When I first saw the trailer for the game, I expected this to be something similar to a roaring good time. Like, let’s travel with my friends and see the rest of the war-ravaged country. How wrong I was, as the underlying tones of despair and grim are still present. However, I have to get this out before we go any further, while the game retains much of the ambiance and atmosphere that the series is known for. Except it doesn’t get dialed up until you’re near the end. It felt more like an adventure title, more than anything else. That’s not a bad thing, not by any means. However, it might disappoint longtime fans of the series.
|Game Name: Metro Exodus
Platform(s): PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Deep Silver
Developer(s): 4A Games
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Time Played: 12-13 hours to complete
Install Size: 51GB
This game drops you on your head right at the start. A huge plot twist gets dropped into your lap about 30 minutes into the game. One so huge that it changes the history of the Metro series forever – you’re not alone. For years, Moscow’s survivors thought they were the only ones left, but it was all lie. A plan to keep the world from knowing the truth, as well as those survivors. But now that you know, you’re an outcast. A traitor to the cause, which sets off your journey to find a new life with your troop, wife, and her stubborn father. While the game isn’t based in the Metro tunnel system anymore, I’d say the situation they find themselves in is direr than ever before.
Sadly, things don’t get better for Artyom and the crew. Metro Exodus‘s biggest draw is the story and the characters who accompany you during your journey. Not just your fellow rangers, as you’ll encounter more NPCs along the way, some of which will stay with you. As the story unfolds, I dare say it grips you, compelling you to keep playing. I’m not usually one for long playing sessions, but I couldn’t stop once I started. I had to know what happened next. You’ll experience a gambit of emotions if you grow attached to your digital comrades. By the time the credits rolled, I was heart-wrenched. I also likely got perhaps the worse ending as well, so that didn’t help matters. Then there is the whole “humans are terrible” narrative that is constantly beaten into your head. Yes, humans are the worse possible thing in the world. Even when everything is lost, and your fellow man is supposed to lend a hand and help you up. Or at least you’d think so. Instead, they rather slaughter you while laughing all the way to the food bank. Yep, it’s cliche as all hell, and you’re going to bump into it over and over. So get used to that.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. Yes, it’s depressing most of the time. Yet during it all, there’s always this glimmer of hope, and it’s that hope that keeps the characters going. It’s what drives and motivates you as the player to strive to do what’s best for them. Of course, if you’re able to do it is a different matter.
Let’s talk about this new open-world
Unlike the previous titles, Metro Exodus is a completely different beast in terms of gameplay. While the linear gameplay is still present, exploration is now a huge factor with the sandbox world implemented. For those worried about how much of a sandbox experience this is, we’re merely talking about larger maps and not a full-fledged “go where you want” affair.
Sure, you have quests that need to be completed to proceed through the story. However, exploration will yield crafting items, as well as mini-quests such as saving people before they’re killed. Or stumbling across tidbits such as recordings left behind by unfortunate souls before their untimely demise. One mission presented me with the option of saving a group of people that some bandits captured. I could have ignored them and carried on with my mission. Instead, I choose to save them, to which one of the captives presented me with access to some much-needed resources that were in the same location that my main quest. Had I passed upon this, I would have never gained access to those.
There’s also plenty of lore and personal stories left behind in either notebooks or recordings. Many of which you’d never find if you just progressed from point A to B. Again, this is where exploration comes in and if you’re a fan of diving deeper and uncovering mysteries. Then straying off the beaten path is highly recommended. There’s a reason why this game has massive maps now.
As for those concerned about those lovely indoor and underground claustrophobic areas that the is knowns know for. Relaxed, as there’s plenty of those in the game as well. There’s something here for everyone.
What about those wonderful toys
The gunplay is excellent, as to be expected from 4A Games. They’ve progressed over the years, and the elements presented here are the best I’ve seen from them so far. You can go in with guns blazing, though you might catch a bullet or two, or worse. Still, it’s so satisfying that I can’t fault you if you choose to go that route. Or go stealth, plotting in the shadows and hidden areas, deciding which enemy to take down next. Stealthy runs also present you with the option of not killing anyone and is definitely worth giving a try. More on that later. You’re still able to carry three weapons at a time and two of a specific type. You can also swap weapons with a deadly adversary. It’s not all perfect, as there is a line-of-sight issue in the game. On several occasions, I’ve noticed where I tried to shoot something only for it to be blocked by some unforeseen force, despite having a clear shot. This not only wasted ammo but gave away my position. It mainly happens when you’re trying to shoot from behind a tree or a fence. It’s likely a collision issue, but it doesn’t change the fact that it does hinder your gameplay at times, especially if you’re trying to pick off targets without them seeing you.
