The Metro series is going where few people in the franchise’s universe dare to tread: outside the Metro. After spending the majority of 2033 and Last Light in the caverns of the Metro, developer 4A Games is ready to show us what happened to the surface world. Metro Exodus is trading in its predecessor’s cramped, linear tunnels for open spaces. That doesn’t mean it’s trading in the sense of danger that permeated the tunnels of the metro. In fact, it may be even more dangerous on the surface.
Metro Exodus picks up two years after the events of Metro: Last Light with players once again taking control of Artyom. Fleeing the Metro, Artyom joins his wife and father-in-law aboard the ‘Aurora,’ a locomotive, which will hopefully lead him and his family to a new life. Exodus’ story will span an entire year as Artyom travels across the continent. Our hands-on demo took place early in the game’s story during winter.
The demo picked up in an area known as the Volga. Rather than being put on a linear path towards the objective, players are dumped into a vast open space and given free reign. While the game isn’t open world, it does give players free latitude to explore the area or run straight towards the objective. For those who want to take their time and explore, 4A has made sure to build plenty of content to keep fans happy. They confirmed that the Volga level featured up to four hours of content.
Picking up following a train accident, Artyom is sent into the wilderness to find supplies to fix the locomotive. Along the way, he stumbled upon a group of religious fanatics led by a man named Silantius. We quickly discovered that things were not as they appeared and that the extremists were downright determined to kill us. To escape, Artyom either needed to sneak or fight his way out of the church.
Combat in the Metro games has always been challenging, and not because of bullet-sponge enemies or other restrictive mechanics. Artyom moves like any person carrying pounds of equipment would, slow and clunky. Emphasis has always been placed on managing resources, mainly bullets and medkits. Learning when to engage in combat and when to avoid it has always been a hallmark of Metro, and that tradition continues in Exodus. With tons of enemies in the church and a limited supply of bullets, we ultimately decided to keep to the shadows and pick off enemies silently as we made our way to the escape boat.
Following the daring escape, Artyom was set loose to explore the Volga. Here, players could make a beeline for the mechanic, which would then advance the story, or take the time to explore the surrounding landscape. Even with the larger maps, Metro Exodus preserves the tension the previous games so wonderfully built up through their linear levels. The desolate world is home to all manner of mutated creatures, and with ammo and healing items in short supply, you never feel truly safe in the world.
Thankfully, 4A does provide players with new tools to help them survive in this new world. A new backpack allows Artyom to craft items and specific types of bullets on the spot. Supplies are easily scavenged through exploration, and though you’ll be able to craft quite a few medkits, it’s easy to watch that number dwindle after an intense confrontation.
Despite not launching until February 2019 and, therefore, not final code, Metro Exodus looks jaw-dropping. We got to play the game running on Xbox One X, and everything already looks so crisp. Objects featured sharp details, but it was the little effects that made the game such a beauty. Whether it was snow flurries carried by the wind or how gas masked frosted over, Metro Exodus is filled with little details that take it from a beautiful game to a gorgeous game. 4A claimed that Exodus is running in 4K on Xbox One X, though HDR wasn’t enabled as it wasn’t ready to be shown. It will, however, be available at launch. No word yet on what PS4 Pro owners can expect.
4A Games appears ready to take the Metro experience in a new direction all while retaining the core elements that made the series such a hit in the first place. The world is more open, but it never loses any tension. Players can now craft anywhere in the world, yet combat remains a challenge. Metro Exodus, like the ‘Aurora,’ is pushing the franchise forward full steam ahead and we can’t wait to see where the game takes us when it finally launches.
Metro Exodus is out February 22, 2019 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.