Metro 2033, and Metro: Last Light are in my opinion, the greatest first person shooting single player experiences ever made. Based on the Russian novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky, the games perfectly captured the essence of the books.
The novels were highly atmospheric. Reading through Metro 2033, I could imagine the chilly temperatures of Russia’s vast, and mysterious metro tunnels. The sheer horror, and despair of being forced to live underground by the aftermath of a global nuclear fallout.
A4’s Metro games transformed that imagination into a tangible reality. The detailed 3-D imagining of Glukhovsky’s post apocalyptic Russia was just flawless in its execution. Metro 2033 in particular, was partly a first person shooter, part survival, and part horror game that featured a story unlike no other game that I had played up to that point.
With Metro Exodus, A4 decided to take the story away from Moscow’s underground tunnels into the irradiated Russian surface. The new semi-open world take, shakes up the formula in ways that might divide some of the series’ fan base.
Metro Remains a Cutting Edge Franchise
Where Metro Exodus completely shines is in its visual department. Playing the game at 4K on the Xbox One X is truly, for the most part, a remarkable experience.
It has to be seen at times to be believed, the quality of the materials in most cases is outstanding. Character’s clothing fabric looks meticulously like real fabric.
Getting close to a character, and equipping the binoculars in order to zoom into clothing artifacts, reveals the painstaking detail in each article of cloth wore by characters around the world.
The detail is more evident while playing on the Xbox One X with a 4K TV set. There are no character models in this generation that can match Naughty Dog’s work in the Last of Us Part II, however, in terms of material detail, such as human skin, Metro Exodus also showcases a level of detail beyond anything on any game that I have ever seen.
Skin pores can been seen down to the smallest detail when zooming your view into a character’s skin. The detail is more staggering in 4K. Halo 5 looked pristine at that resolution, but it didn’t seem to be a game that really showcased 4K textures. Metro Exodus in on a total different level albeit running at an understandable 30 frames per second.
Still, if you want a high quality first person shooter to show off the capabilities of your Xbox One X, there is no better choice at this moment than Metro Exodus ( and Doom Eternal).
The day, and night cycle is stunning in the way that lighting affects the world. Bearing in mind that the Xbox One X doesn’t feature Ray Traced visuals, the lighting in the game is pristine. The moon shows incredible reflections on water bodies, and even on the over all global illumination.
Playing Metro Exodus, and going back to something like Resident Evil 7 (which is also presented at 4K and runs at 60 fps) is a jarring experience. Quite simply, Resident Evil 7, for as good as it looks, doesn’t hold a candle to Metro Exodus’ visual presentation.
A4’s tech is next generation in many aspects, and the team’s attention to detail at times rivals that of Naughty Dog’s best efforts. Controlling Artyom (the protagonist) in first person makes you feel like you are inside of his skin, or so to speak. Metro has always been very life like in the way that your character reloads his weapon, uses his hands to climb obstacles and pretty much in every action conceivable that a human being can make from a first person perspective.
Metro Exodus takes that level of detail to another level, and after a while it is easy to forget that you are playing a game.
For all of the fantastic things that I have said about the game, there are also a few negatives here and there. Metro wasn’t optimized specifically for the One X, and that shows in the lack of high end PC effects such as hair works.
The assets present here, are the same as the assets on the base Xbox One, and base PS4. This is great if you are playing on a base console, but some textures meant for the low end machines, and perhaps the mid settings on PC show their ugly rear at times.
If Metro Exodus wasn’t so spectacular everywhere else, perhaps these textures wouldn’t be so jarring when they appear, but alas at 4k, textures meant for a 1920 x 1080 screen resolution, stick out like a sore thumb.
The only other complaint that I have is that the game has a few bugs, late in the game I found myself stuck in a broken table. I couldn’t get out of the table, or do anything (in terms of movement) so I had to load from my previous save.
It was the only instance in which my game ‘broke’, but it happened, so I have to point it out.
A Decent Story That is Good at Times
I feel like the story is closely tied to the gameplay in this game, and therefore, I feel like both categories should be discussed in the same space.
The decision to take Metro out of the Metro is a risky one. Metro 2033, and Last Light were post apocalyptic shooters, but their setting kept the games from feeling too much like Fallout and Rage.
We live in the Open World era though, and A4 followed suit. The effort isn’t bad, in fact, for the most part I kept saying to myself that “This is how Fallout 4 should have looked!”.
Fallout looked very last generation in many spots, and Metro Exodus looks next generation for the most part. The game really delivers the ultimate post apocalyptic, post nuclear fallout world in terms of visuals.
