Over the last few years, an overwhelming number of first-person shooters have been mostly categorized as multiplayer, loot-shooters and battle-royale games that reward you for the smallest of victories no matter how trivial they might be. It is then a refreshing feeling to experience something that rewards you for playing, not with shiny loot or a check-mark in a never-ending shopping list, but with an immersive, harrowing world that holds on to you long after the credits roll. The game in question – is Metro Exodus.

Metro Exodus is the third entry in the Metro series based on the books by Dmitry Glukhovsky and developed by 4A games. Nearly a decade ago, players took their first steps into the underground metro tunnels of Moscow in Metro 2033, after the bombs dropped rendering life on the surface futile. Next came Metro Last Light which continued the journey of the main protagonist, Artyom, as he fought for the soul of the metro. Nearly six years later, Metro Exodus continues the story by taking players beyond the confines of the Moscow metro system and into the wide open-world of post-apocalyptic Russia both narratively and literally.

What was thought to be a worrying idea, taking a linear narratively driven open-world, has instead only deepened the impact of the story, gameplay and immersion making Metro Exodus one of the best games of the past few years.

Exodus

In 2010 when you first enter the world of Metro, it’s hard to not be enveloped by the atmosphere that has been crafted. The world is not the wild, zany sprawl of the commonwealth in Fallout 4 or the neon pink super-bloom of Far Cry New Dawn; instead, the Metro is a bleak, suffocating backdrop to a very human story that centers on thriving against all odds. Metro’s unique atmosphere that has stayed mostly in the underground tunnels of Moscow, then translates surprisingly well to Metro Exodus.

The journey begins.

The latest entry in the series sees a group of survivors who board a train called the Aurora, and venture outside the city for the first time since the world fell. Without spoiling too much, Metro fans will be surprised through the entire story as it develops, especially the reason why the characters decide to leave in the first place. Something that surprised me through the campaign was the absence of the supernatural elements of the Metro that has been a part of the series since the beginning. That being said, I did like the focus on the more human aspect of the story and did not mind the lack of supernatural horrors around every corner.

Don’t worry though, even without it, Exodus is a terrifying game that capitalizes on its atmosphere and immersion. The campaign is a straightforward jaunt of discovery with thrilling, horrifying moments all brought together with incredible world building and tension that is dripping out every encounter.

Moments Together

What brings the elements of the story, the world building and atmosphere together deserves an entire section dedicated to it: the characters, specifically the moments spent with them when you’re not struggling to survive. During your year-long journey across Russia, there are times where you can sit with your fellow Spartans to have a drink, personal conversations with your wife Anna and her frustration towards her father, and many small interactions dotted throughout the entire campaign. Metro Exodus is rich with interesting vignettes focusing on the lives of the people your character is trying to protect, which adds gravitas to your journey.

A moment of rest, and time for some drinks.

One of my favorite moments was when the chief mechanic is teaching a little girl how to sew, as she showed interest in fixing a character’s gun strap. Without my character even being present in the conversation, I found myself waiting around and listening to this tender moment between a war-hardened mechanic and a young child who wants to help in her own way, to show appreciation for the people who protect her and her mother.

Moments like this are rare in games when centering around shooting things, but it’s also moments like this that make me want to continue the story and dive into this world, and protect those who inhabit it.

A touching moment that happens whether you stay long enough or not.

Spartan Warfare

First-person shooters are generally known to be fast-paced, visceral experiences like Doom where you literally punch the living hell out of demons, or other games where you are the all-powerful hero with a seemingly bottomless bag of ammo and guns. Metro Exodus is the polar opposite of that experience. The series as a whole, instead, adopts the idea that you are a human being in a world filled with inhuman creatures.

The horrors of the world are there for you to fight.

If you’re in a radioactive portion of the map, you have to physically put on a gas mask and change the filters when needed. Weapons collect dirt, jam, and can misfire in general unless properly maintained.

Speaking of weapons, they need ammo which is something that is not nearly as abundant as other shooters; on the ranger-hardcore difficulty (my personal preference), having a full magazine is considered a good day.

Metro Exodus is a difficult, volatile world that does not care if you’re the main character or not. Luckily, the game does not want you to hate it before you even reach the halfway mark. Gone are the bullet economy of the metro; the system has been replaced by a rewarding crafting system that makes surviving the apocalypse tough but fair.

Nope. That’s a hard pass.

In Metro, you have the choice of going loud and wiping everything out or going stealth (with the leeway for somewhere in the middle if you choose). Weapons feel great with rich detail that made handling the guns an absolute treat. They also feature a robust customization system that can be activated anytime you pull out your backpack. Stealth, on the other hand can sometimes be tricky.

This is not to say that the stealth system is bad, in fact, it’s a welcoming antidote to a genre filled with hit markers, detection cones, and tagging that lets you see enemies through walls. Instead, all you have is your eyes, a small blue-led that indicates whether you are in the shadows or not and a music cue for near detection.

All of this gameplay is exemplified by having a limited HUD that brings you closer to the atmosphere. When playing the games hardest difficulty, ranger-hardcore, you very rarely see any HUD at all outside of the inventory. Every little act is also well animated that makes you feel tethered to the world; putting on your gas mask, taking a zip line or getting attacked by a watchmen creature.

Customization is quick and satisfying.

A World Beyond the Metro

What’s out there?

Metro Exodus, as mentioned earlier, is the series’ first foray into the open-world genre. What you will find here are multiple smaller zones that reward the player for exploring; what you won’t find is a huge map with some zillion collectibles, quest tracker or a laundry list of things to check off. All you have is a physical map that the player can take out which shows your current position, the zone you are currently in and if you turn it over, your current objective. Characters in the world can give you side-missions but it doesn’t feel obvious. Instead, it is marked by a small question mark and the choice to do it or not.

Exploration, then, feels rewarding as you slowly uncover the secrets of this destroyed world. One example was a request by a fellow Spartan who saw someone playing a guitar in the distance and thought it would be good for moral to have one back at the train. After pulling out my map, I headed my way towards the location thinking I could probably barter or steal it. Turns out, it’s a bandit camp and being as it was broad daylight a full-frontal assault would probably be a bad idea. Instead, I found one of many safe-house’s nearby and took a nap till night time when I could go back out.

Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of old-school underground sections in the campaign.

Sneaking into the camp, I decided to knock out the bandits instead of killing it since the game employs a morality system which can in-fact effect how the story beats playout. After walking in, I saw that they were about to shoot a helpless villager so I decided to abandon my pacifist plan and took out both guards lethally. While I saved the villager, and killed the guards, the one complaint I had was not knowing exactly how the morality system would impact me since the conclusion of that chapter went favorably.

While the morality is a bit confusing, the one thing I will say is that this game features a nearly perfect blend of story driven narrative levels and an open world that focuses on strengthening the narrative and not detracting from it.

The Sights and Sounds, of the End

A truly beautifully destroyed world.

To say that this is a good-looking game would be an insult to the developers at 4A Games. Metro Exodus is one of the most stunning games in recent years, not just because of its staggering technical prowess, but also because of its overall art-design and atmosphere that builds a stunning depiction of the end times.

But also, the game is insanely gorgeous in every way (and less so in a few).

Day and night.

From the bombed-out bunkers of the underground to the more open spaces, Metro Exodus is a technical power-house that presents a beautiful, horrifying world for players to explore and survive. Since the game takes place over the span of a year, we are treated to a frozen wasteland, an unyielding dessert, a beautiful forest and more. The game also boasts beautiful lighting which illuminates the world and blankets it with darkness believably. Unfortunately, my rig is not RTX-enabled so I won’t see those gorgeous ray-tracing elements, but even without it, the game’s lighting is stunning.

One of the more terrifyingly beautiful locations in the game.

There are however some texture pop-ins, clipping issues and a strange bug where If you’re turning your character really fast the game freezes and crashes. While it is an annoying issue, it has happened quite rarely and not nearly enough to detract me from playing.

Metro Exodus also features some truly stunning sound design. Weapons sound like they have heft and can pack-a-punch, walking on the snow has a believable crunch and underground tunnels are believably creepy. The subtle sound cue for almost being detected is still pretty annoying even after three games in the series, and I wish I could turn it off. Otherwise, Metro Exodus believably sounds like a destroyed world with a few specs of life wandering through it, and that’s the best compliment a game in this genre can get.

Beautiful with some flaws.

Perfectly imperfect world

Metro Exodus is an incredible game, but it’s not perfect. As mentioned earlier, there are some technical issues like crashing, and certain game worlds have better performance than the others. There is some noticeable texture pop-in when you’re first loading into the game, but doesn’t last too long thankfully. The world can be sometimes a bit difficult to navigate through; vaulting over objects sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t and the ‘driving’ can sometimes feel too floaty.

Another issue I had was that the wonderful characters created in the game sometimes would talk over too much making following the conversation a little difficult. This is especially difficult since the game features a large cast of characters, making some of the wonderful side conversations a game of ‘read the subtitles faster’. Also, much to Metro’s fame, the English voice over still pales in comparison to the fantastic Russian voice over. In fact, my second playthrough will be in Russian.

Metro Exodus also continues another tradition of some clunkiness in the movement, but it’s a real minor issue especially since this game is purposely trying to be a methodical, slow-paced thriller than a shooter. This point really is about preference.

(Note: Also, can people stop calling me Arytom every 5 seconds please?)

All aboard!

Preparing for the journey.

Much like its predecessors, Metro Exodus is unlike anything you will play for some time. It is a truly special experience where you feel a part of the world, blurring the lines between merely playing a game, and actually living in it. It is a game that will haunt you long past the credits, begging you to enter its world again.

Dmitry Glukhovsky and 4A games have crafted a wonderful, confident world that allows players to truly live out the experience of surviving an apocalypse instead of just playing in one. With tight, fluid gameplay, a visually stunning presentation, Metro Exodus is a game that you have to experience at least once to understand why this game is one of the best narrative first-person shooter of all time, the best in the Metro series, and one of my personal favorite games of all time.

This review was based on a PC experience: Intel® Core™ i70-8700K CPU @ 3.70GHz, 16 GB Ram and Nvidia GTX 1080TI.

Metro Exodus Review
The Good
  • An atmospheric, immersive and harrowing world to explore.
  • Doesn’t hold your hand, but challenges you fairly.
  • Visually stunning.
The Bad
  • Minor frame rate fluctuations and crashes.
  • Characters talking over each other.
  • Some clunkiness in movement.
9.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
0.0

About The Author

Robin Ghosh (a.k.a. SpectreRobin) is a Sr. Staff Writer at GAW. He is a published writer, photographer, videographer and budding filmmaker and is currently the content director of TABOOZAPP. Having recently finished his masters in media production at Ryerson University, he is gearing up to take his career to the next level (ha, gaming pun). Robin is in love with role-playing games, sim-shooters like Deus Ex and Prey and has a soft spot for survival games like DayZ. He will play anything with a good story and a compelling world to explore. That being said no matter what year it is, he will probably at some point have a craving to play Skyrim again for the 3rd time..4th? Who knows, he really....really likes Skyrim.