When it comes to many first person shooter experiences these days they’re either a short campaign tacked onto a game who’s primary sticking point is it’s multiplayer component or it’s chasing after the latest trend to be a realistic war sim or battle royale title. That’s why jumping into Metro Exodus was such a breath of fresh air and has reinvigorated my love for the story driven first person shooter genre. Developer 4A games have taken the groundwork laid out in the previous titles, Metro 2033 and Last Light and expanded on what worked while also providing some much appreciated new systems, settings and lore to deliver not just the best Metro experience yet, but also one of the best story focused first person shooters of recent years.
The story of Metro Exodus picks up a couple of years after the events of 2013 game Metro: Last Light and sees the return of series protagonist Artyom along with his wife Anna and group of Spartans travelling out of the mutant ravaged Moscow in search of a better life elsewhere. To get to the Eden they seek you’ll travel aboard the Aurora, an old steam train that takes you from place to place to progress the story but also acts as the core hub world and safe space between missions where you can wind down, talk with your other comrades and it’s also where much of the character development for your crew takes place.
Now one of the earliest things you’ll notice with Metro Exodus is that it doesn’t play in a similar fashion to most first person shooters. Where other military shooters or entries in the Doom series for instance which also have you mowing down mutants focus on fast paced, constant action, run and gun combat – Metro Exodus slows things right down opting to focus on an experience that encourages you to take your time and stealthily manoeuvre it’s world and stages. By all means you can choose to tackle a mission with an all guns blazing approach but you’ll find you often have a higher chance of success if you take your time and remain stealthy for as long as you can.
Where Metro 2033 and Last Light primarily had us trapped in tunnels beneath the city of Moscow, Metro Exodus has drastically changed up the experience by being way more open when it comes to world design and having the player travel across varied biomes throughout the journey.
You’ll be visiting desserts, frozen landscapes and lush forests among other things, each with their own dangers hiding within them ranging from type-specific mutants that require unique ways to dispatch them, ravenous bandits and even constant condition threats such as radiated areas and sandstorms.
These same environments become even more varied thanks to the game’s story taking place over a whole year. Returning to already discovered areas in a different season or weather conditions can lead to very different discoveries.
Although I mentioned the game is way more open it is still not what I would consider an open world game. You’ll still be progressing through a core story path but the environments along the way are very large and filled with side objectives and exploration spots. Not too dissimilar to last years’ God Of War.
I often found myself getting distracted by a nearby side quest or way-point when progressing the main mission objective. There’s always something interesting to do in this world and you’re often rewarded for taking the time to do so.
Even though the game gives you more room to move around rather than leading you through stages made up solely of linear corridors it still does a great job of making you never feel safe in the world. Mutants are capable of attacking you at any time and you’ll commonly have a spanner thrown in the works mid mission or during combat to sway things in an unexpected direction, forcing you to reevaluate your plan of attack or retreat on the fly.
One of the key highlights of Metro Exodus for me was it’s survival systems, how well they were utilised and made a core part of the whole game experience. Making you the player think like someone who would be in this same post-apocalyptic situation.
Things like wearing a gas mask, crafting and changing out the filters, charging your flashlight, cleaning weapons so they remain well looked after and usable when you need them. Theses all sound like menial tasks but they would be something you would need to do in this situation if you found yourself in a mutant infested apocalypse and adds another layer of depth and realism to the game and it’s world. It also provides a constant risk/reward system because anytime you’re out in the world you’re chewing up at least one kind of resource meaning that selecting where you’re going to explore next may come down to how many mask filters you’re able to craft before heading off.
But masks, filters and armour aren’t the only things you’ll be crafting to improve your chances of staying alive. Along your journey you’ll come across enemy weapons and scavenge materials from the environment which you’re able to combine to create some incredibly powerful hand-crafted weapons.
One thing I found really enjoyable was the ability to swap out weapon parts and do customisations on the fly thanks to the backpack that you carry with you throughout the game. This allows you to change up your approach or enhance weapon abilities at any time while adventuring through the world and not have to travel all the way to a designated area or merchant to be able to do the same thing. I appreciated this addition as it helped the flow of the game better and also made it feel like I was doing the upgrading rather than throwing my weapons and a bunch of cash to a merchant and having them do it for me between missions hoping I was spending my resources correctly before heading into the next unknown quest.
While Metro Exodus excels in many areas it’s still got some flaws that couldn’t be overlooked. And most of these come down to the audio side of the game’s presentation. It’s widely known that the Metro series hasn’t quite hit the high quality bar when it comes to voice acting in the past and unfortunately Exodus has done little to improve upon that. The character performances range from good and believable to noticeably amateur-ish with the worst of it coming from actors attempting to put on thick over-the-top Russian accents.
But voice-work aside the game still runs into it’s fair share of audio related bugs and mixing issues that pulled me out of the experience when they occurred. Numerous times throughout the game I would be hearing footsteps or other environmental sounds from far in the distance over the voice of someone I was talking to face-to-face. And in areas consisting of multiple NPC’s I would often run into them talking over the top of each other resulting in an incoherent mess of dialogue happening at once. Turning on the subtitles was a necessity just to keep track of conversations at times.
Metro Exodus is a great story driven first person shooter. It’s possibly the best in the genre we’ve received in the past few years. It expands on the fantastic lore of the Metro universe and has implemented new systems to make the moment to moment gameplay more fun. Bringing the journey out of the subway systems has breathed fresh life into the series, allowing us to visit a number of varied environments along the way. While it still has some issues that have plagued the series since it’s inception it’s still an incredibly solid game and one that should be experienced if you enjoy a great first person shooter campaign.
An Xbox One review code was provided for the purpose of this review.
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