From Russia With Mutants
The post-apocalyptic genre has been a popular choice for game developers over recent years. The metro series, based on the novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky, have been particularly successful with their blend of first-person shooting and atmospheric storytelling. Metro Exodus is the latest entry in the series and it doesn’t fail to live up to its predecessors.
Exodus places itself a couple of years after the events of the previous game, Metro: Last Light. Whilst that game occasionally ventured out to the decimated surface, Exodus almost exclusively has you above ground. Here you’ll follow the protagonist, Artyom, across the Russian wasteland in his hope of finding a home away from the monster-ridden tunnels of Moscow’s underground rail system, that was more the focus of earlier games.
The narrative is unnervingly atmospheric from the outset. Metro’s world is inhospitable and bleak, and the story does well to play on the idea that it’s on its knees, at the mercy of monsters and deadly toxic air. Artyom spends his time in search of life outside of the confines of the underground, much to the dismay of his comrades who are convinced they’re all that’s left of a dying world and that his efforts are to the detriment of the Rangers he belongs to. The story unravels when our protagonist is proven right and uncovers a conspiracy that life beyond the metro has been hidden intentionally by the higher powers.
There’s a scope to Metro Exodus’ story that expands on previous games. The journey finds you in several open-ended locations around Russia that’ll you’ll travel to by train between each. Every location providing a spanner in the works that must be resolved before moving on. Whilst the narrative does work for the most part it has its weak moments. Characters can feel slightly cliché and blasé at times and the relationship between Anna and Artyom slips in and out of Disney-esque dialogue which is a strange contrast to the overall tone; a tone that presents some of the finest atmosphere and detail you’ll witness in a video game. It’s a shame that the supporting cast doesn’t get fleshed out as they could have been, too, but Artyom’s story is mostly engaging enough to hold it all together.
There was a time when a Metro game would be used in the same sentence as games like Crysis when it came to benchmarking graphics on your PC. That’s because it’s always had exceptional visuals and attention to detail. Environments vary from snowy industrial landscapes to forests and swamps, each one dripping with care and attention from the developers. Animations too, whether you’re opening doors or wiping water from your mask, it all looks fantastic and does well to immerse you in the game’s thorough portrayal of post-apocalyptic Russia. Perhaps the only negative would be some of the enemies that feel a bit rigid at times in the way they react to your presence and attack, but in general, you won’t find many landscapes that are as intriguing and interesting to traverse than the ones on show here.
Environments vary from snowy industrial landscapes to forests and swamps, each one dripping with care and attention from the developers…
Each location acts as a self-contained narrative that gives you some nice insight into the world Artyom has been secluded from all that time, with each one presenting its own problem that needs resolving. Early on you’ll find a religious cult that might best be dealt with stealth for example, but it’s not a necessity, guns-blazing is an option should you choose to walk that path. Metro Exodus is certainly an improvement on its predecessors when it comes choosing how you approach a given situation, even if it nudges you towards a more cautious approach.
In fact, I enjoyed the slower pace of Metro Exodus. You won’t have waves of enemies to fight and when you do you’ll be using a more considerate approach to engage them as to not awaken the entire area of mutants and bandits to your presence. This works in the game’s favour by allowing you to immerse yourself in the world and you’ll want to because it’s so rich in detail and haunting soundscape. It’s not completely obvious during the more open-world segments where exactly you need to be either, further engrossing you and the torn-up lands and complimenting its survival elements by forcing you to make risky choices without the map marker holding your hand.
Combat itself has never been Metro’s strong point. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad exactly but it’s just not it’s central focus. Ammo is at a premium and your hobbled together guns aren’t particularly satisfying to fire. Then the risk/reward of venturing off the beaten track certainly isn’t balanced; there’s not always a lot to find out there and even during combat situations, the stealth approach seems encouraged more than a shootout, just because of what’s at your disposal. Crafting will play an important role whether it be for basic items like medkits and filters, or ammunition and upgrading armour that will need a crafting bench sparingly placed across the map. As a result, being blasé with your supplies never feels like a smart move.