It’s only February, and a lot can happen between now and December. Still, we’re calling it. Metro Exodus is an early contender for game of the year.
Metro Exodus is the third game based on the Metro novels by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It follows on from 2013’s Metro: Last Light and the original Metro 2033 from 2010.
Metro Exodus comes from Ukrainian developer 4A games, who are uniquely qualified to bring Glukhovsky’s novels to life in a way that a predominantly English-speaking studio would likely butcher. It’s not often that Russian-based entertainment reaches the western mainstream. It’s possibly something that hasn’t happened since Timur Bekmambetov’s film Nightwatch scored a local cinema release in 2004.
Set quarter-century after a nuclear war devastated the Earth, a few thousand survivors cling to existence beneath the ruins of Moscow, in the tunnels of the Metro. The survivors have struggled through radiation sickness, fought mutated beasts and suffered the flames of civil war.
A Ranger named Artyom always believed that there was life beyond the Metro and when a radio signal confirms his suspicions, Artyom and his crew commandeer a train – the Aurora, fleeing the ruins of Moscow and embarking on an epic year-long journey into the unknown.
The previous Metro games were a mix of action and survival horror, with the claustrophobic subway tunnels providing the perfect setting. The shift to the surface shouldn’t concern fans of the series. Metro Exodus successfully retains the trademark tension and scares.
Metro Exodus elicits a constant feeling of dread. It’s due to developer 4A Games excellent world building. This time around, Metro is less what threat is lurking beyond the next corner, and more which variety of nightmare creatures will overrun you next. Add an eerie ambient soundtrack, and a day-night cycle that alters visibility and Metro Exodus is a tense experience. Tip: Always remember to keep that flashlight charged.
Gameplay shifts between exploration, resource gathering, stealth combat and shootouts. Each open-world environment is full of landmarks to visit, some offering up objectives, while others hide the most valuable commodity in the game – ammunition. Almost all landmarks will hide some variation of irradiated creature, waiting to kill you. Even so, exploration is satisfying, and the best way to discover weapon upgrades.
Shooting and movement have a real ‘weight’ to them, which feels uncomfortable at first, especially if you play a lot of fast shooters. But it also feels natural and grounded. (Or as grounded as a post-apocalyptic video game can be).
As the Aurora chugs along from station to station, the seasons and landscapes change, offering new objectives and new casts of characters. The first stop, the frozen city of Volga has a local population who fear technology and are happy to remind you every time you shine a light in their face. Progressing, there’s the usual cast of post-apocalyptic-types including mutants, cannibals and Mad Max-crazies.
An impressive feat of Metro Exodus’ design is the missions and objectives never retread the same ground. It’s refreshing to play an open-world game that isn’t about performing repetitive tasks that offer little more than a step towards 100% completion. In many ways, the structure of Metro Exodus makes it feel like a distant cousin of the Fallout franchise. So Metro Exodus should satisfy players disappointed by Fallout 76.
Despite the high praise, Metro Exodus is not perfect. On PlayStation 4, the load time waits could be over two minutes. While the characters on your crew are interesting, with authentic-sounding Russian accents, they tend to over-explain and monologue with cliché phrases. (Colonel Miller especially).
This wouldn’t be an issue if the dialogue were coming through Artyom’s earpiece while you’re fleeing a colossal crustacean. Instead, you’re often forced to stand and wait while a character talks at you. Pair this with the load times, and there’s a lot of waiting before you can play and explore.
A final complaint is Artyom as the silent protagonist. It’s a classic narrative approach, but when Artyom’s wife Ana asks questions directly to your face, and there’s no way to reply, it feels like he should have a voice. Even more confounding is that he does have one on the load screens, reading journal entries aloud.
Still, Metro Exodus is a blast. Coming in at around 20 hours, longer if you want to see absolutely everything, it’s far more comprehensive than your average shooter and is undoubtedly 2019’s first must-play game. Get on it!
Metro Exodus is available February 15 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Man of Many received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher.