It’s a violent Polar Express… in Russia.

Title: Metro Exodus
Platform: PS4, PC, Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
PS4: Â£55/$60
Xbox One: Â£55/$60
PC: Â£50/$50
Release date: February 15, 2019
TL;DR: Bigger isn’t always better but Exodus still has that classic Metro feel
Family Focus? Click here for more information

Metro Exodus opens with the harrowing retelling of the first nuclear bombs going off in Moscow complete with droves of people filing down into the underground stations before those considered as surplus are shot by soldiers. It stands as an origin of what we’d seen in the first two Metro games, where the underground rail network gave way to a compact, almost BioShock-esque styled world. The final instalment of the series, Metro Exodus, does away those cramped spaces, as Artyom and his band of not-so-merry men go on a cross-country tour, taking in fresh air and a few breathtaking sights in a game that’s an ambitious overhaul of the Metro formula but is at it’s best when it returns to what it knows.

I’m not suggesting that 4A Games was wrong to open up its post-apocalyptic world. It was a choice that seemed like a natural one, with Exodus being the first Metro title we’ve had built from the ground up for current gen. The prospect of a semi-open world to go out and explore is something that sounds like it would only build on what Metro games have done so well in the past. And this is partly true; events that unfurl no longer feel like automated exhibitions that spring to life as you walk past, instead everything feels more natural. Take the first level proper, where Artyom runs into a group of anti-technology pseudo-Christians, the first meeting sees you rowing into the canal of a dim, make-shift church, as the preacher and his flock watch on before accusing you of being a heretic. The long-drawn, often silent journey that it takes to get to that church is offset wonderfully by the uneasy tension that’s poured on as soon as you enter the church, with harsh whispers and pleas for help your only company.

The only issue with this new world design is that the game feels like it’s still designed as a small, linear world rather that a sprawling, dynamic environment. It means that as you traipse through the washed out sand of Caspian or the dirtied snow of the early game, you’ll rarely see anything of much note. Sure, there are a handful of interesting points dotted around but these usually tend to be isolated outposts that house bandits, good for an ammo resupply or a few new weapon parts, but there’s little point to exploring your surroundings other than for the sake of curiosity. And because these semi-open worlds are fairly hefty, it means that as I went from one objective to the next, I ended up just making a bee-line for it rather than wandering off the beaten path because what’s the point?

It’s pretty telling that the slickest parts of the gameplay are saved for the moments where missions revert back to that classic Metro formula of dark, tight corridors, where ammo and light sources are your best mate. And it’s in these moments where you see how the game has developed these moments as well. Where 2033 and Last Light had a tendency to stick to pretty standard setups of enemies that you could pick off stealthily to a certain point until a full-blown gunfight had to kick off, Exodus opts for a variety of different setups. At times you can sneak through with a bit of guile, smart movement, and tactically blowing out any light source in order to reach your location. While other times, the game makes the decision for you as, say, a family of mutant spiders crawl out from a hole or a gang of cannibals burst out of doors, and your only job is to shoot and move. It might sound like a step backwards but it’s far from that. These moments play out exactly as they should, demonstrating that mastery of space and momentum that the developer has in these instances, it’s an execution that’s far more poignant and down-right fun when compared to the lengthy above-ground walks you’ll be doing at other times.

It’s not just the world that Exodus changes up, there are a host of smaller changes that really do work well for the game, each working to flesh out that survival aspect of the Metro series that was pretty thin in previous titles.

At the very top of the list of these changes is the new crafting system. It’s nothing that’ll have you foaming at the mouth with it intricacy but it does mean that rationing your supplies, be they ammo and medkits or crafting gear, does hold more weight as the threat of being stranded in no man’s land with a cluster of mutants on your tail and a single bullet becomes oh so real. It’s a ridiculously simple system but one that means you can create medkits and , more importantly, filters on the fly. And considering the state that Russia finds itself in during Metro Exodus, the system seems far more fitting to the post-apocalypse than the fully stocked shops that the hubs of previous games had.

Along with that change up to crafting supplies, Metro Exodus offers up a decent slice of weapon customisation, something that feeds wonderfully into the games “play your way,” approach (at least when you’re above ground). Much like the supplies crafting, weapon customisation can be done on the go, meaning you can attach a scope to an Assault Rifle, change up the barrel, and the magazine to create something close to a silenced Sniper Rifle before picking off a handful of guards. And with a snap of your fingers, you can change-up that same gun by uninstalling those mods, making it a perfect weapon for mid-range combat as you move in. It’s an inclusion that manages to add a lot more depth and thought to how you approach shoot-out in the big wide world of Metro Exodus, and while there are a few things to pick fault with in the free roam design of the levels, that freedom in your gunplay sure as shit isn’t one of them.

I’ve managed to get this far without having to talk too much about the story of Metro Exodus, mostly because I’m a stickler for not wanting to spoil even the most innocuous of plot points. What I will say for the game is that it manages the change in direction very, very well. Following Artyom and his fellow Rangers across Russia as they look to secure a new home for themselves may seem a tad simplistic but the story’s direction shows that same control of the previous game, giving way to wonderful, tight-knit segments that all seem to bleed together naturally, culminating in a worthy finale for the series. And while the dialogue is a tad schlocky at times, and Anna has somehow become this whiny character who only worries about Artyom instead of that bad-ass sniper from Last Light, the story still managed to reel off another lovely yarn for the Metro series.

Metro Exodus feels a little strange at times. It feels odd that 4A Games would change up the nature of the game so drastically for the last stop in the series. And while there are times when this leads to the game feeling like a bit of a slog, so much of what’s been done in other respects makes up for it. Weapon customisation and crafting stand as the main reasons to go out and explore but they also make your expeditions above-ground a lot more fun when it comes to combat. And while those sections veer towards being time-fillers at moments, there are still those quintessential Metro moments full of claustrophobic corridors and even the odd jump-scare to set you straight. I’m a big fan of Metro Exodus, and while it didn’t check all the boxes for me, it’s still a game that warrants your time, whether it’s your first Metro game or you’re a returning customer, chances are you’re going to have a blast.

The Good

  • It looks bloody gorgeous
  • The new crafting and customisation system is a treat
  • A fitting story to finish the series

The Bad

  • The open-world sections seem oddly paced and give way to needlessly long, cross-country jogs
  • The dialogue remains a bit awkward

Family Focus

PEGI: 18 ESRB: “M” for Mature

Metro Exodus, like all Metro games, is a pretty violent affair complete with enemies constantly calling you a bitch and scary mutants jumping out at you. This game is not for little Jimmy and Jenna to play.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.