In Soviet Russia, train rides YOU!
The Metro series of videogames are all based on a series of novels by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The book was originally released in 2005 and the videogame adaptation, Metro 2033 was released in 2010. Metro Last Light followed that up in 2013, and now we have Metro Exodus. It was developed by 4A Games and published by Deep Silver. In this entry in the game, you leave the traditionally claustrophobic tunnels of the Moscow metro for the great outdoors. Your quest is simple, find a place to start a new settlement. It is a lot harder than it sounds. Many things go awry on your journey. This series is a mix between an FPS and survival horror, where you have to be more conservative with your ammo and resources, don’t have regenerating health, and have a lot of gadgets to fiddle around with. So, what’s the deal with this 3rd entry?
This review is based on the Xbox One X Enhanced version of the game.
On a technical level, the graphics are fantastic. You’re looking at some absolutely great lighting with a full night and day cycle that feels real. The contrast between the spacious open skies and the darkness of the tunnels is large. Animations are top notch, which is a big bonus for this game. There are a lot of in-engine scripted sections where people do a LOT of talking (more on that later). From just a purely visual perspective, everything looks as real as they can get. If I really had to go nitpicking, I would say that there are two locations in the game that look dull because they look so real. Yes. As in, the big open desert wasteland map was a big open desert wasteland. The snowy lake area is just a bunch of bright-ass snow. But I’m really reaching here, these visuals are off the hook.
This is also gonna sound more like a criticism than an accolade, but there is too much story in this game. The script for this game had to be massive, because every single character you encounter has a lot to say. Every enemy encounter is loaded with stuff. There’s a lot of stealth in the game so you have plenty of opportunities to eavesdrop on everyone. And those are just random encounters. The setpiece locations themselves are filled to the brim with story as well. They make an absolute masterpiece of world building based on what you see and hear. All of that is before I talk about the Train scenes. Good lord, there is a lot of dialogue on that train. The train serves as an exposition/character buffer between locations, and is rather amazing. You get to learn all about EVERYONE on this journey with you, and there are many tales to be told.
There is one scene on the train where you’re in the control car with 3 different pairs of people. And they are all in different corners of the head end, talking to each other.
Some may take issue with these bits. For one, the train sections are really LONG exposition dumps. 30 solid minutes of people talking to each other. I haven’t seen this much discussion in a half hour since the opening “speech” in Old World Blues from Fallout: New Vegas. Honestly, this game has a very slow pace. The talking is a great bit of respite after a stressful mission. The other point, which is a bit more annoying is that people very frequently talk over each other. But, this isn’t a bug, it’s intentional. There is one scene on the train where you’re in the control car with 3 different pairs of people. And they are all in different corners of the head end, talking to each other. You would have to replay these scenes multiple times to hear everyone properly. I personally didn’t think this was a problem either. It added to the realism.
Finally, the over-arching plot itself isn’t really much of a traditional story. The entire point of the game is simply finding a place to settle outside of the Metro. The hardships you encounter along the way compose the parts of this story, but every stop is more like an intrusion than a narrative. You walk into a weird cult, you reason with the cult, you leave. You encounter some… crazed survivalists in a bunker, and then you leave. Trying not to spoil here. It’s just a big series of literally crashing into the middle of other people’s stories that have nothing to do with you. Once again, I find this aspect refreshing. Not everything has to be about saving the world.
The OST was tolerable, but altogether not to outstanding. For all of the interesting monsters, their noises and growls don’t have the same impact they did in prior titles. There’s some faux-zombies in this title, and they sound like zombies. The guns are interesting but also don’t sound all that interesting. Most important is the voice acting. Despite being FULL of lore and story, the English voice cast still sound like a bunch of Americans faking a Russian accent. It’s charming in a way, but still objectively not too great. Many say to play the game with Russian audio on instead, but that would involve far too much reading. It is still competently put together and has its moments.
This game is hardcore, even on the easiest setting. You cannot expect to just run and shoot your way through the campaign. You will burn through resources and crafting tools so fast. I believe there could be a point where you can legitimately run entirely out of resources and have to start the chapter over, probably.
The gameplay loop is quite engaging. Each major stage after every train scene is a wide open map. Pleasantly, they aren’t gigantic, but actually very decently sized play areas with plenty to explore. It’s not easy to get from point A to point B. You can make waypoints, but the locations aren’t as simple as the map makes them out to be. You spend your time with a lot of gadgets on you, and you’ll need all of them. You have a lighter, the map, a backpack, headlight, battery charger, and a wrist gadget just to name a few. Your backpack serves as a mobile crafting station but you can’t craft the best gear on it. It’s good for getting you out of a bind if you have low health and know health packs. Your health doesn’t regenerate in this one, so you gotta take care of yourself.
Even if you have a lot of ammo, it will still get you killed if you charge in guns blazing. Stealth is almost mandatory when you deal with human enemies.
Combat is slow and deliberate too. Even if you have a lot of ammo, it will still get you killed if you charge in guns blazing. Stealth is almost mandatory when you deal with human enemies. As for monsters? Well… good luck. You’ll need it. Here’s a testament to the immersion of the gameplay. After I finished this game, I started playing Far Cry New Dawn. There were many times where I found myself pushing buttons that are supposed to bring out my lighter or flashlight. I kept forgetting I wasn’t playing Metro anymore. That’s right, the game is so engaging it will actively ruin other FPS’s for you. Maybe play a fighting game afterwards.
The fun you can have in this game is widely subjective to your tastes. I got what I wanted out of this. A tough as nails survival horror game masquerading as an FPS. I’ve had friends tell me they absolutely hate the game and get annoyed by it the whole way through. And there’s people who loved it. And people who liked it but didn’t think it was Metro enough. That’s my opinion, it’s good but at the same time it does seem a bit out of its element compared to the other titles. There’s that, and the game has its fair share of some truly frustrating moments. Despite this, I pressed on and on, even when the game got maddeningly hard.