We live in a world obsessed with post-apocalyptic stories, to the point where the genre is a bit crowded (especially in games and film). That doesn’t mean there aren’t any stories left to tell but that they have to work harder to stand apart. How does 4A Games deal with their trek into the genre?
Metro Exodus is the third game in the Metro series, with Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light originally releasing on PlayStation 3, and then as a collection on PlayStation 4. You are Artyom, a soldier who, for some unexplained reason, doesn’t talk. You are supported by your wife, Anna, and a crew of special forces soldiers who admire you. Metro Exodus is definitely heavy on the story it’s telling but is it worth spending your time on? Let’s get into what makes the game tick.
Metro Exodus is set in Russia, with events beginning near Moscow. A civilization of survivors have created a home underground, in the metro. It’s believed that there are no other survivors outside of the underground metro. This game follows the events of Metro: Last Light. Even if you haven’t played the first two entries in the series, Metro Exodus does a good job of catching you up with significant events.
You play as Artyom, a seemingly mute scout searching for life on the surface. Based on other characters’ observations, Artyom keeps risking his life due to his dream of finding a habitable place to live on the surface.
The biggest flaw in the story is the fact that Arytom isn’t voiced. He’s portrayed as a passionate, strong character, but that doesn’t come across when other characters constantly speak for him. “Artyom wants this,” and “Artyom wants that” has much less impact than if he spoke for himself. It’s weird because, during longer loading screens, Arytom is given voiced recaps of his thoughts on events that just took place. It’s really awkward to see him motioning (throughout the game) with his hands in reply to the other characters but not saying anything.
The reason this doesn’t work is that Artyom IS actually talking but his lines don’t show up in text or voice. Supporting characters put words in Artyom’s mouth, and a strong character is made to look like a puppet, more than anything else.
Main character’s unexplained muteness aside, Metro Exodus does have an interesting enough story. You’ll find a train, which serves as your main transportation and also a base of operations. The train serves as the connector between areas on the surface world. When you’re not on missions, you’ll be traveling to the next destination by train.
The relationships between the characters and seeing them interact with each other during downtime are my favorite parts of the story. Later in the game, there’s a particular moment that really touched my ice-cold heart. I won’t go into it for spoiler reasons, but I wish the game had more moments like that one.
Unfortunately, Metro Exodus has only a few highlights during the story. Many of the supporting cast feel like throwaway characters. Anna and Miller are really the only other strongly written characters. The game tries to get you to feel for some of the cast but some of the characters just feel replaceable. Ultimately, I think the game has a lot of wasted potential in the story department, which is too bad.
Your Arsenal and Using it
One of Metro Exodus’ strengths is the wealth of gadgets and weapons that it gives you. As you progress, you get upgrades and additional gadgets. You’ll get a lighter (used for burning spiderwebs), a flashlight (which you have to charge occasionally), a gas mask with replaceable filters, and more.
The weapon system in the game is deep enough without being overbearing. You’re allowed to carry two main guns and a special weapon at once. Each weapon is customizable, with replaceable magazines, stocks, and more. There’s also a cleaning system that affects gun strength but isn’t obnoxious.
Almost all your items are stored in your backpack, which also serves as a mini crafting station. Artyom is able to craft on the go, although you need to be aware that the game won’t pause when you’re crafting ammo and health packs. Crafting takes resources, which you harvest from corpses and the world itself.
Metro Exodus isn’t an open world game and it embraces this well. There are large areas that you get dropped into, with some optional side objectives to complete. They don’t feel like sidequests and, instead, are legitimately optional. You won’t gain levels in this game but you will find upgrades and additional weapon enhancements if you dive into some of these side objectives but the risk is wasting ammo and resources.
At its heart, the game is still a first-person shooter with survival and stealth elements. The gunplay is typical of the genre but it does feel a little too slow, even with the sensitivity turned all the way up. It’s taxing to turn and face enemies behind you because they will probably get a hit or two in before you get there. Besides that, the game is really fun to play. I played on Normal difficulty and still received a challenge. It doesn’t take much to kill Artyom, so make sure to stock up on health packs.
