Update – This Metro Exodus review has now been completed and has been given a score.
I’d always thought of the Metro series as a bit of a B-Grade franchise. Not having the franchise pedigree of Fallout or as recognisable an IP as Mad Max, it was never a series that interested me.
What a fool.
Although I’m yet to fully play through Metro Exodus, when I do, I plan on going back and finally playing both 2033 and Last Light. If Metro Exodus is an example of the series as a whole, it’s absolutely phenomenal.
While I’ve not seen everything Metro Exodus has to offer, I am confident enough in what I’ve seen and played to call it one of the best games I’ve played this generation and there are many reasons why.
Metro Exodus Review
The world building in Metro Exodus is as good as I’ve ever seen in a video game. Post-apocalyptic Moscow and rural Russia are fully realised, lived-in and confident digital worlds, as real as the one you and I occupy now. There’s a dialogue and a language to the world and I don’t mean a spoken one.
People relate to each other in ways that a foreign to how we live in this, pre-apocalypse earth. The way they talk about life, survival and the world around them, it feels so real. It feels like that’s the way it really could go if the worst were to happen.
It’s a real testament to both 4A Games’ skills as a developer and author Dmitry Glukhovsky for crafting fictional places so rooted in their own reality.
From the outset, Metro Exodus bears a heavy and oppressive atmosphere. Whether it’s being trapped behind your gas mask, underground in the Metro or exploring the derelict ruins of the once great Moscow, Metro offers no glimpses of hope.
That’s not to say there isn’t beauty in Metro Exodus’ world. It’s just a different kind. The Nuclear Winter caused by the oft-mentioned ‘War’ blankets the landscape in white. Icicles dangle precariously from every surface and the quiet, still cityscape offers a brutal juxtaposition with what we know of how cities really look and sound in the real world.
But Metro Exodus isn’t about the oppressive life spent living in the Metro, it’s about escape, freedom and finding the truth. Protagonist Artyom isn’t content with a life spent underground and is sure that there’s more to the world than what he’s seen.
Turns out he’s right.
Free At Last
I won’t spoil how or why, but if you’ve been following Metro Exodus, you’ll know that Artyom and the Spartans leave Moscow behind on a train, in search of life outside of the city. Don’t worry, there’s plenty.
Most of it isn’t too friendly, but if it was, Metro Exodus wouldn’t be much of a survival horror game would it? Another thing I had wrong about Metro was that I assumed it was yet another shooter. Technically there is shooting, but Metro Exodus is more survival horror than it is anything else.
There are elements of straight survival, rogue-lite, RPG and adventure, but at its core, it’s a horror game. Even in the relatively short time I’ve spent with Metro Exodus, I’ve jumped out of my skin more times than I can count. It’s terrifying and brilliantly so.
Doom Around Every Corner
Metro Exodus is also a master-class in depowering the player in the face of overwhelming odds. Even though I was carrying three different guns, Molotov cocktails and throwing knives, I never felt safe taking on more than two enemies at a time.
If you’re not careful, you’ll be overrun and dead before you can react. Luckily, Metro Exodus features a robust autosave and checkpointing system. This isn’t a game to be played with guns blazing. You’ll never really have enough ammo to get your guns blazing anyway. You might be able to start a small, accidental kitchen fire, but you’ll never get a blaze going.
Stealth is a huge part of Metro Exodus so if you’re not a fan of sneaking around and biding your time, you’re not going to be a fan of what this game has to offer.
Even with a well thought out plan of attack, plenty of ammo and the drop on your enemy, you’re still going to come away licking your wounds fairly regularly. This is a punishing game which reflects the world within. You’re never safe and you better stay alert.
You Better Watch Out
Befitting its survival horror status, shooting in Metro Exodus, while responsive, is slow and almost ineffectual against most enemies. Humans go down like a sack of spuds, but all the nasty mutants and freaks take many, many hits before they give up. By then, all of their mates have found you and are kicking your teeth in and stealing your lunch money.
Modding your guns on the fly is one way to try to deal with the myriad threats to your continued breathing. Thanks to the handy backpack Artyon lugs around, players are able to mod their weapons at will, provided they have the parts.
I was able to turn my silenced pistol into a mini sniper rifle and turn my Ak-47 into an insanely powerful silenced weapon of death. Of the weapons I’ve seen thus far, the pneumatic rifle is my favourite. Having to pump up the pressure is a pain in the arse, but it’s worth it for the animation and relative silence of the shots.
Different enemies are also more or less affected by different weapons, so plan accordingly and you should make it out alive.
Make Your Choices
As I played more of Metro Exodus something that I wasn’t expecting was to have to face the ramifications of my decisions. In fact, they were decisions I didn’t even know I’d made. Without giving too much away, I played the game quite brutally and didn’t show much mercy to enemies, even those who had surrendered.
This had DIRE consequences for my story. Not that I would have done things differently, but it’s great to see that 4A took your actions into account and then gave you a world and narrative that reacted accordingly.
I deserved the story I got, whether it was satisfying or not.
Metro Exodus is a game that wants you to think about what you’re doing. Whether that’s making sure your guns are clean and you have enough ammo, air filters and med kits to survive. Or whether you’re sneaking past enemies rather than fighting to conserver health and ammo. Or even whether you have to choose to kill or to spare lives, Metro Exodus wants you to be conscious every step of the way.
Not many games attempt this and fewer succeed. Gaming can be such a zoned-out, relaxing activity that actively engaging in a game, its world and its story can be a challenge. Not so with Metro Exodus. This is a modern masterpiece and a game that will be compared to for years to come.
Metro Exodus was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Metro Exodus
Atmospheric, oppressive, spooky, otherworldly - 9.8/10
Deliberately present and demanding of attentiong - 8.3/10
Bleak, Brooding, yet Hopeful - 9.2/10
Lots to see and lots to do - 9.3/10