Metro Exodus is a conflicted game, one that feels unsure of what its true nature is. Is it an extension of the previous titles, or something all new that is striking out in a brave new direction? I’m not 100% sure either way, but is it a good game?
Exodus tells the story of Artyom and his wife Anya as they escape radiation riddled Moscow with Anya’s father, Miller and the Spartan Order. They are travelling across Russia to find Artyom’s dream of a lush green haven, free from radiation and the horrors of nuclear war. The Aurora is an ever-evolving beast of a train that takes you between the various hubs that you travel through.
Hubs though, you read that right. No longer is this a game spent hunkered down in the dark tunnels of the Moscow subway, now you are set free in vast areas of Russia to roam to your hearts content, clearing areas of bandits and completing key objectives key to getting the Aurora somewhere safe.
These open world sections are alien to what Metro has historically been about, and at times, they feel so wrong. Wandering a wide expanse with lengthy periods of time between enemy outposts isn’t entirely inspiring. It doesn’t help that some of the generic enemy outposts you come across feel like a cheap Far Cry rip-off, while the inclusions of boats and jeeps to assist your travels are let down by awful handling.
Two of the main hubs, The Volga and The Caspian have some strong narrative moments as you regroup with the crew at the Aurora between missions, but they don’t grab the attention like you would expect. Too often, your time is spent wandering between objective markers highlighted via a largely unreadable map. These levels are saved by some excellent set-piece sections that cap off one of your missions. These moments are more reminiscent of classic Metro, a well-structured linear journey to a climactic ending.
There are some key differences between Exodus and the first two games. Bartering ammunition for new guns or upgrades is long gone, now you are relying on scavenging ammo, guns and upgrades from corpses or your surroundings. Overall, this works without any problems, but the life or death decision making of previous games is missing, and the tension is reduced as a result.
An attempt at ratcheting up the tension comes from the inclusion of a wear and tear mechanic with your weapons. Your guns will slowly deteriorate over time, starting to jam and eventually stop working entirely. Their performance will get worse when you trudge through the mud and sand of the world you are exploring…but they can be easily cleaned with some chemicals, or even swapped out for a gun from a fallen foe. The attempt at adding some survival elements is decidedly poor, proving to be a short-lived nuisance than anything that adds any great worry to your experience.
Despite all of this, there are many moments in Exodus that stand out loud and proud. The Yamantau level which splits the Volga and Caspian is an excellent example of Exodus feeling like a proper Metro game. The horror elements come to the fore, and the atmosphere darkens. It’s here that you appreciate that the core elements of action and survival horror come together in a wonderfully harrowing experience.
As you progress through the game, you come across The Taiga, an expansive semi-open world area. Yes, you can look at your map here and explore where you might wish, but the path is largely defined for you. Here you can embrace your action oriented instincts or take a stealthier more considered approach. It might not be an area set underground, or even in darkness, but the narrative that drives you through this area help sustain the forward momentum.
If the earlier open-world areas feel like they are lacking in the Metro feelings, the final third more than makes up for them. Indeed, even if the gameplay can disappoint at times in the beginning, the moments on the Aurora more than make up for it.
The train is the beating heart of Exodus, the location for your family gatherings and those tender moments with Anya, and harsher moments with Miller. You can take a smoke and a drink with your comrades from the Order, listening to their tales from the tracks and personal histories. While some of the larger story beats are pre-determined, listening to your friends discuss the events that transpired in the previous hub add emotional weight to your journey across Russia.
It’s an inconsistent game, but one that delivers a great story. It’s a different Metro to the one you left behind in Moscow, and one that certainly takes some getting used to. As long as you are prepared for some wobbles on the way to high points, you’ll do just fine with Exodus.
The Verdict – On Target / Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Platform Reviewed – PlayStation 4
Review based on retail purchased copy. Read this for more on our scoring policy.