Like all good games, the post-apocalyptic shooters in the Metro series have evolved with each iteration. But while Metro Exodus (Xbox One, Limited Edition Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Limited Edition PlayStation 4, PC) does so in some interesting (though not unexpected) ways, some of the new aspects of this sci-fi first-person shooter don’t work as well here as they do in other games.
For those unfamiliar with this series,
Metro Exodus — like its predecessors Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light — is a first-person stealth action shooter set in a post-apocalyptic version of Russia, one that’s like the Washington D.C. of Fallout 3 or the Boston of Fallout 4, but without the dark humor or the penchant for ’50s-style art deco design and sci-fi tech. Instead, the Metro games have more of a bleak, hard sci-fi approach, one that comes from the Dmitry Glukhovsky novels that inspired this series: Metro 2033, Metro 2034, and Metro 2035 (though only Metro 2033 follows the plot of its respective novel).
As for the gameplay, Metro Exodus has you shooting people, mutants, and mutant people from the first-person perspective, rifling through their pockets and belonging for supplies, and just generally doing what you need to do to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Except that since there’s not much in the way of electricity, a lot of place you visit are kind of dark, which gives you the opportunity to sometimes be sneaky and take out enemies all quiet-like.
But it’s where you get to do all this killin’, scroungin’, and sneakin’ that separates Metro Exodus from the previous games.
Set two years after the events of Metro: Last Light, Metro Exodus once again casts you as Artyom, who’s lived his life in the subways of Moscow, but feels there has to more to humanity than just his underground neighbors. When he inadvertently learns that there are survivors outside Moscow, he, his wife, and her father — as well as the members of Spartan squad that his father-in-law commands — head out into the wasteland to explore what’s left of the world.
Because of this set-up, and the fact that the wasteland isn’t as irradiated as everyone told Artyom it was, much of Metro Exodus takes place on the surface, with only occasional moments inside or underground (save for the beginning, which is set in the subway).
Doing so brings in the need for some new mechanics. For starters, there are no stores in the wasteland, so instead of buying ammo and health packs when you run low, you have to make them. Good thing you have a portable crafting station in your backpack, one that lets you make some helpful items while you’re walking around, though it is limited. There are also some more elaborate workbenches, ones where you can also make bullets as well as customize and clean your weapons and armor, though their locations need to be located and secured.
Metro Exodus also now has a day / night cycle,
one you can somewhat control by finding a bed and going to sleep. Admittedly, this mechanic isn’t as flexible as the one in the Fallout games, since you can only choose day and night, not a specific hour. Though, on the flipside, this mechanic has gameplay consequences since, like in Dying Light, different enemies keep different schedules. There are more humans out during the day, and while it’s easier to be sneaky at night, that’s also when the freaks come out, including some energy creatures that are like the aliens in The Darkest Hour (which, coincidentally, was set in Moscow).
Not surprisingly, these new mechanics make Metro Exodus feel even more like Fallout 4 than the previous games. Well, if you swapped the latter’s targeting system for more Call Of Duty-esque controls, and made the world way less populated and way less complicated (you don’t have to eat, or find foods to eat, for instance).
The problem being that Metro Exodus doesn’t take advantage of these mechanics as much as some other games do. For instance, having an open world in Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus means that you can come at your enemies from multiple angles, and they can do the same to you, resulting in even more frantic fire fights.
But in Metro Exodus, the enemies you usually find wandering the open plains are the non-human kind, who have much better situational awareness than humans do, and thus can’t be taken out with stealth. Instead, the survivors mostly stay indoors, or close to structures, though you can use stealth and multiple points of egress in these situations, which makes these moments as much fun as when you get to thin out the herd in Far Cry 5 before going in all guns-a-blazin’.
Unfortunately, by swapping stores for crafting and increased scrounging, you may not have enough ammo for that gun blazin’ to last that long (well, unless you use the Tikhar, which uses metal balls you can craft with the backpack kit). Sure, it’s nice that you don’t have to keep running back to town to sell stuff you don’t need, but it’s gets annoying when you’re clearing out a enemy’s base and run out of ammo. Though it’s actually a bigger problem when you’re fighting some of the wasteland’s more nimble mutants, since unlike people — or their brethren in a lot of games — animals in Metro Exodus don’t drop ammo when they die.
It’s also a perplexing choice,
given how Metro Redux — which brought both Metro Last Light and an upgraded version of Metro 2033 to current-gen systems and PCs — included an option to play with limited supplies. And that was in addition to its multiple difficulty settings.
Not all of the problems in Metro Exodus are related to its change in scenery. For starters, while Artyom has shot more people than Bruce Willis has in the Die Hard movies, he still doesn’t remember to reload when his gun when need be, or to switch weapons when the one he’s using runs out of bullets. It’s also not fun that your gun can jam, though it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it does in other games (keeping them clean also helps).
Metro Exodus also doesn’t fix the most annoying mechanic of the previous games: your crappy gas mask. You still have to constantly change the filter, as if no one in this world has ever learned how to clean them or found a supply of new ones. Thankfully, you don’t have to wear the mask as often as you did in the earlier games, and it doesn’t fog up nearly as quickly as it did in Metro 2033, though like the gun jamming mechanic, it’s still not as much as if it just worked right the whole time.
There are also a number of technical issues with Metro Exodus, though none are fatal and most will probably be fixed with a patch if they haven’t been already.
While these issues…
mean some of Metro Redux‘s new mechanics don’t work as well as they do in other games, the vivid and unflinchingly bleak world, variety of enemies, and moments when you get to be a silent killer do make this an engaging shooter. Sure, not as engaging as its predecessors, but hopefully that will be rectified when this series evolves next.