However, the atmospheric, and at times claustrophobic feeling of Moscow’s metro tunnels is for the most part missing here. I enjoyed the open world, but at the same time, there is a certain element of horror that is conspicuously absent for the most part in Metro Exodus.
Consequently, the NPCs, and companion characters are just not as interesting as Moscow’s Metro inhabitants. Events in the Metro were deeper, as a real culture had been established by the novels which A4 masterfully conveyed in the games.
The Russian wastelands are missing that type of deep sense of rich history that Moscow’s Metro had. Metro Exodus being split into different sections does not help the plot’s pacing. You go from one open area that is full of Swamps, into another open area which is a desert covered by sand and sand storms. That deserted area in particular reminded me of Fallout New Vegas, and Rage. From there you are taken into a greener open area, and so forth.
These Open Areas have natural borders. These borders come in the form of cliffs, rock walls, and water bodies. The areas are not that massive, but they have different objectives (some which are optional), and plenty of hidden goodies/crafting materials that you can seek out if you are in the mood for exploring.
This type of play style is familiar, as it is the way that open world games have worked for the past decade, and at the same time it is difficult for me to reconcile with it at times, because this is a metro game.
It (the open nature) dilutes the story. Even when you find tape recordings and documents that you can read, the world just doesn’t feel as rich as the Metro tunnels did in terms of post nuclear fallout historic lore.
Metro 2033 was a linear, but spectacular experience. It seemed like at every turn something interesting was happening. Metro Exodus just doesn’t have that sense of urgency to it.
Leaving Moscow’s tunnels in a hijacked train, and discovering that there is a large (livable) world out side of the Metro also ruins some of the magic, and sense of wonder that characterized the previous games. I understand that this game follows some of the events of Metro 2035 ( the book), but the problems with the game’s story go far beyond just the change of setting.
Artyom is a silent protagonist (except for his narrations during load screens), he relies on the rest of the cast to save the day in terms of story telling. The rest of the characters either do very little in the game, or are doing other things off screen. Truly, I really had a hard time caring about Anna (Artyom’s wife) until the maybe the later stages of game after 30-40 hours of play. I can say the same for Miller.
Still, no one tells a better story with a silent protagonist in a first person shooter than A4, and Metro Exodus doesn’t drop the ball here.
ME tells a good story, but not a great one, which is what the first two games did. The ending is touching (both endings), and in the end, it was a satisfying first person adventure.
Ironically, the most fun parts of Metro are the early stages, some missions in underground facilities and caves, and finally, the very last section of the game. The reason? Because it is only in these areas that Metro Exodus manages to resemble Metro 2033.
A Scavenging Affair
The move from the tunnels of Moscow’s Metro system, to the surface’s open wide terrain, creates an opportuny for A4 to get their feet wet in the open world genre. Metro Exodus isn’t open world like Fallout 4. In some ways it is open world like Final Fantasy XV instead. Meaning that there are different areas that the story takes you to, and those areas are certainly open, but they are not large, and are self contained sandboxes of sorts.
Artyom will accomplish a few objectives ( in each area) before getting back on the train and continuing his march into the next area, and rinse and repeat. This pattern, and the open “world” setting comes in with the mandatory trappings of games in its genre; scavenging is essential.
Searching out all of the corpses in the field is a must for getting ammo, and crafting materials which takes us to the next trapping.
Like the Last of Us, Fallout 4, and other post apocalyptic games of recent times. The ‘workbench’ is here and therefore making stops to create a ammo and other provisions is a requirement.
It is possible to run out of ammo in this game, and thus, accuracy and stealth are of upmost importance in order to succeed at the normal and higher difficulties. Head shots are mostly efficient, and some weapons are more powerful than others, but many enemies are armored and it takes some very clever strategies to take them down.I found the motolov to be the key to my success in many a boss battle.
In a jarring change, I found the human enemies to be much more pesky than the mutated enemies (save for the last section of the game which was hellish). You can easily die with swiftness from a few gun shots, and enemies are pretty aggressive, they will hide and take cover but some will also try to outflank you. Enemy aim is also near flawless.
I cannot stress how important it is to ‘quick save’ constantly. When in combat you can’t really save, so I found myself in some troublesome spots in which it seemed like I killed an army of men, only to die and have to start all over again. These moments were annoying, in an otherwise enjoyable combat experience.
The difficulty in taking down human enemies forced me to strategize quite a bit. Raiding bandit camps during the night offered some stealth opportunities reminiscent of Dishonored. The downside is that night time exploration also brought about an increase of mutant creatures.
