Metro Exodus on PlayStation 4
Linear first-person shooters are becoming a rare breed. With Battlefield V introducing open sandbox levels, Apex Legends being the follow up to Titanfall 2, and Call of Duty Black Ops 4 ditching the campaign altogether, there are fewer options than ever.
Metro Exodus is now another that’s following that trend, taking the series away from the labyrinth of tunnels in Moscow and introducing larger, open levels. While it’s a lot slower at times, 4A Games has managed to translate the traditional tone and gameplay of the Metro series into a more open, sandbox-style game successfully.
The expansion of Metro’s world has brought an incredible amount of variety to Exodus. The gameplay veers between open-world survival RPG to fast-paced corridor shooter, taking you from Fallout style wastelands to bandit controlled deserts, and it all works excellently.
One moment you’ll be crashing through mutants in a rusty old mini-bus, and the next you’ll be slinking through the shadows of a lake-side bandit camp, crossbow in hand, approaching it like a classic base infiltration, but ten times the size.
On top of optional missions and varying terrain, Exodus gives you more to think about this time around. Ammo may not be used as a currency anymore, but it’s still a valuable and scarce commodity. You must picks your fights carefully and learn the best ways of approaching different enemy types.
Much of what you’re doing is very survival focused. You must wear a gas mask in irradiated areas, but keep an eye on the life left in its filter. You’ll need to recharge your flashlight to keep it at optimal brightness, and also scavenge for materials to craft ammo and medkits. Some weapons need to have their pressure pumped every few minutes… and that’s just the start of everything you need to juggle.
Those survival elements make the open worlds far more engaging than they otherwise would be. Heading from location isn’t a case of running from point A to point B, killing whatever is in your way. You now need to prepare, conserve, and pick your battles, which makes Exodus feel much more immersive.
Control issues do arise from this, though. Ultimately, there’s too much to think about to fit on a controller. You often have to tie your hands in knots to access important tools, and it can take a while to memorize where everything is.
It’ll surely be more streamlined on PC, where each item will have its own input, but on console simply crafting a medkit can be arduous.
Also, when out in the open, the vagueness of your map and the multiple paths in front of you emphasize the depth of the sandboxes.
The design is less effective when you’re led to an enclosed space with multiple paths, groups of mutants, and little direction. You’re given little choice but to wander around in the hope that you stumble across what you’re supposed to be looking for.
The freedom you’re granted will therefore lead to confusion at times, when you’re not able to step back, look at what’s ahead, and think about how you’re going to get where you need to go.
Metro’s signature moments haven’t been lost, though. Decaying corridors and the neon greens of radiation are still frequent themes, with Artyom having to sneak past enemies and discover secrets in long abandoned places.
The style switches can be a little jarring at times, seeing you get used to the new open world design, only to be thrown back into a Metro tunnel moments later, but the gameplay still works well in each area.
The success of Exodus’ variety is largely down to the detail that’s been paid to the level design and the emphasis on atmosphere. Not only are the locations breathtaking, but there’s no HUD to distract from the beauty outside of crafting or reloading, and certain features are designed to promote either a sense of scale, or a feeling of dread.
When creeping through dark tunnels or decaying bases filled with radiation, the cracks and scuffs on Artyom’s mark reduce the field of vision, increasing the claustrophobic feeling and making you suspicious of every flicker of light. It can make for some terrifying moments that would be up there with any survival horror title.
When out in the open, though, with the gas mark off, all you have in front of you is Artyom’s gun and the world around him. You’re able to look out into the distance without anything in your way. Even looking at the world up close, you can see the incredible attention to detail.
That design in both open and enclosed settings feels very deliberate, and it heightens the immersion significantly, moving you from terrifying decaying tunnels to the majesty of a decaying wasteland.
What’s disappointing is that the gunplay doesn’t always make you feel in control, with the automatic weapons that can feel inaccurate and stiff, especially when missions are often designed to put precision and planning at the forefront.
With ammo being scarce, and weapons getting dirty over time, wasting ten bullets on an attacking mutant because you’re fighting with the weapon itself can be frustrating. It’s particularly an issue when you’re fighting non-human enemies. There’s little balance between the ease of fighting mutants and humans.
Not only are humans slower and less aggressive, allowing you to attack methodically, but they also drop both weapons and materials when they die. You therefore always have a way to restock when infiltrating bandit camps, and that isn’t the case when spiders or mutant dogs are the enemies that are in your way.
Of course, that plays into the survival elements somewhat, which does make sense, but it can feel unfair at time when you’re left having to melee your way through an irradiated bunker when you’d have no issues if it was a bandit camp instead.
The narrative is still important in Metro Exodus. There’s a real emphasis on the importance of family and friendship in the story of Artyom and his band of survivors leaving Moscow to find out what’s happened to the rest of the world, and to find a new place above ground to call home.
Aside from the often terrible voice acting and occasional dialogue sound issue that see two or three conversation happening at any one time, the story is engaging and very well told.
Since Artyom is a silent protagonist, aside from the diary entry explanations in the monumentally long loading screens (can hit two to three minutes between levels on the PS4 Pro, although there’s no loading at all in levels themselves), you’re told much of the story as you stand around and listen to conversations.
It has got its fair share of cinematic moments too, but most of the story is given to you on the Aurora as you mingle with the crew. You’ve got a guy who controls the armory, a nurse, and a mechanic, and they’re all fleshed out in a way that makes them feel like a real family.
They’ll have conversation that don’t involve you and they’ll change over time, making the whole story very effective and making you care about their well-being. Also, with there being multiple endings and you essentially being their hero, how you approach certain situations is very important, adding yet another element to consider when tackling missions.
Some control issues have arisen from Metro Exodus’ move away from linear levels, and the gunplay isn’t as tight or accurate as it is in rivals shooters, but it’s generally this somewhat dramatic shift is a great move for the series. The open levels bring a huge amount of variety to Exodus, while also putting a focus on the well integrated survival mechanics and allowing 4A Games to flex their muscles with the stunning locations.
The survival horror tropes, linear moments, and emphasis on atmosphere haven’t been lost, but Exodus proves that Metro can be much more than a journey through dark and decaying tunnels.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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