The year is 2033; the world has been ravaged by nuclear war; the surface is covered with deadly radiation and snow, and mutated creatures roam the surface, scour the skies, and swim in the depths. Gone are the once-bustling streets filled with crowds; people shopping, eating at restaurants, and taking pictures of each other are nothing but a memory. Desolation as far as the eye can see. Collapsed buildings, rusted cars, caved-in roads, and skeletal remains cover the landscape, and yet, life exists. Not on the streets but underground. In the Metro.
That’s the grim picture author Dmitry Glukhovsky painted for his now beloved series, Metro. A series of novels that tell stories of survivors of a nuclear war living underground in the Russian Metro, which, by the way, is really designed to be the world’s largest nuclear bunker. Life on the surface may be long gone, and the ones left behind may be surviving in the Metro, but life is not easy down there. Mutants known as “Nosalis” constantly invade the tunnels, food, and medicine are in short supply, and the Metro is divided into factions like Nazis and Communists.
Amongst all of this stands a group of authority, a group known as the Spartan Rangers, who patrol the tunnels to rid them of mutants and maintain peace. It’s the job of the Spartans to help people and make sure that what little life they have left down here is safe and peaceful. Led by Colonel Miller, this ragtag and charming group of heroes lives by the mantra, “If not us, then who?” The tale of the games follows the life of one of these Spartans, who goes by the name of Artyom. So without further ado, let’s jump in and see what “Metro Exodus” has in store for us.
“Metro Exodus” is the third game in the series and takes place during the year 2035. After the events of the last two games, Artyom is convinced that there’s more beyond the Metro. Fixated on his obsession, he visits the surface every day with a radio to find a signal, exposing himself to deadly radiation and putting his life on the line. Despite his search yielding no results, Artyom isn’t discouraged, as he constantly puts himself out there, convinced that he’ll find something one day. It’s in the middle of one of these searches that the game begins, and we are left in the shoes of Artyom, making his way back home in the tunnels.
The environment oozes eerily with rusted train cars covered in cobwebs, the sounds of nothing but water dripping and Artyom’s footsteps, skeletons and dead mutants everywhere, and weird green glowing mushrooms illuminating the dark. Near the entrance to the bunker, Artyom is jumped by a pack of Nosalis and is saved by his Spartan friends Duke, Damir, Alyosha, Idiot, and Sam. Artyom’s family. He receives a blood transfusion on account of all the radiation he absorbed and gets a nice and long lecture from his wife, Anna, and his father-in-law, Colonel Miller, but goes back to the surface the next day, this time accompanied by his wife, Anna.
This is where the story begins. As I said, I won’t be spoiling anything, but know this: after finding nothing once again, Artyom and Anna decide to head back into the Metro, and that’s when they stumble upon a major conspiracy that’s been keeping Moscow off the radar, away from the prying eyes of the rest of the world. Artyom was right all along; there is life outside the Metro. After some more plot, Artyom, Anna, and the remaining Spartans leave the depths of the tunnels aboard their newly acquired iron steed, Aurora, a train that takes them across the ravaged lands of Russia. The game takes place over the course of a calendar year, where our gang tries to find a suitable new home for themselves, one where they are free to breathe fresh air and not choke on the Metro’s filth.
“Metro Exodus” is a first-person shooter, and while it doesn’t offer fast and twitchy shooting like “Doom” or “Halo,” what it brings with it works wonders on its own. Besides, it’s not trying to be an action shooter. The game presents itself as a first-person shooter, and while the shooting is satisfying, you won’t have to use your guns much if you play it right. The emphasis is more on using your smarts and avoiding mutants while not trying to kill humans. Why? Because ammo and resources are rare and pretty hard to come by, and the game keeps track of your actions through this unshown system where it grants you good “moral points” for helping captives and only knocking out enemies instead of killing them, etc., and you get bad “moral points” for being a gun-toting maniac. The ending changes based on your actions and what kind of moral points you gathered throughout your journey, so tread carefully.
New to this entry is the addition of open-world-like areas. While the previous games were mostly linear affairs, “Metro Exodus” brings with it giant areas that you are free to explore, and it’s in these areas that the story takes place. The snow-covered lands by the Volga river, the sandy dunes of the now-dry Caspian Sea, the dense forest of the Valley, and a fourth area that I won’t talk about here. These are the areas you’ll be exploring across your journey, and if you are a fan of the previous games and want more claustrophobic, tight environments, then don’t worry; there are plenty of those in the mix here too. Alongside the open-world areas, “Metro Exodus” also brings crafting. Artyom carries a backpack with him this time around and can craft medicine or ammunition on the fly using resources he picks up. If you find a workbench, you can use it to craft even more stuff for cheaper and add or remove attachments from your weapons, like adding a fourth barrel to your shotgun or giving your assault rifle a longer barrel and a scope so it becomes a sniper rifle.
You are free to explore these areas and find their secrets, or you can press on with the story; the choice is yours. The best part about these areas, in my opinion, is that everything is handcrafted and meticulously placed to serve a purpose instead of there being a billion collectibles that amount to nothing. The developers poured their hearts and soul into each frame of the game, and their love and passion are visible. There are two DLCs available as well, “The Two Colonels” and “Sam’s Story.” Both of these take place after the end of the main game, so I won’t be talking about them; however, “The Two Colonels” is a more linear experience that takes place in the tunnels akin to “Metro 2033” and “Metro Last Light.” “Sam’s Story,” on the other hand, brings with it another open-world area, a much bigger one this time, and is a more action-heavy DLC. Both of them are well worth checking out if you were wondering.
The Technical Stuff
I played the game when it came out on my Xbox One X and later replayed it on my Xbox Series X with its next-gen update, and let me tell you; this game is breathtakingly beautiful no matter what system you play on. I’ll focus on the Xbox Series X version here. Ray-traced global illumination on the console is the big feature “Metro Exodus” boasts, and while graphics aren’t everything, this game will blow you away with them. Running on a 4K TV with VRR enabled, the game runs like a dream with nigh realistic lighting, dynamic 4K resolution, and almost rock-solid 60 fps. This is a technical achievement in my eyes. Visuals were always a strong suit for the Metro games, but with all these things working in tandem, it’s a sight to behold. Each level pops with its own charm, the murky and filthy and dark nature of the tunnels or the snow-covered landscapes of The Volga where sunlight bounces off the snow, bathing it in a golden glow; all of it just looks spectacular. And thanks to the superb optimization that developer 4A Games has brought to the table, the game runs like a dream with minimal bugs and hitches hampering your experience. The sound design deserves some appreciation as well, with guns roaring in the depths of the tunnels and their echoes lingering in the more open environments. Footsteps, ambient noises, and everything in between all bustle with pinpoint location accuracy, all thanks to the use of Dolby Atmos. Voice acting is the one department where they could’ve done a bit better, but it’s not bad anyways. The voice work itself is good, with believable and expressive line readings and voices that match the characters. A few awkward pauses here and there and some mixing issues are what make the voice act good and not great. In the departments of graphics, framerate, and stability, however, “Metro Exodus” passes with flying colors.
There’s a lot that can be said about “Metro Exodus” that I haven’t covered, and while this game came out in 2019, I still want to keep it as spoiler-free as possible. I cannot stress this enough and urge you to go play this game. You will not regret the experience. Whether you are looking for a gripping narrative, a visually stunning rendition of a war-torn world, or fun first-person gameplay, “Metro Exodus” delivers all of that and then some. Go play this game.