A carry-over from the Metro Redux games is the ability to modification weapons. This time, the modification process is more abundant, and you don’t lose parts should you decide to switch up your weapons. Add scopes, iron sights, bigger magazines, muzzles, stocks, and more. Don’t like that single barrel shotgun? Well, add some extra barrels and a bigger stock. Need some extra range on your rifle? You can modify that to your liking as well. The only downside is that many of the weapons are story-gated, meaning you’ll only find them or are given to you once you hit a certain area.
Expanding on weapon crafting is the item crafting system. Out in the world, you’ll collect various resources that can be used to create ammo, health items, and various weapons such as grenades or tossing cans to distract the enemies and more. It’s another welcome addition and one that’s quite handy. Just collect the resources, open up your mobile construction kit when you need something, and build it away. The only restriction is that certain items, like modifying your weapons, can only be done at a workstation. That said, I felt this cheapened the experience. Being able to craft a healing item at any given moment does ruin some of the suspense. Sure, I’m about to die, and I’m nowhere near the end. What shall I do… oh wait, let me craft a few health items, and I’m good. Minor gripe, and it’s likely just me.
Rise and shine
The night/day and weather systems are also nice additions to the game. Not only do they cycle as you’re playing, but the system also allows for multiple opportunities to carry out your quests, each with its own advantages and dangers. Take a quest during the day, and the chances are that the enemies see you. Or do them at night, which allows you to carry them out with better chances of not being seen, though there are more dangerous beasts and such lurking in the shadows. I enjoyed being able to decide on how to play instead of being forced with no option. Also, make use of camps scattered throughout the game to progress time and recover your health, which is helpful when you’re low on resources.
The quick-time events also make a return, much to my disappointment. I just wasn’t a fan of rapidly banging a key, hoping that this time I wouldn’t fail the event. Thankfully, an option was added to change the function from frantically pressing a key to simply holding it down. Make sure to change this before you start. You can thank me later.
As for the visuals, 4A Games excels once again. The designs of the world you’ll explore are breathtaking at times. From the toxic forests to deserts. It’s a visual tour de force. Every area gives off its own vibe and includes features you’d expect to see in such an area. I especially enjoyed the desert level, right when a sandstorm is setting in. The area grows dark while the winds kick sand in every direction, lowering your visibility to nothing. The monster designs are also top-notch. From the many creatures you’ll encounter, and not just the big ones. Even smaller ones such as rats or bugs that are scattered by your feet are well done. There’s also a really nice visual effect when you use your lighter in certain places. I won’t ruin the surprise, but I will caution many of you not to hit your screens.
The sound direction is damned good as well and easily one of the best highlights of the game. It really needs to be heard to be believed. This made those firefights or when I was running from a certain creature that much more realistic. I swear that thing was right behind me, then suddenly above me, and a few things I did jump when it pinned me to the ground. For those who’ve invested in a decent audio setup, you’re in for a treat. There’s also Atmos support if your hardware supports it.
At the heart of it all is the idea that everything you do in the game will ultimately decide your fate. Every decision you make, every person or creature you decide to kill or let go of, and even who you save will all play into which ending you arrive at. 4A Games states that there’s no good or bad ending. Instead, whatever you get is what you deserve, which are harsh words. As such, my ending in my eyes was terrible, and while I won’t spoil it, I thought I did what I needed to do to survive. That’s exactly what the game does to you; it forces you to rationale the “it’s you or me” mentality. Forcing you to live, take revenge or forgive throughout the entire game. I loved every minute of it, right up until my unfortunate ending. I’ve already started another game, and I’m hoping things are better this time around.
Remember when I said the game felt more like an adventure title, more than anything else? That’s how Metro Exodus feels to me. Especially when you’re traveling on a train, going from area to area, performing fetch quests, yes, it’s still Metro, and I see that 4A Games wanted to try something else. It’s hard to put into words exactly. I enjoyed the game, though I wanted it to be more sci-fi/supernatural. It’s definitely a solid outing, but it feels like something is missing. I can’t be sure. Lastly, a certain species that was heavily present previously was nowhere to be found here. I was hoping they’d pop up eventually, but they didn’t, and I’m still not sure as to why. There is a season pass planned, so hopefully, we’ll see them whenever this comes around.
