Metro Exodus sees us stepping into Artyom’s shoes once more in what is easily the series’ most ambitious instalment to date. It builds upon all the intense survival-horror, FPS brilliance showcased in its predecessors and sets it hand in hand with some refreshing nuances that fashion a real game of the year contender for 2019.
Following the events of Metro: Last Light, Artyom and his Spartan squad depart the safety of the Moscow Metro system to scout the barren, foreboding post-apocalyptic wasteland that lurks above and hunt for a new life of peace and prosperity. Thrilling cutscenes and fiery combat sequences are seamlessly strung together in a way that plays fluidly for maximum immersion and keeps you on your toes throughout. For returning fans, this is an unpredictable story that’s choc-full of familiar faces. Upon procuring the Aurora, your trusty locomotive, the game releases it’s tight grasp on your hand and gives you the liberty to negotiate it’s hostile, unforgiving setting at your own leisure.
Travelling through Russia, your journey is broken up into ‘open world-lite’ segments that span the seasons, taking a far less daunting approach to its sandbox elements than other shooters. The story will steer you through very different biomes, each distinctly different in appearance to the next and each retaining its own selection of collectibles, rest stops and bandit camps. This compliments the FPS centre-point of the title which ultimately isn’t staggered by long-winded exploration. It doesn’t however deny players the opportunity to stretch their legs and venture out into the eerie, ruthless setting of the game with plenty on offer for more courageous explorers who care to stray from the beaten path.
Exodus features a dynamic weather system that transforms its already bitter and unrelenting world into an even more fierce and unpredictable place. However, this doesn’t deter from the fact that each environment you nervously trudge through is an ominous treat for the eyes. The stunning visuals really do bring your unsettling surroundings to life, for better or for worse. Fortunately, 4A Games have incorporated a nifty photo mode that will allow you to take countless haunting shots in tight underground confines or capture every irradiated sunset in all its glory.
In the world of Metro, resources are scarce and enemies plentiful. Mutant creatures roam every square inch of the remains of Earth and ensure that proceeding from A to B is far from an easy task. Watchers are waiting to sniff you out and chase you down on land, Tsar fish lie in wait beneath still waters ready to make a beeline for your rickety row boat, and bandit camps riddled with cultists ensure your pathways are constantly blocked – enter Metro’s esteemed stealth mechanics.
Meticulously assessing enemy encounters and adopting a stealthier approach is almost always the more favourable approach. Night vision goggles, the ability to extinguish flames and hide in the shadows, and distraction techniques all make for adrenaline-filled stealth gameplay that invokes a real sense of accomplishment when you succeed. Furthermore, toying with the dynamic day-night cycle will also alter the odds of battle. For instance bandit camps are more easily tackled at night, but comes with the risk of encountering the bigger and badder demons as they prowl through the darkness.
Regardless of your approach, should you step on to rusty scaffolding or rotten floorboards, plummet to the ground and alert all nearby enemies to your location, it’s not the end of the world. Numerous weapon and armour upgrades can be salvaged from fallen foes and modified at any camp in order to ensure your arsenal is fighting fit in the worst case scenario. You can even make some more rudimentary changes and crafting on the fly, thanks to Artyom’s fancy new backpack.
Much like its prior instalments, Metro Exodus leans into its survival-horror roots as it shrewdly toys with some of the most common fears. During the introductory missions alone you’re forced through tight crawl spaces, ushered through the dark and dingy Metro Tunnels guided by nothing but torchlight, and are hassled by enormous spiders that crawl up your arms and across your gas mask.
It’s insanely obvious 4A Games wants to ensure you feel vulnerable and this is a theme present in all aspects of the game. Limited ammo, the need to keep weapons clean and functional, having to recharge your electronics midway through a mission, and pump up the iconic Bastard gun. These factors overshadow your every decision in-game and ensure you never feel safe – great for maintaining the game’s thrill, but also for introducing a fantastic degree of realism and immersion.
The game’s production does have some rough edges, with dialogue not always meshing well together. Again, you can see 4A’s ambitious design, as they try to create seamless conversations within gameplay, but it can sometimes feel rushed, as though characters simply can’t wait to butt in and start talking over the top of each other. Having a few more cutscenes could have made the dialogue more engaging and given narrative heavy sections an excuse to be a little more long-winded, but it doesn’t detract from the various twists and turns of this Russia railroad trip.