Metro Exodus (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 02.03.2019 1

Review for Metro Exodus on PC

It wouldn't be a 'Triple-A' release these days without the obligatory PR controversy and social media outcry to accompany it. Metro Exodus is no exception, with this much demanded third act of the Metro franchise falling victim to the pitfalls of PC digital distribution. Metro Exodus unfortunately has ended up serving as the test case exclusive acquisition for Steam's latest digital storefront rival, namely Epic Games, who are now in the distribution game. Largely as a result of late communication, the fallout has entailed a fierce online backlash and recriminations over social media due to the game's removal from Steam at the 11th hour. With that said, it's hard to see it stopping Metro Exodus becoming a commercial success, with a new open-world format being the key addition to proceedings. The previous two titles remain some of the most beloved shooters on PC, so Metro Exodus has a lot to live up to.

In many ways, 2019 is following swiftly on the back of 2018's biggest trend, the open-world format. Due to a long development time, Metro Exodus was also ahead of the competition. Early previews gave a glimpse into the potential of a truly open Metro title that had many fans excited at the sense of scale and scope. In practice things are a little more complicated than that. The story, of course, is based on a series of bestselling Russian dystopian novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky, detailing life within the Moscow subway system. Due to nuclear oblivion on the surface, societies have formed within the dark, cavernous underground, plagued by rival factions and radioactive demons.

The series protagonist Artom, has most recently discovered an unknown radio signal, and thus suspects other civilised life has survived. This is where Exodus kicks off, and it is a useful point from which to introduce this wider world. Playing the previous titles is not an automatic barrier to entry, with much of the appropriate lore thankfully being retread. The exciting introduction to this final chapter kicks the adventure into gear, before the world is then opened with the journey on the Aurora train. However, the interesting part is that Moscow is not just a free-for-all filled with collectables and fetch quests. The adventure is split into several large zones that make up the train journey that Artom and his comrades end up enduring. These zones are filled with plenty of secrets and tasks to complete, while introducing new characters and telling new stories.

Screenshot for Metro Exodus on PC

The vision of the world is a really interesting juxtaposition between the tight compact action of the first two titles, with the expansive open areas of something like a Fallout title, or the spiritual originator of the series, 2007's S.T.A.L.K.E.R. In so many ways, this is a much better evolution to the open worlds of games like Fallout 4. The cold detachment of the former is replaced with a guided openness that makes exploring and discovering points of interest much more worthwhile - in a title in which ammo and supplies are so scarce, finding a cache of bullets feels like an achievement in itself. The guided hand also stops the narrative from meandering too much and there is always a steady momentum between each set piece moment. These can be anything from an early ambush in an abandoned church by cultists, to an assault on the docks by zombie-style mutants.

Even in the times when all seems quiet, such as while sailing across the river in the first section, peace is interrupted by the attack of a huge whale-like mutant. Don't be mistaken though, clocking in at around 35-40 hours there is certainly a lot of meandering to do. Especially with the very deliberate and welcome character development between Artom and his wife Anna. They are the true stars of the tale, and it doesn't take long to start to care when Anna is in danger. The other crew members of the Aurora also boast a real sense of likability with a neat spread of personalities among them. Again, the bond between the group grows organically and makes a real difference when the story starts ramping up.

There are so many moments of immersive and interactive gameplay that Metro has a balance to strike, between set piece moments or direct player agency. Some may find that it strikes too far in the cinematic direction too often, but this is often a personal preference as the narrative certainly has a striking sense of care and attention dedicated to each moment. As mentioned, the world is not a complete sandbox. Rather, the onus is on self-exploration and discovery to find new areas on the back of hints and tips from the various NPC characters. Talking to people will highlight various points of interest on the map, and leave it up to personal choice whether to explore those side activities or whether to continue with the main story arc and keeping the train advancing through Moscow and Russia. The pleasing thing is that in keeping with the tone of the world; finding a sniper rifle or an attachment, or one of the lost items of one of the crew, isn't greeted by big flashing lights and noises, rather, it feels more reserved and in keeping with the context of survival against all the odds.

Screenshot for Metro Exodus on PC

Where Exodus is much improved over its predecessors is certainly in the sense of variety in gameplay and locales. Of course, this was directly in response to plot. A plot set in the Moscow subway system is naturally going to be tough to spice up too much. Developer 4A Games knew this of course too, with the small outdoor segments in Last Light seemingly acting as a sort of testing ground for what Exodus would become. The evolution has been refined now and there is a crafted mix: between trekking through abandoned tunnels, or in the snow wastes beside the Volga river, or the Caspian desert, the world can never be accused of feeling monotonous. There are even linear sections in between for those that favour the more explicitly story driven sections that made up the previous titles. With the open world however, there is a difficult balance to be struck in something previously designed for close encounters in tight compact spaces. It feels like a slightly difficult adjustment for the design to accommodate long range battles across the open spaces.

