‘’I remember that we used to be different. Used to live up there, on the surface. We used to be the masters of the whole world.”
“The following is a contributor post by the Green Phantom Mage.”
From the time I heard Metro Exodus was in development, I was extremely intrigued. I was and am a huge fan of the second game, Metro: Last Light. Last Light was my first experience with the franchise and even though it seemed like a standard FPS from the trailers I saw, little did I know that I was in for a treat in terms of narrative and gameplay.
For those who have no knowledge of the Metro series of games, they are based on the Metro books by Dmitry Glukhovsky. The games follow a character called Artyom who was raised after the nuclear war by a military man within the Metro system of Soviet Russia. It is within this setting that the games Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light are set. As you will find out during this review, the structure of the play area you inhabit has been altered in comparison to the previous games, leading Metro Exodus to become much more of an open-world game, at least in part.
The visual element within Metro Exodus is something of a treat. Many games of this generation are, first and foremost, graphically stunning. The tech that is available during this eighth generation of consoles certainly has given us some visual treats, and Metro Exodus is no different. The fact that you visit many discrete and unrelated areas helps with the visual impact as there are huge differences between them. In my view, these differences are where Metro Exodus shines. One minute you are in the confined, well detailed and presented metro tunnels with hordes of mutants; the next you are topside in the desert fighting, scavenging, and exploring. The character and weapon skins are all very impressive and they increase the immersion factor greatly. The lighting is a highlight in this game, mainly down to its darker nature. There are many areas that require the use of flashlights or your trusty lighter. Add to this some moonlight and bam! You have a very aesthetically pleasing game.
With that said, there are missions where the sun is “splitting the sky”, so to speak, and the lighting here is equally impressive. The game operates on a day / night cycle, which you can alter most of the time at special areas. In my view, the one way you can tell if a game has great visuals is if you stop for a moment to take in what you see. You procrastinate a little before moving on as you see an instance where you, for want of a better phrase, take in the view. Scrambling for a screen key or photo mode button is normally another tell-tale sign and, as you can see from a few screen grabs, Metro Exodus contains some superb visuals.
The story in the Metro series is something that always jived or connected with me. The fact that this is a sequel to a game of which I have very fond memories could in fact be tainting my viewpoint in terms of the narrative. I, of course, have strong feelings in regards to the main character, as you do go through a very arduous journey in Last Light. That said, I feel Metro Exodus stands on its own and firmly believe there is little or no need to have played the previous titles. I would say that having played Metro: Last Light strengthened my connection with Exodus and made me more receptive to the narrative, but on its own, it does provide a very enjoyable and satisfying experience. As I rarely discuss story within a review due to spoilers, I will say this of Metro Exodus: it is a game that keeps you at a steady pace throughout. I never felt bored, and around three-quarters of the way into the game I genuinely became really invested to the point where I was not letting the game go. I had to finish to find out the end of the story arc. That to me, put simply, spells out a good story.
The story is further enhanced by the game taking a turn away from the previous games structure. Metro Exodus follows a fairly linear pathway, but allows deviation at many points. When you are introduced to the surface early on in the game, the choice is placed upon you to visit further locations that are outwith your main objective. These other objectives in some cases are vast distances away from where you should be if you do indeed want to continue to the story. This new open-world is a great facet of the game and one I welcomed wholeheartedly.
Many people choose to be negative in regard to the narrative element within games in this day and age, especially when it seems fairly simplistic, linear, or even derivative. In many instances Metro Exodus falls into this category. However, I found the story to be very compelling despite its simplicity; I really enjoyed that you were taken by the hand, given clear instructions, and were not thrown for a loop too much.
Metro Exodus has many strings to its bow, in addition to a few weaknesses. Gameplay overall is of a very high quality. In many instances it reminded me of my beloved Fallout 3 in regards to the scavenging and crafting elements. Scavenging is a large part of this game and, like many other similar games, it can be very satisfying coming across a new weapon or upgrade. With regards to the gunplay, Metro Exodus again comes out of the gate strong and really does hit the mark.
In terms of weapons, most are efficient and fairly accurate if used for their correct purpose. A shout out to the double-barrelled shotgun here. It is one of the more simplistic weapons available but boy, does it pack a punch when used in close quarters. It was a very enjoyable weapon to use as a foil for my main weapon of choice, the AK-47. The other main weapons, in addition to the shotgun and AK-47, are the pump-action shotgun, revolver, machine pistol, sniper rifle, and of course – returning from the previous games – the gas-operated rifle. My description of the weapons has only covered their existence in their pure, most basic forms, however; within the world of Metro Exodus, there are many variations you can employ with the weapons mentioned above. Grips, magazine size, barrel length, scopes, and lasers are all areas in which you can improve your weapons. Naturally, as you progress through the game, more and more advanced equipment is discovered. The customisable weapon system is a major plus point for me here, and can genuinely be utilised to make your efforts on the battlefield much more efficient. Swapping out barrels for more of a short-range feel when you know you will be heading into Metro tunnels is just one of the options you can go for. If these customisations were missing from the game I would not have had as much fun, which speaks volumes for its inclusion.
