Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, and Xbox One
The Metro series is remarkable in that, despite clear industry trends, it has steadily grown in scope and popularity over the years as a purely single player franchise that resists adding too much or bloating itself with ancillary features. Each game can be completed in just around a dozen hours and the story of Artyom and his quest for survival and (especially this time around) hope, is relatable and full of grit.
Metro Exodus feels like a true landmark moment for the franchise. Everything comes together in one of the most tightly-designed and well-paced single player first-person shooters since Titanfall 2’s campaign and it even serves as a great entry point for newcomers to the series.
Fighting To Survive
Metro Exodus starts in a familiar place for fans of the series: in an underground tunnel. But, this time you don’t stay there for very long. Instead you’ll control Artyom once again and lead Anna and company in a bold new direction aboard a massive train traveling across the Russian wasteland towards a new beginning for the citizens of the Metro and surrounding areas. It’s an exciting journey that lasts about 10-12 hours, although you could spend a bit more time exploring if you really wanted to.
What I loved most about Metro Exodus is the intentionally slow pacing. When you look at the types of single player campaigns offered by other shooters on the market these days, everything is full of speed, adrenaline, and non-stop action, but the team at 4A Games have an intimate understanding of the importance of good pacing.
Metro Exodus is at its best when it limits your ammo, puts you in tight quarters, and asks you to survive. That telltale feeling of panic and intensity is only possible if it’s bookended by serene calmness and quiet tension. In that way, there are trace amounts of survival horror DNA here as well. And to be quite honest, for a game that doesn’t have any VR support at all (and probably won’t) it feels extremely immersive. As in, I’m shocked there isn’t at least basic head tracking support. Especially since 4A Games has VR experience.
And when I say extremely immersive I mean more than just being a good first-person camera. Every small detail has been crafted to feel like an inherent part of the game world and other than when you press pause, everything is always happening in real-time. There are next to zero menus. Want to bring up your map? Press M and look at it, attached to the back of your journal. You can walk around and even get attacked while peering over it. Flip it over and boom, there are your mission objective notes.
If you bend down to open your backpack and customize your guns then the rest of the game world is still moving. Anna had an entire conversation with me once while I was attaching a second barrel to my basic single-barrel shotgun. I mean, there is a dedicated “wipe the goo off my visor” button for crying out loud. The attention to detail is just astounding.
A remarkable part about Metro Exodus is that, despite its slow-paced tension and deliberately linear storytelling, it still manages to deliver some truly incredible set piece moments. Near the beginning of the game there is a train battle that happens as you’re escaping a compound and it had me on the edge of my seat for a solid 10-plus minutes. The animations are exquisite with sensational effects everywhere and richly detailed textures on all the characters and environments.
It’s just one of those games that picks a course and nails what it’s going for without straying too far off the path. Many of the environments in Metro Exodus may be large and open to explore, but the game itself is actually extremely linear. It’s only a manageable 10-12 hours long and I mean that in the best way possible. Each and every hour in Metro Exodus feels unique and more engaging than the last. There just isn’t any filler or bloated features here. Everything has a purpose and is used for that purpose.
Even though Anna is one of my favorite sidekick NPCs in recent memory and I grew to love the ragtag group of misfits that join you on your adventure, the overall story wasn’t exactly groundbreaking. There are a few minor bits that took me by surprise along the way, but overall it was a relatively predictable plot, which was a bit disappointing since every other part of the experience was simply superb.
Taking Back Russia
And in regards to that story specifically, having Artyom as a silent protagonist during actual gameplay came off as really odd since he narrates the journey between mission loading screens. That means he obviously has a voice. That creates a bit of disconnect, which was even more jarring due to the game’s otherwise staunch adherence to realism and immersion.
Thankfully though once you’re back in the driver’s seat gunplay as a whole feels quite good with each weapon really setting itself apart in terms of how it feels to handle. Shotguns, for example, have tremendous power and real heftiness while the lighter and smaller weapons are noticeably more agile. All too often guns feel and sound and look almost identical, but that couldn’t be further from the case here.
It also helps that Metro Exodus features an extremely detailed weapon upgrading and customization system. As you scavenge you’ll find materials that can be used to improve weapons or even make new medkits and bullets if needed. The crafting and workbench systems are pretty simple to pick-up the first time but actually hide quite a lot of depth beneath the surface.
4A Games and Deep Silver have really outdone themselves with this one and it shows how much a team can excel at delivering a specific vision when given the right time and funding.