I find myself in awe of Metro Exodus for reasons I did not expect.
Each entry in the series is known for pushing the visual boundaries of what is possible with current-gen hardware, but Metro Exodus takes it to another level. Exodus has some staggering environmental effects and detail, taking the best of Metro Last Light’s semi-open world environments and fully exploring the potential therein. This includes dense forests choked with fog, dynamic reflections on frozen lakes, and scattered light through thick storm clouds, washing everything in vivid shadows.
Metro Exodus is a visual masterpiece that showcases the full potential of the 4K Xbox One X, with tight, survival-shooter gameplay layered on top. This is the quintessential Metro experience, but for every area where 4A Games has improved, it shines a headlamp on some of the series’s lasting problems.
Stunning apocalyptic adventure
Bottom line: A few glitches can’t stop this staggering artistic achievement from becoming one of the Xbox One’s most important shooters.
- Excellent level design.
- Satisfying survival-shooter gameplay.
- Intriguing story and good characters.
- Voice work is a bit patchy.
- It’s glitchy and suffers occasional crashes.
Visual design, performance, and sound
Metro Exodus is a genuine work of art.
Despite taking on a more open approach, Metro Exodus is completely devoid of copy and paste. Every area feels hand-crafted, brimming with detail and reasons to explore. Using safe houses, you can sleep to switch the game between night and day; otherwise, the day cycles dynamically, bringing with it vivid lighting, gorgeous skyboxes, and even weather systems. Heavy rain-washed environments in light-reflecting dampness and radioactive mist can roll in, blanketing your vision in darkness. These aspects of the game’s visual design play heavily into gameplay.
Beyond the open environments, Metro Exodus’s open plains are dotted with points of interest, which often serve a similar function to dungeons. These areas come across as more traditional “Metro,” with large, winding structures with multiple pathways and secrets, across a variety of location types. Metro Exodus really explores the Mad Maxian-style reality of its nuclear wasteland, with macabre attention to every rust-bitten detail.
Overall, Metro Exodus is a rare type of game that I’d recommend to shooter fans on the basis of visuals alone. Bugs aside, the artistic and technical achievement on display here cannot be understated, and Metro Exodus is a work of art.
Metro Exodus story (no spoilers)
Exodus really nails the sense of adventure with its travel-centric plot. The Aurora train gives you time between levels to simply enjoy the ride, bonding with characters you meet on your travels, complete with optional side objectives. As you progress, you’ll meet an array of eclectic characters who cling to existence in the bitter wastes, some eager to kill you, others eager to help you, and a few who are just plain crazy. Artyom and Anna set out to answer some of the series’s most pressing mysteries, including what life outside of the Metro is like, the remnants of the Russian government, and what really happened in the “Last War.”
The story also doubles down on the moral choices introduced in Last Light, where players are able to make many “soft” decisions that affect the outcome of the plot. One mission near the start requires you to steal a boat from local merchants. Naturally, you can either kill them, subdue them, or complete the segment entirely in stealth.
If you can adjust your expectations for the voice acting, the game has some truly moving moments, harrowing set-pieces, and great environmental narrative. The game’s story rewards your exploration and decisions with unique character moments, and like Last Light, it impacts the game’s conclusion.
Metro Exodus gameplay
Easily the best Metro game ever.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Metro games, they border on first-person survival horror in some ways, with a side order of stealth. This is particularly true if you play on Ranger Hardcore difficulty, which strips away the UI and crosshairs and forces you to treat every bullet as a precious resource.
Ranger Hardcore is the way Metro is intended to be played, and in Exodus, it presents a true test far beyond the previous titles, as long forays into the open world can quite easily lead you on the path of misadventure. A couple of bullets will kill you, forcing you to play stealthily and tactically, but on the flip side, enemies die more rapidly too, which really changes the dynamic of tactical play. Normal mode is far less stressful, but still an intense and challenging experience.
Artyom can also change the attachments on his weapons on the fly to better fit the situations you’ll encounter, although you remain restricted to three weapons total, with one slot occupied by the air-pressure rifle (which gets upgraded throughout the game’s story). Artyom also gets access to a variety of level-relevant vehicles throughout the game, including boats and even train cars. The game features a fairly large range of weaponry and tools, with plenty of options for all types of combat.
Exodus’s A.I. is still painfully basic and doesn’t feel far removed from its predecessors. While enemies now call out your general location to their teammates, which feels immersive, they don’t really follow through a lot of the time. Enemies will walk into walls and get stuck in strange, glitched animations, as they struggle to decide whether they want to hide in cover or flee further back. Enemies also very easily forget that they’ve just stumbled upon the corpse of one of their friends, returning to passive patrol routes and dialogue.
There was also clear room for Exodus to advance its combat beyond Last Light, but the opportunity is largely missed. Stealth gameplay remains the same, basic affair.
The open-ended level design is really what puts Metro Exodus a step above its predecessors, giving players a sense of freedom far removed from the previous games’ claustrophobic metro tunnels.
The lowdown on Metro Exodus
While the voice acting is patchy, the overall story is an engrossing tale of post-apocalyptic survival, wrapped in a sense of discovery and adventure aboard the Aurora train convoy. Bonding with your characters as you travel across the wastes makes Exodus feel far less lonely than the previous games, without hurting the sense of survival and isolation.
Exodus’s combat has room for improvement, particularly when it comes to enemy A.I. behavior. The gunplay is tight and well-built, with an emphasis on customization, allowing you to play how you want to play. While I’m hoping polish patches come in thick and fast after launch, even when you acknowledge the game’s rough edges Metro Exodus is among the best first-person shooters you can get right now.
A gorgeous 4K apocalypse
A defining Xbox One X shooter
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