E3 2018: 4A Games Discusses Bringing Metro Exodus out of the Metro and Into the Wild

Metro games can be counted on to be set in the Russian Metro system. Both Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Night featured eerily dark tunnels to explore as players progressed through the campaign. For Metro Exodus, this is not the case. 4A Games are taking players out of the Metro and on a journey throughout the country of Russia. At E3 2018, we got to sit down with John Bloch, Executive Producer at 4A Games, to learn more about where Artyom’s journey will take us this time.

[Hardcore Gamer] Where do we find Artyom in Metro Exodus? We’re going outside the Metro for the first time in history. How does that change his story?

[John Bloch] Right, the previous two games took place exclusively within the Moscow city limits and mostly underground in the Metro system. This time around we get to see what’s beyond the city limits. Artyom figures out that there is something out there despite being told everything else in the world is dead. He joins up with a couple of Spartans, including his wife and father-in-law to take an epic journey over the course of a year through Russia. The player gets to experience all these different landscapes and seasons as Artyom does.

What was it like to be able to open up the play area to the players?

We wanted to bring something new to the series and lean on some of the team’s experience. Some of the core members worked on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. so they have some open world experience. It’s something that took us a while to work out for Metro. We could have gone fully open world, but we felt like that wouldn’t net us a game that felt like Metro. Even though these sandbox environments aren’t linear, we wanted to still maintain the feel and deep narrative thread that carried you through previous games. Ultimately, Metro is a story-driven series, and so we didn’t want to lose that aspect. We took about two years to really find a formula that we liked for creating this hybrid gameplay style that fits in the universe.

You are a first-person shooter that incorporates survival horror elements. How did you final a balance between both genres in an open environment that houses random encounters?

There were a lot of elements at play that we had to look at. We had to evaluate the story, look all the way down at nuanced gameplay changes, as well as very specific system changes and rebuilds. We’ve added a lot more freedom and choice for the player just by opening up the world and letting them walk around. To support that we overhauled the weapon system so that there’s more customization. You’ll be able to change attributes and modifications on the fly using the backpack. Even the AI has been completely overhauled to support this. It’s able to roam around in the environment and interact with each other. They are biome based and tend to stick to their own territory, but if they come across someone else they will interact accordingly.

The way we present the narrative and objectives to players has also changed. There’s that core narrative thread that carries you through the sandbox environment, but there’s a lot of side content as well that we don’t deliver n the traditional open world sense. We don’t send you on fetch quests or around to collect pelts or anything like that. We want players to come across all this extra content organically without being told to find it. There’s always been a sense of exploration in the previous games and we wanted to maintain it here.

Sometimes, in open area games, players who want to just zip through the story are often punished by artificial barriers like high-level bosses or a lack of resources. Can story-focused players just play through the story?

It’s something that’s difficult to balance for multiple types of players. For players who just want to follow the narrative, we’re trying to make sure that they have the tools to do that and have a fun time. For the players who want to explore every little corner, it’s still going to be balanced for them so that they’re not overloading themselves with resources. One of the core elements of Metro is exploring and scavenging. It’s always been there and we’ve overhauled some of those systems that manage the resource balance to support a more dynamic pace that the players can set themselves.

Metro Exodus takes place over a year, which means Artyom gets to experience winter, spring, summer and fall. How do the seasons affect gameplay?

Certain seasons will carry with them certain types of weather. Our weather is dynamic in the open areas, so that’s something that could potentially alter gameplay depending on what the player is doing at the time. Trying to sneak into an enemy base during heavy rainfall means you won’t have to worry about your footsteps being heard as much. There’s certain elements like that that plug into our core gameplay systems where it might create an advantage or disadvantage for the player. There’s also a day and night cycle that changes the AI behavior. Humans may sleep at night, making it easier to sneak into a base. Players can really manipulate the cycle to their advantage.

We got to play the Xbox One X version here and it was quite impressive. Is that a native 4K resolution? What framerate are you targeting?

Yes. We haven’t locked the framerate yet, but native 4K with HDR on Xbox One X is our goal.

Can you talk about what PS4 Pro owners can expect from Metro Exodus?

We haven’t finalized the performance specs yet on PS4 Pro, but it’s going to be pretty damn close. The systems are pretty close to each other and capable in their own right.

When can players get their hands on the game?

Metro Exodus is out February 22, 2019 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.