Another issue with the night segments is that nights in Metro Exodus can be very, very dark. It might be by design that the game is unusually dark, but the Xbox One versions have a gamma issue (not present in the PS4 versions) this is accentuated while playing at 4K with HDR turned on. HDR does wonders for the game during the daylight segments, but gamma issues made me waste a literal hour tinkering with its settings (both in game/ and on my TV).
I feel that I never quite got the look that I was looking for in the game, and some areas were extremely dark. This became a problem during a later underground stage in which the story removed Artyom’s flashlight and I was left with only his lighter to help me find my way through these stages, which affected gameplay by making the game way harder than maybe it should have been.
Metro 2033 and Last Light, specially in their Redux versions are better and perhaps, smoother experiences. Those games running at 60fps as opposed to Exodus’ 30fps helped, but also their design and atmosphere was nearly flawless.
Still, little can be taken away from Metro Exodus as a stand alone game. It is a wonderful shooter and a tech showcase for current generation systems. Its shooting mechanics are on point, and even controls in extra curricular activies such as vehicle driving feel tight.
Playing Metro Exodus with a headseat is a feast for the ears, there are effects to accompany every action performed by Artyom, and the music is just spectacular.
The acting features the costumary english with a heavy “Russian” accent style, and it is mostly good (but not great). Still, this is a shooter at its core, and I have never expected Halo caliber acting in it.
The guns all feel, and sound right, the air pump gun reminded me of my days of shooting gotcha air guns. When the tank is low the noise itself will let you know that it needs recharged without even looking at the lever.
A Different Metro, but not a Great Metro
If I were to judge the audio/visual display presented here alone by itself, Metro certainly deserves a 9.5/10 score. Easily. Some of the materias, such as skin at 4K just look unbelievable, but the stiff facial animations, and some weird low textures creep up at times to remind us that indeed you are playing a videogame.
What really harms the game though, is the departure from the Russian tunnels into the open world. Russia has been reduced to a wasteland, though late in the game I reached a beautiful forested area.
The few and far in between societies of people and bandits are not that interesting (as I always found myself fighting them), and there was not enough meat in the story here to keep me hooked.
Artyom, his wife Anna, and company were forced to escape Russia in a stolen train, and they make a few dangerous stops on the way to their ‘promised land’ of sorts and then the game ends. True, there are some dramatic moments here and there, and the ending (and some events) can be changed depending on how you play the game ( if you kill people instead of just knocking them out bad things will happen), but basically, the story here ditches the super natural, and mysterious events of previous games and Metro Exodus is all the worse for it.
Metro Exodus is a worthy entry in the series, and while it might be the most ambitious (and spetacular)one, it is also the weakest entry in the venerable trilogy.
I didn’t care for scaveving, but I hated having to go to a workbench in order to make ammo (which can get a bit scarce at times). The difficulty can range from torelable to sky high, and at times it felt a bit cheap thanks to how dark the game is, these choice of lighting greatly imparied my visibility. Otherwise, this is a fine first person shooter, with stealth elements.
There are many aspects in this game that deserve a 10. But facial animation is a full notch below Naughty Dog’s PS4 efforts. Textures pop in front of you at times, and some materials in the game world do not scale up well in 4K. Still, gun detail is unparalled, as is human skin. There were many genuine moments where I just stood still at different spots in order to appreciate the visuals.
Top notch sound effects, and excellent music. Those two stellar aspects are marred a bit by the game’s generic voice acting.
Metro 2033 and Last Light took place in the culturally diverse and lore enriched Metro tunnels. It created a wonderful atmosphere for the game’s setting. Its paranormal, and sci-fi themes made those games unforgetable experiences to me. I even bought all the books because of those experiences. Taking Artyom and company out of the metro and into a wasteland pretty much screwed Metro Exodus out of a great tale. There were some twists here and there, and some important NPCs, but they weren’t very interesting. Still, the ability to earn two endings, and change some of the course of history by Artyom’s actions during playtime did add some value to the overall experience.
The Two endings might keep many glued for a second playthrough. Unfortunately, unlike Metro 2033 (which I have played through twice now), the story and atmosphere here aren’t interesting enough for me to keep coming back to it. Metro Exodus is a one and done ride for the most part.
I liked Metro Exodus, but I didn’t love it. Considering how much, I love the Metro universe, and the two previous games, that statement might be concerning for those looking for a great first person shooter but have no ties to the previous titles or the Metro universe itself. I think Fallout, and Rage fans will find much to like here though, as the game reminded me more of those two games for the most part than it did of the previous Metro games.
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