Reviewed on Xbox One X
4A Games’ first two games in the Metro series rest among the pinnacle of first-person shooters of the last generation. The dark, decrepit tunnels of Moscow’s post-apocalyptic Metro system were a haunting and memorable series of tightly designed subways and passageways that always induced a restrictive sense of claustrophobia.
Moving away from the titular subway system, Metro Exodus instead opts for wider hub arenas on Russia’s surface. It’s a drastic shift for a series that was enhanced by its constrictive and oppressive corridors. Disappointingly, it doesn’t work—instead of expanding and improving they’ve expanded at the cost of removing what made Metro great. For as memorable and remarkable as the first two games are, Exodus is an underwhelming continuation and a thoroughly unmemorable journey.
Taking place a year after Last Light, Exodus tasks series protagonist Artyom with finding a safe haven on the surface. At first, we’re not quite sure if he’s correct or not. After all, we’ve been told for two days that the Metro is where the entirety of Russia’s populous now lives. Artyom is portrayed as a nutcase, a man with a stupid, unrealistic dream… for about ten minutes. After ten minutes, you’re proven right and abandon the Metro.
Abandoning the Metro isn’t just a narrative hook for expanding the horizons of the series’ design, it’s a metaphor for abandoning the style and design of the original games. Unlike previous games, you aren’t constantly managing your resources in a cruel task of survival. Bullets no longer see a dual purpose as currency, instead crafting materials replace everything and they litter every corner of the game world. Instead of holding out against increasingly difficult challenges whilst desperately clinging to ammo for health and upgrades, Exodus always gives you enough materials to progress, upgrade and stock up on bullets.
Exodus takes the desperation out of Metro. It’s very much a generic shooter, albeit one that takes place in wider environments that feel less tightly designed than that of its predecessors. Over time, repetition takes over. You’re always going to be the one main guy on every mission, and they all follow the same pattern—sneak, shootout, escape, repeat.
There are a plethora of side activities to find within the game’s hub worlds, but they feel rushed and unimportant. While minuscule bases can be found to raid for resources, they’re usually placed along routes to main missions meaning you’ll probably go there anyway. Once you get a car in the second hub, you’ll even find yourself accidentally running over every member of a base. There are interesting instances every now and again—such as a group of radical Christians praying away an electrical anomaly—but they’re too few and unrewarding.
In fact, much of Metro feels unrewarding. As you move from mission to mission, you’re constantly earning weapons, attachments, and the means to craft them, but they come at such a high rate that they never feel like they’re hard-earned. It doesn’t help that many of the missions you fight through are by-the-numbers shooter levels in open environments. For a lot of outside missions, you can plant yourself in a corner and take out more than half of your enemies from afar. If you take damage, simply crouch in a corner and craft a healing item—no biggie.
Thankfully, throughout everything, Metro does manage to maintain a sense of quality, especially in its animation. Gun models offer excruciating amounts of detail along with a large number of fully animated attachments—character models also boast impressive models, animations and textures. It’s an amazing looking game although some areas do look rather rough, even on Xbox One X. It doesn’t help that everything in Exodus also suffers from horrendous bugs, poor AI and increasingly boring mission design.
Metro Exodus does have some moments that save the game from being a horrendously disappointing follow up to the greatness of Last Light. One mission tasks you with exploring an underground military bunker where mutated insects thrive. Unlike other enemies, light is their weakness. You’ll have to carefully manage the charge of your headlamp whilst moving through the dark corridors to make it through safely. It’s a truly tense and well-designed mission—one of three throughout the entire game.
Unfortunately, Metro Exodus is far from a great game. It’s a game that throws away everything the series is known for in favor of a larger scope. It loses too much and gains nothing—Metro Exodus may be bigger than previous Metro games, but it’s a larger shell that begs to be filled with something polished, interesting and unique.