How does the PC version fare
My main concern with this title is that, just like with the previous games. Metro Exodus still doesn’t a windowed mode. No borderless window or fullscreen window, which is problematic for people that use ultrawide-screen monitors. Yes, the game does support the format (21:9 / 43:18), in case you’re wondering. And yes, it works well, partially. There’s this weird FOV issue when using a ratio higher than 16:9, where images on the screen’s sides are stretched. This is easily apparent when an NPC, specifically their face, is displayed. A FOV slider would have addressed that concern. A FOV slider would have addressed that concern. I wasn’t able to tweak with the *.ini files as I have with the other Metro titles on Steam. The bigger format also isn’t very good for recording game footage or streaming the game. It would seem that titles Epic Games Store are hiding those files, and as much as I looked, I couldn’t find them. Those who pick up the game on Steam should have better luck.
Anisotropic Filtering is limited to 4X and 16X, while the AntiAliasing option was absent. Which explained the appearance of jaggies that were apparent during my game, even with V-Sync enabled. There’s also an option called Shading Rate, which is basically the image quality. Raising the value did make the overall presentation look better, at the cost of my framerate tanking and more of my GPU memory being used. I also experienced multiple crashes during my time with the game. Several occurred during a heavy firefight; one happened right as I was finishing up a mission. The heartbreaking crash happened during the flipping end. Thankfully the game saved my progress, so I didn’t have to replay the segment over again. Still, it’s frustrating to experience so many crashes and on the patched game code.
I know optimization will be at the top of everyone’s list for those looking to play Metro Exodus on PC. Despite my concerns with the lack of PC-centric options and the crashing, the game ran well. On the PC I used for the playthrough, I was easily hitting 90-100 fps at 1440p at both high. I also fired up the game on a much less beefy machine and a few tweaks; I was able to run it at a respectable 60 fps. It goes without saying that Nvidia’s Hairworks and Tessellation will cause you to drop some frames. Be sure to disable both of those and drop DirectX 12 to DirectX 11 while you’re at it. The game also supports ray tracing and DLSS. However, I wasn’t unable to test this due to not having a video card that supports these features.
|PC 1 - High End
|PC 2 - Low End
|Ryzen 7 1800x
|Ryzen 3 1300x
|Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti
|Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB
|Windows 10 Pro
|Windows 10 Pro
|100 - Default
|100 - Default
4A Games has included a really nice and in-depth benchmarking tool with the game. You enter what system specs you have and what settings you want to use and run one or several tests. The result is a detailed chart showing you the max, average, and min framerate at the desired resolutions and features enabled. I really wish other developers would also do this; it’s terrific.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, and I’m not talking about the purple one I rode in on. Yes, I’m referring to the Epic Games Store mess. No, I’m not a fan of it, and no, I didn’t deduct points because of it. This was nothing that 4A Games was in charge of, they didn’t ask for it, and it would be silly to score their game based on Deep Silver’s odd business tactics. So no, I won’t drop the score because the game isn’t available (outside of pre-orders) on Steam. Doing so would be a disrespect to the series, to the developers, and myself. It also would be a shame if people decide not to play the game due to the same tactics. It’s a wonderful title and one that should be played. Not sat on for another year or waited until the price drops.
Metro Exodus releases on February 15, 2019, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Review Disclosure Statement: A copy of Metro Exodus was provided to us by Deep Silver for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Affiliate Link Disclosure: One or more of the links above contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you, we may receive a commission should you click through and purchase the item.
It’s still Metro we all love, just outside now
Being perfectly honest, after the last two Metro games, not only is this one refreshing change, one that was needed. The open world, the crafting, and the large assortment of NPCs that you’ll encounter during the game. The Metro’s closed walls and need for something more gave way to all of this. Sure, we’re finally on the outside, yet the hellish world that you’ve come to know doesn’t take a backseat. Instead, we’re just introduced to more of it. There’s a whole new world to explore and experience, all while this new setting does the game good. Now we just need to know which ending is canon this time around.
If this is the future of the series, I can’t wait to see what 4A Games does next.