Metro Exodus Review

I’ve always been a big fan of FPS games. Since the fateful day I pickled up a N64 pad and loaded up the classic Goldeneye, I’ve been hooked. As times have gone on, most FPS’ these days tend to focus on flashy effects, lightning fast gameplay and, more recently, some addictive online multiplayer. Metro eschews most of these trappings however, and is all the more refreshing for it. That’s not to say that the visuals don’t hold up to current standards of course. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Even on my bog standard Xbox One, the game is a sight to behold. Each of the several separate hub worlds are packed with fine detail – debris scattered among rotting corpses, small creatures scurrying around the underbrush – as well as offering grand vistas and stunning lighting. The Metro series has always pushed hardware to the limit – I don’t think my 360 ever really forgave me for making it run 2033 – and with the new open expanses, 4A have really upped their game.

Your band of merry Metro-dwellers are all lovingly crafted too, down to small tufts of arm hair and little trinkets hanging on their clothes. In between completing missions you’ll get ample time to study them up close too, with seemingly endless dialogue for each character. Handy, as Artyom is from the Gordon Freeman school of conversationalists. The acting is passable here, but I don’t think it is quite where it needs to be. Some lines and interactions come across as a little stilted – one example sees a character radioing repeatedly for Artyom asking for some response, when, as you may remember, he is mute.

Other times, dialogue doesn’t flow naturally. Topics will change abruptly, in a completely different tone and mannerism. One moment someone will be opening up to you about something personal, the next reminding you of your next unrelated objective. While not truly immersion breaking, it can take you out the experience a little. At points, things can get a little too noisy however. Characters in close proximity will talk over each other as they try to tell you something.

At least by default, it can be hard to parse what anyone is on about, which can be a bit frustrating if their doling out mission info or tips. For those of us playing on Xbox, I highly recommend checking out the Dolby Atmos app. I set up the free trial for the headphone version and the difference was night and day. While character dialogue was still being spoken over each other, the far superior mix meant it was easier to position myself in order to hear the specific dialogue I wanted to.

The same goes for general audio too. When out in the wilds or during combat, it was much easier to pinpoint enemies and the like once I’d moved to Atmos. Speaking of which, on to the actual meat of the game. If you’ve played the previous entries, you’ll feel right at home here. Things still move at a slow, deliberate pace. Everything has a real sense of weight and heft to it, from simply moving about to using your arsenal. Those of you out there currently enjoying a bit of the wonderful Apex Legends will feel like you’ve come to a grinding halt! But get into the groove and it becomes immensely satisfying to play.

Running and gunning won’t get you far – your best bet is to hang back, observe and plan. Move slowly, stick to the shadows and they won’t know what hit them. Human enemies will patrol areas, check in on each other and report anything suspicious. Stealth has always played a part in the loop for Metro, and it’s implemented here just as well as ever. Making solid use of shadows and the densely packed areas allows you to pick off foes silently. You can’t move bodies, so be mindful of where you choose to off them though – leave them out in the open and you’re asking for trouble.

Should a firefight ensue, things can get real hectic. Even on the max sensitivity I felt things moved a tad too slow in these encounters however, so avoiding a war is absolutely the way forward. The limited ammo supply will hinder any all-out attack tactics also. While replenishment feel a bit more plentiful than before, it won’t last long if you’re careless. You’re able to craft basic ammo in the field provided you’ve got the parts, but you’ll need to find a workbench if you want to stock up on better firepower.

It’s here you’re also able to customize your weapons, with better scopes, ammo clips and the like. While it’s not always possible, it’s best to swap out add-ons to suit the task at hand – a 4X scope isn’t much use in an underground bunker for example. Downed enemies can be looted for crafting parts as well as any attachments from their guns – or even their guns wholesale. Be careful swapping out weapons however. After beating one foe I swapped out my fully kitted out assault rifle with his gun to see what it was like.

Mine was preferable, but for some reason the gun along with all attachments disappeared off the face of the earth. I didn’t dare risk it again, so hopefully I was just unlucky, but it’s something to bear in mind. There’s not just human foes to be mindful of though. Various mutated creatures return, and attack in packs and at speed. Cornered by a group of the… uniquely named Humanimals is somewhat terrifying. However, their mindless approach is at odds to the humans, simply charging at you with seemingly no concern for self preservation.

Often these encounters get the better of you simply due to the numbers more than anything though. Unlike previous entries, Exodus sees you exploring several large, but self contained, hub worlds. There’s still plenty of claustrophobic underground bunkers and tunnels to explore, but you’re given much more freedom in where you go, and when. Your map will highlight mission markers and points of interest, but generally, you’re left to approach in your own way once there.

Although they are big, it never feels particularly overwhelming. Exploring for supplies and hidden areas is advised in order to give you the best chance of survival, but it’s really up to you how much. It’s a nice addition to the game, though perhaps not wholly needed. Metro is always at its best when you’re skulking around corridors and confined areas, and the same is true here. The slow pace doesn’t really suit traversing an open world, but in the smaller areas within, it gels as well as ever.

Conclusion

A gorgeous and immersive first-person survival game that takes all the best the series has had to offer, and runs with it. The slow pace can take a little getting used to, but that visceral heft to the game really helps to place you in its world. The open world is a nice addition, but the game still plays at its best in its claustrophobic smaller areas. If you’re seeking a palette cleanser after years of breakneck shooters, Metro Exodus is a great choice.

This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.
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Good
  • Stunning visuals.
  • Great sense of weight and place to the world.
  • Sneaking about, planning attacks as satisfying as ever.
Bad
  • Audio mix is a bit off (at least without Dolby Atmos).
  • Open world feels a little out of place.
  • Speed of movement sometimes can’t keep up with action.
8.6
Great
Gameplay - 9
Graphics - 9.5
Audio - 8
Longevity - 8
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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