The best sections in Metro Exodus are probably still the times when Artom is fighting bandits in a warehouse or hunting through houses, rather than the more unpredictable mutants in the open field. Those moments are a bit more chaotic, partly due to the AI for the animals being sketchy at times and partly the sheer amount of detail and clutter in the world, naturally posing a challenge to their movement patterns. Whilst the battles with monsters consume a lot of bullets and med kits, it doesn't usually feel very rewarding for having taken the effort. In some ways, though, this could be deliberate, and if so, it certainly works. It encourages a patient and strategic approach to plotting the best route to avoiding groups of monsters, hiding and stealth, and most importantly, gives significance to the day/night cycle, which really does matter with night being a time best avoided. It's hard to describe the feeling of reaching shelter and a rest zone just in time for the sun to set and the most dangerous foes to come out to play. The strategic dilemma between facing more heavily armed bandits roaming during the daylight, or traversing at night which naturally comes with a sense of dread, captures the feeling of survival incredibly well.

Screenshot for Metro Exodus on PC

Gunplay feels generally responsive and continues a unique trend of the series, of making each weapon have distinct pros and cons as well as unique mechanics. For example, the pistol is nimble, quiet and useful for avoiding detection within heavily armed bases. However, the range can quickly pose a challenge. Meanwhile the series iconic pressure gun is a powerful weapon, but requires manual pumping every few shots in order to maintain its damage. The variety in all the items is pleasing not to mention that there is a significant crafting and upgrade mechanic at hand that makes it worthwhile in taking the risk of searching for materials. The only downside to the detail in weaponry is that with so many facets to keep track of sometimes balancing so many metaphorical spinning plates can be a chore. Certainly, in an intense firefight, a gun jamming is realistic but far from ideal. It also seems to be becoming something of a trend in gaming for deliberately long and realistic animations, for example most recently in Red Dead Redemption 2. Metro Exodus has this in abundance, and while it adds to the premium quality, at times it can get in the way of intuitiveness and ease of jumping into the action. Having to watch a 3 second animation of reloading, climbing walls or un-jamming a gun is a regular sight.

Speaking of realism, there's genuinely something to be gained by deciding whether to play the adventure in the native Russian language or the English. The English voices for all the characters are adequate, of course - and all have their stereotypical charm. They do though, in an effort to make conversations feel more organic, also have a problem with some lines clipping over each other. The result is that sometimes there is just a huge unintelligible rabble of voices speaking over the top of each other. This is certainly something for 4A Games to look at in future patches. The ambient sounds are excellent at building suspense and atmosphere. There is nothing better than the distant growls of a mutant in a building to get the nerves on edge. Equally it's the little touches this nails so well, like the scattering tap of rats or gurgle of the river being disturbed by monsters.

Of course, in a franchise that is notorious for requiring beefy PC specs, it would be remiss not to mention the visuals. As expected, and as displayed in the publicity footage, Moscow looks as good as it has ever looked on a gaming screen. The sunlight splitting the trees; the dirt gathering on Artom's gasmask; the tracks through the snow; the worn-out exhaustion on the faces of NPCs. These are just some of the stunning sights and little details and visual touches that combine to make this such a beautiful experience. The variety in locations also helps the visuals from getting too bogged down in snowy wastes. To crank everything up to the maximum will obviously require a powerful system, however, one can enjoy ultra-detail at 60fps on a GTX 1060 and I5-6600K. Experiencing how great Exodus looks is not restricted to the best rigs.

Screenshot for Metro Exodus on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Quite simply, Metro Exodus is the perfect way to round off this trilogy, and a testament to the powerful evolution that a gaming franchise can make. The open world offers a whole new perspective from which to enjoy Artom's tale. Whilst there are some niggly issues with AI, and maybe an overuse of bespoke animations, the fact remains that it is hard to think of a better example of how to design a single-player survival adventure. Visually stunning and packed with audio detail, this is something that should be experienced by any PC gamer.

Developer

4A Games

Publisher

Deep Silver

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Guest (guest) 18.04.2019#1

Have you even played the game? The protagonist's name is ArtYom. Not Artom...

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