Exodus encourages you to avoid encounters as often as you can. Some enemies, particularly monsters, don’t drop any ammo. When you’re constantly trying to conserve ammo, there’s a weight to attacking when you might not get anything in return. Many of the missions encourage you to take the stealth approach. As soon as you’ve alerted the enemy, it’s really difficult to blend back in so it’s best to take your time during encounters. You’re able to take enemies out quietly with a couple punches from behind or stab them and kill them. This plays into the morality system implemented into the game.
Depending on how you play the game, you’ll get a specific ending tailored to your choices. Unlike other games, this mechanic isn’t as obvious. I thought it was a refreshing take on what other games do. Other games typically bludgeon you over the head with good and bad choices. Exodus is more about playing the game and more naturally receiving an outcome by the end. I will say that my ending was pretty devastating but I’m not sure how it compares to the others.
This is a really gorgeous game, mostly in terms of the environments. Everything is rendered beautifully and effects, such as lighting and snow, are stunning. The most satisfying visual design choice in Exodus is the fact that you don’t really have a HUD. Your health, directions to the next objective, and radiation levels are all implemented as part of your character’s physical design or how he sees the world. The only real HUD element that shows up is the amount of ammo you have, but it only briefly flashes in the bottom right corner of the screen. Besides that, the game lets you enjoy the environment without distractions.
The animation in the game does need a little more work as many of them seem a bit stiff. There are a few visual glitches that I ran into, especially with enemies. This either showed up as randomly slowed framerates or bad rendering during movement. The animation is passable to good, but not amazing. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by other games but I think it’s fair to expect high quality from a game like this.
Overall, I think you’ll be impressed with the visuals for this game. It really does an amazing job of setting a mood with the atmospheres and varied environments. I got some crazy Mad Max vibes in one area (you get to drive a car in this area), while the final area gave me chills with how spectacular it looked.
Sounds of the Wasteland
The sound in this game is worthy of some praise. Gunplay and environment sounds are on point. The sound effects help you feel like you’re actually in the game. I generally wasn’t taken out of the experience by any of the sound elements, except for one.
This may sound like a nitpick but I’ve never been so annoyed by the sound of footsteps before. Most of the time, they sound like something heavy being knocked against a wall repeatedly. The sound is so unnatural and happens so often that it continually took me out of the experience. Anyway, that’s the only real complaint I have for sound design. The rest is pretty much flawless.
The soundtrack for Metro Exodus is mostly minimal and does more to enhance the experience than dominate it. There are two or three primary tracks, that play at appropriate times, that were incredibly memorable and I would go out of my way to listen to again. One of the ending themes in particular completely won me over. I’m going to be downloading the soundtrack just for that song.
Voice acting is kind of a mixed bag. I almost wish the game was voiced completely in Russian because the English is spotty and awkward. I thought about this for a long time but I just don’t think the voice acting is that good. If I didn’t have the subtitles, I would miss out on a lot the characters are saying. Things are phrased awkwardly and the characters honestly talk way too much and too unnaturally. Characters rant on when just a sentence or two would have been enough. It’s almost as if they’re making up for Artyom being silent.
To Exodus or Not to Exodus
I would say that Metro Exodus is a story worth experiencing, even with some of its shortcomings. The game has a phenomenal atmospheric quality to it that never goes away and changes as the game’s environments evolve. The gunplay and stealth elements are fun and have a weight to them if you fail. There was only one part in the game where I was stuck (for about two hours, so not great) because of the unfair amount of enemies and poor cover. Besides that area, the game has good pacing. The sound design is mostly effective, with some awkward voice acting all around. Metro Exodus is an impressive game in a genre that doesn’t necessarily need more entries. If you’re looking for a solid survival shooter that will last you a while to get through, look no further.
This version of Metro Exodus was played and reviewed on PlayStation 4. A code was provided to us for review purposes.
Metro Exodus is worth a playthrough, even if some of its components need a little work. The game does a brilliant job of building an enticing atmosphere in its many environments while telling a compelling story. The gunplay and crafting system are interesting enough to carry you until the end, even if some of the characters aren't. It's a lengthy adventure, one that I took about a couple dozen to get through.
Word player, note manipulator, and logic breaker. My favorite game is The Last of Us. I’ll argue with you about it all day. Try me. “To the edge of the universe and back, endure and survive…”