So I have a confession to make – I was never a big fan of the Metro games. It’s not that I thought they were crap but more a case of they just didn’t grab me as they did with others. The previous games, Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light released in 2010 and 2013 respectively were both critically and commercially successful with favourable reviews across the board as well as strong enough sales warrant sequels all from the same developer, 4A Games.
Well 4A Games are back with the third game in the series, Metro Exodus and after being given a review code (thanks to publisher Deep Silver) I thought I’d go back and experience the first two games once more before I tackled the latest entry… and I really enjoyed myself too. I found the games much more entertaining than I originally remembered and seeing as the first game is coming up to 9 years old this year – it holds up surprisingly well. Anyway, the point is that I was initially wrong.
I guess a quick bit of coverage of what the Metro games actually are would be good. Well, the best way to describe them is that they are first person, survival horror shooters – with a blending of resource management, stealth and action. The first game is based on the novel of the same name from writer Dmitry Glukhovsky. And you play as a guy called Artyom who has to fight and defend his home and people from the horrors lurking in the metro tunnels after a nuclear war in Russia. Artyom and others struggle to survive in the harshness of nuclear fallout as they fight the mutants created as well as have to scavenge what they can endure and withstand the horrors of nuclear fallout.
Look, just go play the games as they’re really enjoyable but make sure you play them on the hardest difficulty to get the most of of the survival horror elements. I need to crack on with looking at the newest game Metro Exodus.
Well Artyom is back doing pretty much what he was doing in the previous games, killing mutants and scavenging whatever he can to help him and his fellow survivors stay alive. I suppose the first thing to cover is the new gameplay style. See, the first two games were pretty linear with you being stuck underground for the most part. Occasionally you would pop up the the surface but the majority of the previous games took place in the underground metro, it’s stations and tunnels. Then when you would go above ground now and then, it was still a linear experience as you had to follow a pre-set path to get to your objective. Now things have changed as while there still is some of that underground metro action (the game starts out like that), most of the game actually takes place in the open. The linearity of the previous games has all but gone, save a few sections, in favour of open world hubs. Now you have the freedom to explore and interact with these open world hubs however you wish.
While you will always have a main/story objective to complete, there are plenty of side quests you can discover and complete too. And you can do these at your own leisure as long as you are on the hub in question. You’ll find yourself going off the beaten track and seeing what else the map has to offer, not only to find more and more side missions, but also to scavenge for ammo, weapon upgrades and the like. Then each of the open world hubs are graphically very different from each other and offer their own unique characteristics. From snowy areas to deserts (watch out for sandstorms) and cities. One of the things that bored me in the first two games was the lack of variety in the graphics, I just got tired of seeing the same brown tunnels over and over. Metro Exodus addresses this by adding a lot more deviation and this made me want to see what the maps had to offer.
The upgrading of weapons is back from the previous games, only now with a lot more to play round with. These upgrades no only change how the gun looks but also how it feels and works. Add a scope and longer barrel to an assault rifle, an increased magazine size to a sub-machine gun, pimp out a sniper rifle to make it even more deadly – you can take a simple revolver and turn it into a hand-cannon. There is so much to the upgrading and customisation of the guns that I could play around and experiment with it for hours and create new and different guns each time. Speaking of the guns and coming off replaying the previous games recently, I found the gun-play here to be much more snappy and responsive too. Guns will also get dirty with excessive use making them less effective and prone to jamming, so you’ll have to find a workbench to clean it up and repair.
The open world hubs also give way to open styled missions. Do you go into the enemy camp all guns blazing, killing anyone you see… or maybe you go in sneaky, stealthy quiet as a mouse and just knock the bad guys out. How you play will affect the ending too. If you go around doing as many side missions as possible and knock people out instead of killing them, then you get the good ending. But running around like a loon and putting bullets into any and everyone you see while ignoring the side missions and you’ll see the bad ending… as I did.
Resources are scarce. Ammo, scrap and ingredients to make equipment and upgrade guns are around… but you’ll really need scour every nook and cranny to find them. Search dead bodies, find and open lockers and lock-boxes to gather much needed ammo and resources. Resources you’ll need to make more ammo, medi-kits, throwables and so on. You’ll even have to look after your gas-mask which will become damaged especially after a particularly brutal fight, as a gas-mask with a gaping hole in it is no good against nuclear fallout. Survival is key and while Metro Exodus isn’t a hardcore survival game, it’s a FPS first and foremost, the survival elements are still important and work very well especially on the hardest setting, which is how a Metro game should be played.
The graphics are stunning too making the world you are in believable. The burnt out husks of what used to be buildings, the desolate wastelands left after the nuclear war, the grotesque and unrelenting mutant animals you’ll come across all look beautiful in a macabre way.
Metro Exodus is a wonderful game and a thrilling title. For me, the best of the three as developer 4A Games have taken what made the previous games enjoyable and tinkered with the formula just enough to keep the game as it should be but also bring forth a slew of great features to keep the concept fresh.
Now full disclosure here. I played through the game on easy just to finish it so I could do this review. The Metro games (as I previously said) should be played on the hardest possible setting. This is when the survival elements really come to life as you desperately need to conserve ammo and resources, scavenging is harder as there is less loot around and enemies are harder to kill while you are easier to end. I have started a play through on the hardest setting and it’s amazing, the fear is amped as I run out of ammo for my weapons and filters for my gas-mask. On easy, Metro Exodus was thoroughly enjoyable but on Ranger (hardest) difficulty its a whole new game and one I’m loving every second of it’s brutality.