Metro Exodus is more than just your average post-apocalyptic game. Following the story of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, Metro Exodus is a substantial step forward in the series and has evolved on almost everything that made the series so great and everything new it tries, it has perfected.
To get you up to speed, Metro Exodus is set after the events of the first two games on a post-apocalyptic Earth devastated by a nuclear war. You take the role of the long-running protagonist, Artyom, as he flees Moscow after making a discovery that changes everything he has ever known about the war and the Metro.
In short, the Spartan Rangers, a familiar group of people from the previous games go with him as they take a locomotive known as the Aurora east in search of new life and hope. It is a very different pace from previous games that were quite one-dimensional. Metro Exodus opens you up to giant open world-like hubs and tests your wits as it throws heavy survival challenges at you, horror aspects and a harsh nuclear winter setting all for you to digest at once.
Metro Exodus delivers one of the most captivating worlds I have ever explored in a video game and the change from mission-based chapters, to an open world hub is the much-needed break the series has been craving. After a brief intro, you are taken to the Volga River, venture through a giant nuclear bunker, explore a piping hot desert wasteland and more. The locations, their gorgeous yet horrific settings, and the ability to bring them all to life in so many unique ways give Metro Exodus one of the best takes on the whole “end of the world” scenario I have seen in a long time.
The world manages to deliver this anxious, uncomfortable feeling throughout the game. The wind howling, massive thunderstorms crackling in the distance or the shocking find of a head in a fridge just made me even more engrossed in the setting around me. This then all compliments the fantastic narrative that the Metro series has been known for. The Spartan Rangers, Artyom, his wife Anna, and the great cast of characters you meet along the way have layers of depth and detail.
Just standing next to them and you want to listen to everything they say as they open up on their past, personal experiences and how they landed up where they are today. The series has led us to believe that the world was empty beyond the Metro so these people all have interesting tales to tell that add details to not only the current situation but also what has been going on while we have been stuck in Moscow.
Volga has been under control of a crazy cult that believes that technology led to the end of the world. They live without it and shun anyone who even uses a flashlight. They also praise a fish and are a little crazy. Meeting them in the world, I had to approach them with my gun holstered and my torch off else they would get upset and it would prevent me from learning what they had to say. There is so much to hear from everyone and even sneaking into an enemy’s compound and listening to the background chatter, would reveal something unique about them and the land. There is so much to take in that the experience becomes so much more than just your average shooter.
The world of Metro Exodus could be one of the greatest post-apocalyptic settings I have ventured through in a long time. From the moment you arrive in every location, the game visually blows you away. The weather effects, lighting, small details on your gun, the way the Demons nest in specific areas and the sheer scale of everything put together, delivers a captivating experience like nothing else. I just wanted to walk everywhere slowly, take in the beauty of the dying world and approach every small little hut with the utmost care as to not be seen by the dangers that await.
The way the world has been delivered is the game’s biggest strength and it adds a tremendous amount of emotion into the overall narrative that drives the experience. One memorable adventure through a dilapidated terminal tested my will as a giant catfish threatened my step and crazed zombie-like mutants wanted me dead. This would have been a different experience if the terminal lacked its fantastic level design, lighting and the overall amount of details.
Not to mention that the game makes use of some of the best HDR implementation I have ever seen this generation. Pitch black corridors deliver a terrifying trip with bright green mushrooms lighting up the path ahead. Everything simply looks magnificent but still makes one feel alone and anxious.
Metro Exodus is a survival game at its core. Artyom needs to gather materials and solvent to craft ammo, medical supplies, and repair and clean his gear. A dirty gun performs badly with it jamming, preventing you from shooting and just being unreliable. The gas mask which keeps the random waves of radiation at bay can crack, or simply get dirty needing to be cleaned too.
Ammo is scarce and so are the materials so you need to take things slowly and not spray and pray into a flying Demon in the distance. I played on the middle difficulty and still struggled a bit and the game does not hold your hand all the time. This is in major contrast to the like of Far Cry New Daw that simply could not get this survival and crafting system right.
Weapons in the game can be modified with various attachments to suit your playstyle. You can salvage attachments off of other weapons either dropped in the world or taken off dead enemies and use the workbench to equip and alter them as you go. Artyom also has a backpack that acts as a workbench to a certain extent. You can clean your weapons and craft throwables and ammo but anything major such as equipping a new and improved gas mask needs to be done at one of the various safehouse workbenches or back on the Aurora.
There are also various gear upgrades to find at either infiltrating a gang hideout or doing a sidequest across each hub you explore, putting a great emphasis on exploration. It makes for a great way to see each of these hubs, meet new people, listen to their tales and get new loot and salvage.
The first hour or so of Metro Exodus was rather intimidating but soon after, things slowly made sense. The survival mechanics in place work and taking on enemies be it silently or loud is a challenge that you need to prepare for and the game just works flawlessly. Just when I thought I was a pro, I faced a lightning Demon that shocked me to death in one shot or a bandit that shot me in the face with a shotgun because I did not put out the candle next to me and he saw me in the light. The game constantly throws these challenges at you and it stays refreshing and rewarding throughout.
Metro Exodus proved to me that you can have a great post-apocalyptic shooter driven by a deep story, fantastic characters, great survival mechanics and a gorgeous world to explore all in one visually captivating package. It makes Fallout 76 look like a nursery school drawing and puts a lot of games to shame. It is one of the best horror games I have played in a really long time and deserves everyone’s attention.
This review is based on a review copy sent to us by 4A Games
Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Reviewed On: Xbox One X | Release Date: 15 February 2019 | Price: R915