Welcome to Moscow. Or if you are familiar with the Metro series, then welcome back, comrade. Since Metro 2033 released back in 2010 an impressive underground, post apocalyptic and claustrophobic world was introduced. Since then there has been major advancements in the series’ setting and mechanics. The latest entry, Metro: Exodus takes the entire series out of its dark comfort zone and into a brighter, and more open world to satisfying results.
4A Games and Deep Silver have moved further into Metro territory with further adaptation of author, Dmitry GlukHovsky novel, Metro: 2035. Exodus does a particularly good job of further fleshing out important elements from the story with an emphasis on the characters and mixing it several additional gameplay embellishment additions.
In Metro: Exodusyou play as Artyom, who has survived in the underground haven of Metro for most of his life. Tired of the subterranean way of life, Artyom has made a habit of searching for radio signals and other signs of life outside of frozen Moscow. When Artyom and his band of Spartan soldiers commandeer a train, they learn of a world outside of Moscow, and head out to face the unknown.
Your first few moments in Metro will be spent re-introducing you to the world of frozen Moscow as Atryom explores the underground, while trying to thwart the attacks of packs of mutated creatures. These also acts as an organic tutorial that takes you through some of the new mechanics like being able to burn cobwebs away with your trusty lighter.
The train, which is dubbed The Aurora, acts as you and your teams base of operations and is central to most of the at times too talky character development. Here you will be able to access weapons found in your travels as well as pick up side missions from members of your crew.
Levels play out over the course of semi-open world environments that the Aurora makes stops at along its journey. For example, the first unexpected stop is at The Volgra a frozen, Lovecraftian setting that is teeming with mutated sea creatures, bandits and a religious cult that worships a fish.
Each of the stops along the way feel like their own game. The Volgra with its Lovecraftian sensibilities, while the dried out Caspian feels like a Mad Max tale complete with an evil fuel Baron that runs the land. In that way, Metro: Exodus never allows itself to feel stale, constantly new settings are absolutely refreshing.
Another really interesting thing that Metro does particularly is making it impossible to run and gun. Each enemy you encounter requires a different approach to combat and in some cases presents an opportunity sneak by instead of engaging in combat. The survival horror is in the forefront and makes for a harrowing experience.
Seldom do video game experiences make the tools and means a necessity to survive, but Metro: Exodusis heavily reliant on looting and building weapons. You won’t be able to simply run from enemies due to depleting stamina levels that will leave you heaving for breath, and you won’t be able to take on every enemy you see due to the scarcity of ammo and the resources needed to create them.
Your backpack is your best friend in the wasteland. It allows you to craft much-needed ammo, health packs and air filters. Most impressively, it allows you to customize weapon attachments in the field in order to best suit different combat situations you might encounter. Being able to switch to a sniper scope and then back to a red dot is a great feature to play around with.
You can also use workbenches to do a lot of the same things you are able to accomplish with your backpack, with the addition of being able to clean and maintain your weapons. Taking care of your weapons is a good practice to keep since weapons that get too dirty will eventually become completely unusable.
Controls make for a tight FPS experience, that may need to be tweaked in settings but overall are what you need to do the job. Playing on PC might be a slightly more intuitive experience since with console controllers you will have to hold down one button while pushing another in order to do something simple like activate your lighter. But with so many selections it seems like a necessary controller scheme evil, an evil that isn’t too difficult to overcome.
Night and day cycles are also significant in approach. Need to sneak through a bandit compound? Do it in at night to insure there are less bad guy patrols out. The flip side to that coin of course is that nocturnal mutated creatures will be out in packs. The day cycle has the opposite result making bandit patrols significantly more difficult while some creatures sleep.
It takes a lot to scare me, especially when it comes to games, but one scenario in particular tasked me with having to go underground in a dark bunker where huge mutated spiders swarm you from every direction only susceptible to the beam of a flashlight. The atmosphere and sound design of spiders hundreds of spiders legs moving about just outside of your light is the stuff of nightmares and absolutely made my skin crawl.
Metro: Exodus does a great job at character development too. While, some of these ‘getting to know you’ moments can be a bit too talky. There are a few encounters that get to the heart of some of the relationships. Being able to sit Artyom down with his wife Anna to have a chat or being able to play guitar with other Spartan comrades makes the impact or possibility of losing one of them difficult.
Along the way choices you make have an immediate consequence in the narrative. Helping someone out or choosing to use stealth instead of killing certain enemies will have a long-lasting result that can either make your path easier or a heck of a lot more difficult.
Metro: Exodus improves substantially on a formula that was already working for the series. It’s is rewarding and feels like three games for the price of one with its compartmentalized and fantastic levels and design. The immersively beautiful jaw dropping graphics are the best the series has yet to offer. The addition of the backpack is an organically cool mechanic to put to work. Every corner of the world outside the train is a complete nightmare filled with cannibals, religious zealots and packs of harrowing creatures making for a truly great survival horror experience.
Metro: Exodus is out now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.