The Russian Frontier
Metro: Exodus feels like a 2005 shooter with 2019 graphics. The game itself certainly has some sparkle to it and there’s enough atmosphere and memorable story beats to make it worth checking out if you enjoyed the previous two Metro games. Unfortunately, the open world setting feels at odds against the uneasy, claustrophobic dread of the previous 2 titles, with little disguising the clunky controls and poorly optimised UI.
The story begins with an impressive opening cinematic, with silent protagonist Artyom traveling on a subway train into the Metro where your small band of Russian brethren have settled in and made a home. Unlike the previous games though, Metro: Exodus spends little time in these underground sections, instead seeing you take to the snow-covered streets above which sets the foundation for the game. Across the 15 hour run-time you’ll travel to several different open-world hub areas which the story revolves around. All of this begins after being captured by armed assailants and shot, thrown into a ditch of dead bodies and forced to try and survive.
Eventually you do team up with a ragtag band of freedom fighters and together you steal a train and head off across the not-so-empty Russia. All of this leads to a finale that rests on what decisions you’ve made prior in the game, with a “good” and “bad” ending. Metro: Exodus hinders on what choices you’ve made in combat as to which ending you receive, with a system akin to that seen in Dishonored, albeit with less flair or finesse.
Amongst a slew of other impressive single player titles and atmospheric, online live-service shooters, Metro: Exodus feels dated and awkwardly contrived. Walking is unnaturally sluggish, with Artyom turning at a glacial pace as he maneuvers through the wilderness. By comparison, running feels exagerrated and far too quick, feeling ripped out of something you’d find in Call Of Duty or Bulletstorm. To make matters worse, the shooting itself lacks compelling feedback, oftentimes feeling floaty or unsatisfying to use. Even with the added customisation around the weapons and safe houses, it just never feels good to shoot.
Having said all that, Metro: Exodus is stunningly beautiful. The atmosphere of the game rests on a consistent feel of uneasy dread while the open world areas are nicely designed and interesting to explore. Beyond a few collectables dotted around though there’s not much incentive to do so, although if you’re looking for aesthetic splendour and want to admire a believable Russian wasteland, Metro nails its aesthetic and visual design perfectly. Even the indoor sections are realistically depicted too, and the entire world feels like Russia really has been turned into a wasteland.
The different parts of the story are well paced too and the hub areas take you through varying terrains and visuals styles to help break the game up. The levels are well executed and despite some clunky stealth mechanics, work well in the context of the game. The mutants you face are as menacing as they were the first time around too, with an added injection of strategy thanks to these open world areas.
Every part of the game has me falling back on the opening statement of this review. Metro: Exodus very much feels like a 2005 shooter stuck in the wrong era. The silent protagonist is a trope that’s long been exploited to the point of feeling cliched in games now and that, combined with the lengthy, unskippable NPC conversations in-game hold the game back from the great heights it could ascend to. Of course, the controls will either make or break your experience with this and for me, I just couldn’t get to grips with this across the 15 hour play-time.
In comparison to 2033 or the original Metro game, Exodus fails to match up. The open world setting is a nice idea poorly implemented, contradicting the claustrophobic, tense atmosphere that worked so well to define the previous games. There is some potential here but the shallow characters, clunky controls and cliched silent protagonist make this a game that would have been a hit 10 years ago, but feels out of place in 2019. There is enjoyment to be had here, but if you’re looking for something to match its predecessors, Metro: Exodus fails to live up to expectations.