Review : Metro Exodus

Metro: Last Light, Metro Exodus finds protagonist Artyom and his wife Anna working to protect what remains of Moscow’s citizens, but the dead-end prospect this means for his future leaves him unfulfilled. In search of hope, Artyom returns several times to the irradiated surface and attempts to locate other surviving regions via radio, much to the dismay of Anna, but signs of life soon convince the rest of the Order that Moscow should not be their home.Exodus is a post-apocalyptic road trip through a nuke-blasted Russia, and an arid expanse of what was once the Caspian Sea is one of a number of locations visited by Artyom and his band of survivors. But even with blue skies and the closest thing you can get to clean air in this grim, dead world, survival is still an everyday struggle.The biggest maps in the game, the Volga and the dried-out Caspian Sea, are peppered with side stuff. Contrastingly, the forested, autumnal Taiga feels like a sightseeing tour on a more guided mission. I poked around a few buildings in the Taiga, but I pretty much stuck to the path laid out for me by the main objectives.

The Volga River is a swampland home to villagers who worship a giant mutated shrimp. The Caspian Sea is a lake dried out into a desert. It operates under the tyrannical thumb of a Mad Max-style oil baron and his legion of thugs roaming the wastes in shoddily repaired cars and trucks.It’s a hostile world filled with bandits, cannibals, cults, and of course monsters aplenty. Without spoiling much, there are some dead giveaways to how a few aspects of the plot play out, but it’s kept interesting thanks to its characters such as the tough-as-nails-albeit-gullible squad leader Miller and the wise-cracking mechanic Krest.You’ll need to scour abandoned houses and dangerous lairs of mutants to find new weapons and equipment, while collecting resources to maintain your guns.Mutant spiders chitter and screech, out of sight but definitely not out of mind. I furiously pump the charger on my flashlight. I’ve been in this situation many times before, but I never stop internally freaking out, no matter how many times I tell myself I’m finally over it.

 

Every area feels hand-crafted, brimming with detail and reasons to explore. Using safe houses, you can sleep to switch the game between night and day; otherwise, the day cycles dynamically, bringing with it vivid lighting, gorgeous skyboxes, and even weather systems.It’s a bounteous bouquet of first-person shooter ideas, encompassing everything from modern open-world level design to hyper-linear scripted set pieces to walking simulators, one right after another. But the game struggles to cohere.The game is determined to put her in positions where one or both men need to save her, but Anna is a talented sniper who is initially your main companion.Our personal favourite is the A-shot — a pistol-shaped shotgun that does massive damage up close. Over time weapons will jam or fall into disrepair, forcing you clean them regularly.Standout sections include a train yard inhabited by a giant mutant fish and the sandstorm prone Caspian Desert that resembles something right out Mad Max with hordes of bandits and monsters.But it never feels like work. It’s organic, and eventually it becomes second nature. I find myself taking all of these factors into account when interacting with the world: Is there a lot of mud here? I’ll be sure not to sprint through it, kicking up dirt onto all of my equipment.

Characters can interrupt each other unintentionally, and while loading into one area, we were once forced to stand and wait for characters to have conversations they already had minutes earlier before being allowed to progress.Ammo and gas mask filters are still precious commodities, and Artyom still spends the majority of the game in scrappy, tense firefights with other men in gas masks.The post-war acolytes of the Volga equate technology to Satan and are none too fond of you, but power-hungry slavers rule the Caspian Sea. They feel like totally different worlds, and they’re both filled with fun things to do and interesting characters to meet. But even then, that desperation is born of optimism. Throughout the game, I run into a series of moral choices that are unclear in their impact, and even in their actual morality.More so during the rare occasion where the game’s frame rate takes a small but noticeable dip in its busier battles with effects like fire and steam present.Enemy AI has improved by leaps and bounds since Last Light, but it still alternates between being eagle-eyed and comically blind to your presence. This became especially apparent to me when I reached the game’s second area: a vast, lonely desert.

 

Verdict

A conversation turns toward the future, toward a home free of radiation and mutants, toward dreams and new generations. We toast. We drink. Stepan plays a song about generals and trains and people losing their way and trying to find it again. It is warm. It heartfelt. It is painfully on the nose.Here Exodus exposes you to the full horror of the apocalypse, as the experience takes on a surreal, otherworldly quality. It’s an excellent conclusion – haunting, frightening, and desperately sad.Barring its technical omissions on console, there’s no reason to miss out on one of the more entertaining shooters in recent memory.Metro Exodus is more of an overcast spring afternoon. On my journey aboard the Aurora, I encounter pockets of humanity that have already lost hope.