Thursday, 18 April 2019 11:01

Metro Exodus Review

Written by

Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

Metro Exodus (Exodus), developed by 4A Games and published by Deep Silver, is the third entry of the renowned Metro franchise that was originally inspired by Dmitry Glukhovsky’s novel, Metro 2033. With the story originally taking place in the post-World War III underground metro tunnels of Moscow, Exodus,as its name implies, is the story of finally leaving the bombed-out ruins in search of a new home.


Exodus is downright beautiful. 4A Games is well known for their ability to create visually-stunning games, and this one is no exception. From environmental details, to weather and particle effects, right down to the crummy gas mask you’ll be seeing a lot of the game through — everything looks better than just about anything else you’ll see in its contemporaries. All of this is in service of some impressively in-depth character and enemy interactions that, while generally a lot more shallow than the depth the Metro series is used to, help create a world where the different locales you visit feel as if there was some backstory as you murder your way through them.

The size of the maps, the quality of the voice acting (for some characters), and the relative breadth of mechanics available to the player are all quite impressive. You’ll spend a lot of time managing your equipment, from repairing cracks in your mask and cleaning your weathered weapons, as well as a pretty impressive modular weapon modding system from found parts. And nearly everything that happens to you has some sort of neat mitigating interaction. Dirty visor? Wipe it off. Jammed rifle? Unclog that bad boy. Flashlight out of juice? Charge her right back up! There were times I felt as if I were playing piano on my keyboard from having to manage multiple different effects, and it does help considerably in selling the experience. Unfortunately, most of the mechanics are marred by their ham-handed implementation and how greatly they disrupt the flow of the game.


Exodus truly feels like the result of an awesome underdog series looking up at the behemoths of other games in similar genres — Fallout, Far Cry, and maybe even a bit of Call of Duty — and graciously accepting their hand-me-downs. The Metro franchise has always been about super linear, story-rich first-person shooters, but Exodus tries so hard to tack on so many extra parts that it’s hard to recognize what it once was.


Exodus starts out with a glimpse of its predecessors in the bombed-out Moscow streets and tunnels, but quickly runs away with the idea of getting out. The opening is spent setting up a way to get out of Moscow, and it feels very contrived. The shoehorning of many of the plot elements makes for an extremely weak foundation for the rest of your adventure. It eventually falls into an act-by-act structure which becomes tiringly predictable, undercutting any emotional weight the frequent deaths and abandonment of supporting characters might have had, as you can see it coming from the moment you start each mission.

On top of all this, the vast majority of the information fed to our silent protagonist is through minimally interactive in-engine talking scenes — which sometimes are upwards of five minutes — and it's too much time spent doing nothing while other characters talk at you. While you’re occasionally granted the opportunity to cut it short, Exodus revels in its slow-paced exposition beyond the point of boredom. This even manages to carry over into gameplay, which is also a problem the previous Metro games had. Given that much of the time on missions is spent with one or more of the supporting characters, you end up waiting for them to interact with something, stop talking, or just plain old catch up with you, further weakening the overall pacing.


The next two issues go hand-in-hand: maps and vehicles. This is where the potential comparisons to (or maybe potential inspirations from) Far Cry and Fallout begin. Exodus manages to create some really breathtaking areas that seem to stretch on endlessly, but this creates more problems than it solves. These vast areas create a dismal lack of focus on gameplay encounters, making you suffer through tedious treks in order to progress. These treks detract from quieter moments, due to the sheer volume of nothing you’ll already be doing. It’s hard to feel relief for a lull in combat when it takes ages to find the action in the first place. The later stages definitely manage to step back into line, allowing for some more focused encounters, but the issues created by the larger maps are never completely shed. Unlike the two previous Metro games, Exodus feels as if it’s trying to create a world as expansive as Fallout, but only manages to construct a cheap and linear sightseeing tour of its own universe, with even more tedium and less to see between stops.


Several usable craft have reared their ugly heads in Exodus, and each suffer from the same problem: they’re just boring. The first you run into is a train car, and it manages to be the best of all of them due to it literally being on rails. After recovering the engine from a monster-infested warehouse, you are awarded the privilege of holding forward until you can’t anymore, and switching the tracks, then repeating, until you are at your destination. It’s this kind of minimal input and time-wasting that plagues the game from start to finish.