Unfortunately with many good points, inevitably there are one or two negative elements. The traversal, for me, is the main let down in Metro Exodus. Having played the previous game, Last Light, I was aware of the slightly more pedestrian pace at which Artyom moves. He is, after all, a human man and not the super-charged and almost invincible Doom Slayer. The laborious nature of the movement is not where I found issue, but rather the sticky nature of it. There were parts where walking from one tunnel to the next could be problematic and finicky. It felt like I was snagging on everything I was close to. When it came to combat, inevitably any FPS game needs to have good use of the strafing system whereby you can side step gingerly to move out of an enemy’s incoming fire, fist, etc. This element of the game I found to be again problematic and it did give me real problems. Did it hamper my entire experience with the game? No, but it certainly detracted from my experience.
Circling back to my earlier comment about the gunplay hitting the mark: the strafing and traversal in my view is problematic, but this on many occasions did not take away from the action that took place. Metro Exodus is a game that is meant to be played with more of a stealth mindset, so a lot of the kills I achieved were from picking people off from a static position. Head-on or frontal assaults occurred often, meaning that a simple cover-and-fire system could be employed. The only real-time when I found that the traversal interfered with my ability to dispatch enemies was when the enemies themselves were fast-moving or enemies of a smaller nature; spiders, for example.
When discussing enemies there is a reasonable amount of variation; this is mainly down to the vast distances and contrasting areas you visit within a full playthrough. The Metro tunnels and underground segments conjure up all manner of nasty mutants and insects in addition to the standard human foes. When you inevitably end up topside there is more of the same, but it tilts much more towards the human element.
Unfortunately, Metro Exodus in some areas suffers from poor sound. To clarify, there are areas in which it shines and some in which it falls down flat. The weapon sounds in the main are superb. The shotgun I raved about earlier provides a thunderous snap when it is discharged. I really can’t emphasize enough how much satisfaction there is to be gained from using this weapon. Truth be told, this was my main go-to weapon at the start of the game, as it seemed so much more powerful than my unreliable AK-47. A few mods later I found I was using my AK a lot more often and it too gave off a very satisfying snap, albeit with more of a sonic whizz compared to the epic blast of the shotgun. Most other weapons are to be lauded, except for the dreadful melee sound. This is one of the weakest elements to Metro Exodus – and in two areas, no less, the first being the fact that the melee is a very weak attack and the second being the accompanying weak sound. The closest I can come to a description would be getting hit with a damp slipper. It’s extremely poor and should have been so much better.
With respect to voice acting, I would say that in the main, it is excellent. In my opinion, it is the sound editing here that is poor in parts. There are areas when members of your fraternity speak over each other, or at points they are extremely loud then suddenly become very quiet. Disappointing to say the least, but not something that made me throw the controller down in a blood-boiling rage.
The music within Metro Exodus is, for the most part, a very positive experience. In many areas, it has very subtle soundscapes and then in others, it has bounding themes that really increase the excitement. It does a very good job with the reactive sound: overall, whenever I was in a gun fight the music matched the action that was taking place.
Metro Exodus has three difficulty levels, and also a built in Karma system which is utilised to provide different endings to the game. The difficulty levels all seemed appropriate to their namesake in my opinion. I played through the game on normal difficulty but hard and easy seemed, for the small experience I had with both, to be pitched at the correct levels.
The karma system is not something that is displayed or really explained in any way. There are simply instances in the game where you are asked by members of your crew to “go easy” on some enemies, essentially pointing you towards a more lenient approach to clearing out an area. When approaching an unsuspecting enemy you are provided with two choices. Knock them out or slice ‘n’ dice. As these enemies ultimately open fire on you whenever you are detected, I tended to go down the route of slice ‘n’ dice. This of course led me to receive a more negative ending. A nice touch for sure, and something that I feel is lacking in many games these days.
Overall, if time allowed, I would happily go back and try another more pacifistic play through.
As a whole, playing the game on Normal difficulty, I feel like the challenge I received was a fair one. Very rarely did I feel that there were unfair elements at play and I genuinely enjoyed the enemies and the varied difficulty they exhibited. As mentioned before, the only element that I would say hampered me was the traversal when dealing with more mobile enemies. Other than that, I would say the challenge was spot on for a normal difficulty setting. I did take a short amount of time to try out the harder difficulty and even the easy. There seemed to be the correct gap employed here in terms of difficulty, and I genuinely feel that for anyone who plays a FPS every now and then, they will certainly cope well with the normal difficulty setting.
Metro Exodus is a unique game in many aspects. The setting for one is unique in the fact that it is set, at least partially, in the metro system. The weapon customisation is, of course, more prevalent in games these days, but Metro Exodus manages to utilise it in a more efficient way than most in my view. The story itself is by no means earth-shaking but it did draw some raw emotions our of me. The fact the game is set, in some areas, in an open world also makes this game a little different to a lot of shooters that are out there. The fact that it allows you to go and “do your own thing” means it joins a small number of FPS / open world games.
My Personal Grade: 8/10
As a complete package, Metro Exodus is a very enjoyable game, and one I would thoroughly recommend. Its positive aspects certainly outweigh the negatives and for me it is a worthy successor to Metro: Last Light. If you are looking for a blockbuster of a game, one which delivers good gunplay, engaging narrative, and an overall fun and enjoyable experience, then this game is for you.
Aggregated Score: 7.9
The Green Phantom Mage exited “The Phantom Zone” to write video game reviews / articles and can be found at phantomlordgaming.com, Twitter- @justcallmeplg & Instagram @phantomlordgaming
Did you enjoy this post? Consider becoming a Warrior of Light and join us in restoring integrity and quality to games writing. We specialize in long-form, analytical reviews and we aim to expand into a community of authors with paid contributors, a fairer and happier alternative to mainstream games writing! See our Patreon page for more info!