|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: 4A Games|
|Pub: Deep Silver|
|Release: February 15, 2019|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs|
by Sean Engemann
First-person shooters may be a dime a dozen, and battle royales are stealing the social airwaves, but if you’re yearning for a more personal and resonant FPS adventure, Metro Exodus is a breath of fresh, radioactive air. As it was with the two previous entries in the Metro video game trilogy, Exodus tunes out the cries for multiplayer, instead delivering a textually flawless storyline and some great gameplay mechanics, yet still succumbing to hiccups, with regards to the AI.
Playing once again as the mainstay protagonist Artyom, Metro Exodus takes place two years after the conclusion of the previous game, Metro: Last Light. Mention of the supernatural Dark Ones that permeated much of the first two games story arc are mere whispers, as the focus now for Artyom is to find uncorrupted life and a habitable place outside the tight confines of the titular subway system beneath the nuclear wasteland of Moscow. Indeed, “Exodus” was the proper label for this story, as your ventures in the metro come to an abrupt breach after the introductory chapter. Moving forward through the story takes you into the open world, exploring sizeable maps not just of a bitter Russian winter, but scorching deserts and deep, autumnal forests.
Every squadmate and civilian that joins your journey has a distinct and likeable personality, their own motivations, and a lengthy script that really helps understand and develop an emotional connection to them. The game begs you to pause, at times for several minutes, to listen to the conversations of both friends and enemies and soak in the entire novel from series author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Whether Glukhovsky took any scribing inspiration from legendary Russian author Boris Pasternak is unclear, though it’s hard not to be instantly drawn to Doctor Zhivago as you trek through the story aboard a train. Yet, as is the case in many character-driven video games, Artyom is the only character without a voice box, save for his journal readings during loading screens. The player is given a few interesting physical options during conversations, but his lack of verbal responses severely hinders his emotional engagement with the rest of the cast.
Metro Exodus does a nice job mixing some claustrophobic compounds, tunnels, and buildings in with the sprawling and devastated open wasteland. Each zone is peppered with interesting landmarks, whether marked on your clipboard map through conversations or spotted from an elevated vantage point with your binoculars. Thorough exploration is highly recommended, especially on the more challenging and survival-centric difficulty modes. You don’t need food and water to survive, but ammunition is always at a premium and resources are vital for crafting medical supplies, gas mask filters, Molotov cocktails, and even for cleaning your weapons to prevent them from jamming in the heat of battle. There’s also the possibility of finding a useful new tool, armor upgrade, or weapon modification to install at a workbench. Apart from the tangible rewards, the optional story-driven objectives are just as interesting. At one point, my main goal was to locate a switch engine inside a mutant infested warehouse, but that was secondary in my mind to retrieving a tattered teddy bear from clutches of gargoyle-like beast who was well-removed from my main destination. The reward for my success was a heartfelt scene of a little girl embracing her lost plush and heralding me as a hero, and it was a greater reward than any new firearm for my arsenal.
Beyond the script and cutscenes, there are plenty of things to enjoy, with regards to the combat and stealth mechanics. Each objective offers various avenues to travel there, some barreling directly into the action, filling the air with bullets and screams. This guns-first approach can be the go-to option from start to finish, but the progressing story clearly reiterates when a less lethal approach would have been a wiser choice. The environment is full of ways to stay silent and in the shadows, from clipping hanging metal can alarms to extinguishing flames. Finding a bed of any kind even allows you to quickly change from day to night, though in the open wilderness both options have drawbacks. At night, bandits remain close to camp and the darkness helps keep you hidden, but it’s also when mutated monsters roam more freely. The feral beasts pose a considerably greater threat than rival humans, as they are generally much quicker and can ambush you from multiple directions. The AI for humans, though more natural, has predictable attack patterns and rather sluggish animations, making these opponents easier targets to pluck down.
A post-nuclear wasteland is typically a bland sight for the eyes, but Metro: Exodus finds a way to incorporate a diverse array of dystopian societies, from cults that shun electricity, to fanatics that worship fire. There’s even a ravenous cannibal enclave. The details in every location play well with the morbid atmosphere, while at the same time strengthening the story’s resolution to stand against the chaos and protect your friends and loved ones from the vileness. It is also refreshing that this entry in the series tears itself away from the whitewash and concrete grays of the tunnels and winters of the previous games.
The sounds also match the mood and location. Sewers and cliffsides echo with reverberations, while snow and sand muffle everything but your footsteps. Monsters get in your face a lot in this game, with barks and shrieks piercing through the speakers. The tone of the voice acting is spot-on for this somber setting, though there are numerous instances where the accents lose their native authenticity. The music also has a very weakened, legato ambience that befits the desolation, heightened only during intense sequences of action.
Metro Exodus is a departure from the cookie-cutter shooters, focusing on a gripping single-player narrative and a more cautious pace than the adrenaline fueled, multiplayer-focused titles bloating the genre. Every character is fully fleshed out, the stealth and survival mechanics are a delight for careful, completionist gamers, and the setting is as varied and detailed a post-apocalyptic playground as you’re going to find. A voice to go with Artyom’s soul would have been nice, as well as some AI tweaking, but the thoughtful additions and improvements from previous Metro games gives Exodus a fresh experience for anyone ready for a wild train ride.
Senior Contributing Writer