The vast emptiness.
Metro Exodus evokes and amplifies a sense of survival in a harsh wasteland like none of its predecessors. The series has long been known for its intense atmosphere and 4A Games’ newest title turns that atmosphere up to eleven. The atmosphere is so well crafted that it can often carry the game’s quiet moments by itself, making those moments the strongest for that reason, but also because of the shortcomings of the rest of the experience.
The open maps feel hollow, and going back and forth between objectives feels like a chore.
With Metro Exodus, 4A Games made the conflicting decision to craft a number of open-ended levels, rather than continuing the linear style that previous entries were designed around. It’s something a lot of games do to give players more freedom and agency, and can vastly improve the scope of a game if done well. Unfortunately, the open-ended levels in Exodus don’t quite live up to that potential. Going back and forth between objectives in the empty worlds feels like unnecessary padding, as the story drags during these sections and fails to keep as tight a grip as the more linear levels.
The open maps feel hollow, and going back and forth between objectives feels like a chore. As a series, Metro has always been at its best when it presents the player with a clear path and plenty of story, and Exodus is no different in these areas. The game presents a number of direct paths that feel like a proper improvement over the previous titles, with constant action or engaging story served to you every step of the way, in direct contrast to the vast emptiness and stagnant gameplay of the open levels.
Conversations are always one-sided and feel like a wasted opportunity to develop Artyom’s character
The overall plot is an engrossing one and is held together by a pleasantly surprising amount of unpredictable twists and turns. As such it is laced with spoilers, so I can only describe it as a gripping road trip escapade, with different and varied groups to encounter and contend with throughout, flawed only by its often poorly written dialogue which is a consistent thorn in the side of the game’s attempts to immerse you. Couple that writing with the often dry and poorly stitched together voice acting, and the majority of emotionally impacting moments in the story are noticeably less so.
Anna, your character’s wife, is written as annoyingly affectionate, to the point where her relationship with Artyom becomes difficult to believe. Especially given the fact that the writers refuse to give Artyom any dialogue outside of loading screens, forcing themselves to write around this fact; and it shows. Conversations are always one-sided and feel like a wasted opportunity to develop Artyom’s character, who is nothing more than a husk for the player to inhabit, and give the occasional commentary to make the gruelling loading screens more interesting.
Animations feel robotic, and appear to have evolved impressively little since the series’ previous instalment in 2013, almost six years prior. Those poor animations stand out because of how harshly they contrast with the gorgeous graphical style which comes with a caveat of its own. That caveat being that it takes a substantial toll on the framerate at multiple instances, especially in areas with an overly zealous amount of resource-intensive effects such as smoke and steam.
It feels genuinely intuitive to be able to turn a pistol into a sniper or a hunting rifle depending on what the situation calls for
It isn’t all bad, however. The gunplay feels incredibly tight, more so than before. Most weapons are a blast to fire, with beautifully well-crafted sound design across the board making the weapon sounds metallic and realistic. You are well conditioned to conserve ammo and only fire when you need to, and although you don’t always border on that line of having just enough ammo to get you through, you are always aware that any bullet wasted could lead to your demise.
What further helps with that theme of survival and improvisation is Exodus’ modular weapon system, which lets you swap out attachments any time you like via your backpack, with interchangeable sights, magazines, barrels, and stocks among other things. It feels genuinely intuitive to be able to turn a pistol into a sniper or a hunting rifle depending on what the situation calls for, and mixes up the gameplay enough to carry it through the entire game.
…during its linear levels, the stealth is as engaging and well designed as it has ever been.
The linear sections of Exodus are its strongest, and the atmosphere of creeping through dank tunnels is more sublime than ever. Whether those sections are based on stealth gameplay of just trying to find your way out, they feel fantastically intense. The atmosphere during the open levels differs greatly depending on the time of day and is absolutely the strongest part of those areas, even if the low visibility of nighttime presents a bigger challenge.
The difficulty is punishing as it is, even on the normal setting. You rarely regain health without using a health pack, and can only take a few bullets before you collapse. On its own, this is not a bad thing. The game encourages stealth at all times, and during its linear levels, the stealth is as engaging and well designed as it has ever been. When the stealth is based in buildings with multiple routes to take is when it gets sloppy, however.
Being a first-person shooter, it is often difficult to check around corners for enemies. This problem can be solved by giving the player a set path, but in a bid to offer player freedom, Exodus makes it difficult. I often found myself not knowing where enemies were at any given time and would be spotted before I even knew what was happening. When you do finally manage to take out most of the enemy ranks, however, the final enemies will often surrender to you, which is a nice touch.
Metro Exodus is a game steeped in potential. Some of it utilised, most of it missed. For every step forward with additions such as the modular weapon system and intense atmosphere, there are two unignorable steps back with things like poor open level design and immersion-breaking animations and writing. The series continues to offer a breathtaking linear narrative, but attempts to bring more player freedom to the table with little avail. Metro Exodus is a game that series fans will find value in, but no one else will likely miss a thing.
Yes, if you:
- Are an avid fan of the series
- Find the allure of the post-apocalypse appealing
No, if you:
- Get bored easily
- Don’t enjoy slow paced stealth gameplay
- Need to be immersed in games