The Metro trilogy concludes with its most expansive and ambitious title yet, bringing Artyom's story to a satisfying end after an epic trek through post-apocalytpic Russia
Metro Exodus is the newest installment in the popular Metro series, following the silent lead Artyom in his travels through post-apocalyptic Russia. Exodus follows Artyom, his wife Anna, her father General Miller and their special forces crew in their journey topside following Artyom's "naive" search for life on the surface finally bearing fruit.
The game opens with a beautiful (and quite literally) cold open as a primer to set up the world and basics for newcomers, without being too exposition heavy nor retreading too much ground as to bore series veterans. After Artyom and Anna stumble across many more survivors outside of the Metro than they bargained for, the crew is forced to leave their underground home and set across the surface aboard an armoured locomotive which serves as the game's primary "hub" throughout.
In a departure from previous installments, Exodus's level design features several large open areas which are utilized for multiple story objectives before the Aurora moves on to another location.
As the engaging story progresses and the mysteries surrounding the surface world and the Metro dweller's understanding of it unravel, many side objectives and open areas offer new gear and upgrades as well as new story beats should you choose to follow them. These new open areas provide very different environments compared to previous Metro titles' reliance on corridor shooting and dark and dingy locales with short incursions on the snow and ice covered surface; the Caspian desert is filled with sand storms and bandits which adorn its sandy hills in ramshackle buildings, a swampy Louisiana-like area comes complete with amphibious mutants and moss covered shacks, and a forest location offers plenty of beautiful wilderness to go along with its crazed locals and a massive mutated bear.
The open world elements allow Artyom to travel by boat (or via a scraped together van in the desert level) to reach different objectives and explorable locations quickly, and generously placed ziplines let you get back to a main building from side areas in no time to avoid having exploration feel too tedious. Workbenches can also be found in many of these main buildings, allowing you to clean your weapons and craft ammo amongst other things (more on those later).
These open areas inject a breath of fresh air into the typically stuffy series, but also lead in to Metro's bread and butter: its excellently designed linear missions which take place in cramped corridors and irradiated mutant nests.
Most locations, whether it be in buildings or underground in the open-world levels or in missions abridging the Aurora's travels between them, morph into a more linear, focused design as you progress through them. This allows the designers to create an intense atmosphere packed with tension and horror beats as mutants and human enemies alike take turns trying to kill our poor hero.
Those linear aspects do come with the occasional hiccup - some spots require specific actions to progress that aren't always obvious, such as cutting a hard-to-spot rope to lower a ladder in a cluttered shack or finding a small hole in a wall's foundation to get into the next area.
The combat and gameplay loop in Exodus will be familiar for anyone who has played Metro 2033 or Last Light, but it does come with an assortment of changes and improvements.
Immediately noticeable is the slower movement speed compared to previous titles - it doesn't seem to be done for any particular reason, other than perhaps enticing players to take more time to appreciate the gorgeous scenery and stunning 4K visuals the team has so diligently created. The graphics and sound design truly pop and make it one of the best looking games around, with an incredible lighting engine (particularly in dark areas when your flashlight becomes your greatest ally) and particle effects combining exquisitely with immersive sound design to fully entrench you in the game world.
The physics on the other hand are an odd departure from the norm - unlike prior installments, the new engine seems to have some problems when it comes to animations. Lip sync is at times comically bad and never seems to match what characters are saying, which hurts the immersion factor especially in otherwise compelling scenes. Enemies often have delayed or stiff reactions to dying and being shot that break the flow of the game's excellent shooting mechanics; this is especially odd given that previous entries in the series had no such issue.
When enemies do fall down properly, the game's punchy assortment of weapons and gadgets are better than ever with an overhauled and improved crafting system utilizing various components and resources found throughout your journey. Looting is essential just like in prior Metro games, but thanks to being able to take components off of guns laying around and added resources to collect used for crafting, it's not just ammo you're looking for anymore.
Workbenches, which can be found in key locations in the world and are always available on the Aurora, allow you to swap out your collected weapons (two different ballistic weapons, as well as one non-ballistic weapon, either the air-powered Tikhar rifle or later on the crossbow) at any point. This is a small but much-needed improvement over previous games which only allowed you to swap out your guns by finding another in-game or buying them at a shop, and as soon as you dropped or replaced one you’d need to find or buy another.
Each weapon has various components which can be swapped, such as different stocks, laser attachments, various sights, different magazine sizes and types, different air pumps for the Tikhar or propulsion systems for the crossbow, and even different barrels. These components can vastly change the way a weapon works, turning a single-shot pistol into a high-powered six-shooter or taking an inaccurate SMG and turning it into a semi-automatic assault rifle.
Workbenches also allow you to clean your weapons, a new mechanic which plays a vital role in Exodus - if you continually use a single weapon or go through sandstorms or irradiated areas, your weapons will degrade and increasingly misfire, which can be deadly should you be fumbling around trying to clear a jam in the middle of a tense firefight. While it sounds punishing, the mechanic instead makes you use a wider arsenal of weapons and regularly swap them out with new ones as you go. Since you can strip all the components off of any weapon you drop, it never punishes you for swapping guns as you can get your favourite one back when you make it to a workbench.
Workbenches also allow you to swap out different gear, such as improved armour or wrist attachments for motion sensors and light detectors, all of which can be found throughout the game. You can craft ammo in exchange for resources, as well as new air filters for your gas mask, health kits, and throwables like throwing knives, grenades, and Molotov cocktails. As an added bonus, Artyom carries a mobile workbench in his backpack which can be deployed at any point other than in combat; this allows you to swap out components on your weapons and craft a few items on the fly – air filters/med kits and steel balls (fired by the Tikhar rifle, which makes it an essential weapon to carry), though other crafting items and swapping weapons out require you to use a full workbench.
The new crafting system and gameplay updates change things up, but like always, the game's horror vibes and engrossing story are the highlight of the show, and Exodus's story doesn't disappoint. Side characters are much more fleshed out than previous outings and form an integral part of the story this time, and the unraveling mystery surrounding what happened on the surface as well as exploring the different groups in the various encampments you come across form the crux of your time in Exodus.
Unlike prior games the narrative doesn't seem to gloss over important aspects and is thus a more complete package, offering plenty of substance and an enjoyable cast of heroes (and villains) throughout its meaty runtime.
As a true capper to a great trilogy, the pulse-pounding finale delivers an emotional end to the epic journey and is well worth the time for any fan of the series.
There are two endings (one "good" and one "bad", as is the series standard, with the bad ending being what most players will experience) that I won't spoil, but both offer a satisfying conclusion to the Metro storyline and serve as a fitting end if the developers do move on to tell new stories; of course, with the fully-fleshed out and expansive world the developers have created, another entry could easily take place in the same world, and here's hoping that this isn't the last we've seen of 4A Games' Metro.
+Polished shooting mechanics and deep FPS combat systems
+Engaging story with a much-improved supporting cast and emotional finale
+Diverse levels with opportunities for stealth, ranged and close combat in expansive locales as well as the linear horror-infused levels the series is known for
+The new crafting system adds a lot to the experience and incentivizes trying out new things as well as constantly changing tactics
+Stunning visuals in a truly immersive world with a surprisingly large variety of environments, each impressively detailed in full 4K at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second (on the One X or PS4 Pro)
+Amazingly detailed sound design, particularly during tense horror sections
-Some odd animations (lip syncing) and physics break immersion at times
-Occasionally the path to progress in certain areas isn't clear
The Final Score: 9 / 10