Later stages introduce a van you manage to steal from a group of warmongering locals, but it suffers from the same problems. There’s nothing else to do while you’re driving, and if you want to do anything else, you have to get out to do so. It’s a nice consideration that it was added to help the traversal of such huge areas, but it’s a bandaid slapped onto a self-inflicted gunshot. The detail in the animations and damage to the vehicles is on par with the fidelity you’ll find in Far Cry, and largely serve an identical purpose (large, open map traversal from one point of interest to another). But seeing as Far Cry manages to do so much more with these mechanics, like chases, gun battles, and essentially turning your vehicle into a giant explosive, it ends up feeling like a cheap knockoff. Lastly is the rowboat, which makes appearances throughout the entirety of the campaign and managed to make me sigh in disappointment each time. Being both slow and unwieldy, the rowboat gives you ample time to soak in the scenery of the watery areas you’ll be working through, with all the interaction of carnival’s River of Love.


The gunplay, stealth, and mandatory, token triple-A crafting system are average for a FPS, but since it’s all there is outside of looting every corpse and crate in sight, it doesn’t manage to hold up the rest of the game very well, as well as, again, feeling like a linear knockoff of Far Cry’s stronghold-capture schick. The best moments are certainly in the combat and stealth, but those moments were few and far between. There is a singular encounter that stood out to me (spoiler alert): angering a whole tower of slavers after punching one in the face for mistreating a slave, then killing every last one of them and freeing all the slaves, all before making an exit into the next area. In a linear game full of dramatic set pieces, it speaks volumes of the overall impact that only one encounter managed to stick with me. And even movement was a recurring problem throughout, due to this little thing called fall damage: the vast, open worlds managed to kill me a few times just because gravity couldn’t keep up with my movement speed. Walking down stairs and hills have a surprisingly high mortality rate because of this.


Because of the new, open areas 4A Games is experimenting with, many other areas are cordoned off from the rest to create that old Metro feel that Exodus often lacks. These areas manage to be the best of the game, but still suffer from many problems. Climbing, crawling, and otherwise skirting through different nooks and crannies are all relegated to contextual button prompts and long animations — which is not uncommon for a game like this, but it still needs to be addressed, as it relegates any sense of exploration or experimentation to a single button press. Typically a single press or brief hold of the interaction key will allow you to do what you need to, but there was one that required about a ten-second hold. But since the prompt was poorly communicated, I was under the impression that something else needed to be done first, and so I got stuck for about thirty minutes. Exodus also has a few problems with invisible walls and kill boxes that look like progression paths, but they’re infrequent.


Exodus is among the buggiest triple-A titles I’ve played. Some were funny, some were frustrating, and others were almost game-breaking. In open levels with some verticality, it wasn’t uncommon to see enemies walking through the air as if there was some invisible scaffolding only they could see. In combat and cutscenes, enemies and friends would appear from nowhere when needed, or teleport around as if their models forgot to play an animation, but the engine just put them in the correct end position anyways. In firefights and dialogue, teammates would walk through my position and push me out of the way unceremoniously, as if I wasn’t even there, occasionally leading to deaths when pushed from behind cover.

Exodus froze or downright crashed to desktop about six times during my playthrough, but since it has no window, borderless window, or fullscreen options, it was exceedingly difficult to kill with task manager. But the worst and most problematic problem was that my flashlight bugged out. According to some unconfirmed forums it’s caused by an interaction with the swapping of control systems between the car headlights and your flashlight. But that didn’t stop me from playing nearly half of this very dark game without a flashlight. There are a few sections of the game where flashlight use is prevented, and it needs to be recharged manually from time to time, but mine was downright broken. Luckily there was a backup lighter to find my way with, but that does not excuse the fact that this game was shipped with a bug that prevents you from using your primary visibility and exploration tool.

None of the above issues address the stubbornness of creating this awkward and infuriating pseudo-silent protagonist. Exodus manages to contextualize a few moments where he doesn’t respond, but I can’t help but think half of the game’s problems wouldn't have happened if he would just say three words every once in a while. If Artyom is meant to be a vessel for the player, he fails to be one due to the characterization given to him on loading screens and character interactions; and if he’s meant to be a character, he fails to be one due to his inability to speak.


With tedious open worlds, gruelingly long scenes of being talked at, a contrived and predictable story, and only average stealth, average combat, and gorgeous visuals to stand up on, Exodus fails to live up to the series that spawned it. Shedding the rich and fleshed out world of the Moscow metro tunnels that made the games feel so alive was a risky move, and in doing so it’s left behind just about everything that made the series unique or interesting. They say the devil is in the details, but Exodus has its nose buried there and forgets to look at the bigger picture.


The Verdict: Bad

Metro Exodus is a slow, tedious, and predictable game trying to do several things many other games do better and kneecapping its own strengths in the process, while dragging the worst parts of the previous games along for the ride. If you need more Metro, this one won’t satisfy.

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Coal Fire

CoalFire is an enthusiastic gamer who has spent the last few years digging for the hidden gems of indie gaming. A scientist by education, he breaks down the components of games sorting out what works, what doesn't and how it all works to create a cohesive experience. When he's not analyzing them, he's still playing.