.
The controversy of Metro Exodus being a timed Epic Store exclusive was not lost on this author, but I tried not to let it flavor my judgment. I have used the Epic launcher a bit in the past, but I haven’t had as many troubles with it, or with a game launched from it, until Metro Exodus. There have been a few patches, so the problems I was running into may not even exist anymore, but I was experiencing more hard crashes to my desktop than when I played Fallout 76 regularly. Luckily, none of these were catastrophic, but they’re still annoying.
Another major issue I have is with the save system. You can quicksave, quickload, and the game autosaves at certain points—but there is no way to manually make saves. I usually make a few redundant saves at various points in any game’s playthrough (when I’m allowed) that let me undo major decisions later on if I end up not liking them. It’s not something I’ve used very often, but it’s saved me from getting stuck in terrible situations—like an autosave before a boss where I had no health or ammo. Stuff like that. Well, Metro Exodus doesn’t let you do that, and there have been reports of people getting stuck in impossible situations as a result. I was trying to be careful with my game saves, but even then, I’ve ended up losing chunks of gameplay due to silly mistakes, or bad luck.
Metro Exodus’story had a chance to be truly great, but its characters (or lack of characterization) really drags it down. Fortunately, the game itself is mostly fun, and gorgeous—despite the technical issues I ran into. The sums of its parts aren’t enough to elevate it to legendary greatness, but Metro Exodus is certainly something that is worth checking out.
Metro Exodus is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the Epic Store.
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