They say that inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere, especially from other means of entertainment that do not necessarily have much to do with the work that the author is trying to represent. In 2010, the Ukrainians of 4A Games convinced the late THQ to do an FPS under the name of Metro 2033 based on the novel of the same title by the Russian writer, Dmitry Glukhovsky, who eight years earlier, had released his work on a website for that anyone could enjoy without paying a single cent.
The final result of this first game was different from everything that was out there at the time, forming a solid base of fans that ended up giving way to a trilogy that in 2019 is seeing its conclusion. Metro Exodus is precisely the culmination of the vision of a studio located in a part of the world where productions of this type do not usually leave, and although in fact, one of the objectives of this new product is to captivate new audiences , in no time forget the elements that made the series so special at the beginning.
Describing Metro games can be more complicated than just saying that we are facing FPS with elements of survival. The reality is that these titles have very special dyes at all levels, from the way they play and their scenarios are built, to their deep atmosphere and strange narrative. The DNA of Eastern Europe is printed in each of the corners of the three installments of this franchise, because although 4A Games takes very strong ideas of how it is that the genre is worked in the West, at all times it shows a very special work worthy of the region where the commissioned studio is.
With Metro Exodus, we see an important maturity in design and production in general, delivering a very solid videogame in almost all sections that tries some new things but mainly seeks to please those of us who have continued to the saga since it started. almost a decade.
The Great Journey
Being based on a novel that, in turn, has had its sequels, the narrative, from the beginning, has played an extremely important role in Metro games, presenting very marked and easy to identify facts thanks to the good development of characters, this in the midst of a brutally dark and even sinister context of which, often only people who were born in countries such as Russia or Ukraine, are able to carry out entertainment.
The above seems fair and even necessary. Every medium requires that cultural diversity present new and better things and in my opinion, it is something extremely valuable that we can now say that parts of the world where the creation of video games is not common, begin to produce much larger productions.
The history of Metro Exodus is located in the year 2036, two years after the strong end we saw in Metro Last Light. The population of Moscow continues to survive with their nails in the underground tunnels after the nuclear war that devastated the world 23 years ago. Once again, he puts us in the shoes of Artyom, the protagonist of the other two games that he now seeks to break forever with the idea of creating a society based on fear that only seeks to stay alive and nothing else.
Due to this obsession that invades him, Artyom begins with increasingly constant and dangerous expeditions outside the security of the Muscovite metro, because he is completely sure that out there, there are more survivors and a much better life. By the way, an event that I will not reveal to you so as not to become spoilers, a group of Spartan Rangers have no choice but to follow the protagonist to embark on a long and exhausting journey eastbound on a locomotive they call Aurora, which from now on, it will become the home of all the characters that accompany us on the journey.
The narrative of Metro Exodus is developed over a year, starting in the harsh winter of Moscow and going through the different seasons as we move across Russia. Even though anyone who has not played either Metro 2033 or Metro Last Light can enter Metro Exodus and understand what is happening with their history, the reality is that we are facing a third party that assumes that we understand many situations of the general context and specific details of the interpersonal relationships between some of his characters, especially what happens in the relationship between Artyom and Anna. I definitely recommend having played the first two Metro before entering Exodus, however, as I commented, it is not like you are not going to understand anything at all what is happening if you are new.
It seems to me that the idea of getting us out of Moscow and its grim meter for this third part was inevitable. Since the saga starts, you are winked that the survivors will not be underground forever. Exodus Metro, in terms of history, does a great job in this complex transition, because it takes a lot of freedoms that we had not seen in his two predecessors, presenting an extremely interesting story, exciting and sure, sure will leave on the table several discussion topics for the fans.
Not everything is perfect, but the way in which 4A Games takes the biggest events in the history of the protagonists and at the same time, tells us what has happened during all this time with the different regions that we travel, is something to highlight, because , whenever you get to a new place within Metro Exodus, you will see that time has run its course and that its inhabitants of all kinds, took quite unexpected paths and different from what we had known about life in the metro.
Shots and Survival
As I told you at the beginning of this review, the Metro games are based on classic FPS mechanics, that is, we have a first person perspective and our main interaction with the world around us is through shots; However, we are facing more complex experiences than this and since the series began, they put their own rules, especially when we talk about mechanics or survival elements.
The first thing to say is that Metro Exodus maintains the personality of the controls we experienced in the two previous titles; that is, we are facing an FPS in which our movements feel much heavier than the average of the gender, this with the main objective of always making us feel in danger. In the Metro you are not all powerful and in most of the time, you are very vulnerable to sudden enemy aggressions. The above does not mean that we have a clumsy game or bad controls, no, rather we have a shooter in which each of our shots is significant and that as in reality, trigger one of being armed and hit, is not something trivial. Getting used to it takes a bit, but believe me, when you get over the learning curve, everything makes a lot of sense.
Survival is something that is not only part of the Metro Exodus narrative but is embedded directly in its game mechanics. In addition to the fact that bullets are extremely scarce, you should worry about other elements such as filters and the state of your gas mask. Some areas, either by radiation or poisonous gas, cannot be explored without the use of a mask. This attachment has filters that are worn over time, this without mentioning that if you receive damage, the glass could break forming a leak. In either case, Artyom will soon drown and of course, die. In addition, we have that our health does not recover automatically, we must use consumable med kits to heal.
The above leads me to tell you about the crafting system and improvement of weapons and equipment. That’s right, in Metro Exodus you collect two types of resources that later you use to use them in the different creation stations that you find yourself. In fact, I would say that the vast majority of weapons and supplies, have to be manufactured by yourself, since finding bullets, filters or medkits thrown into the world, is usually quite rare.
Added to the above, you will have to worry about maintaining your weapons regularly, because the dirt of the environment, causes your stats to go down considerably, while if your gas mask was damaged in combat, it will have to be repaired in a of these stations as long as you have the resources at hand.
Our weapons and equipment can be improved and modified with parts that we find in our tours. This is where the feeling of progression is most perceived. You may start with a sad revolver that only charges three bullets and takes a long time between each shot, but as you advance and invest in that weapon, you will see how it is progressing to become a spectacular tool which undoubtedly you are fond of. The great variety of parts that there are to modify these pieces is extremely outstanding, generating that you feel that you are just using your own and very unique creation.
Fragmentation grenades, molotov bombs, binoculars, night vision, the classic bullet-shaped lighter that serves to burn cobwebs and even a pressure rifle that shoots pellets and other ammunition, are also part of the huge range of options that Metro Exodus puts us on hand. The interface to change and take advantage of all these pieces can be a bit confusing at the beginning, especially because it does not respect some of the standards of the medium, but we are not facing something that does not work or is poorly designed.
On the side of the enemies we have that Metro Exodus focuses much more on the confrontations against other humans, something that rarely happened in the past two games. I think that this approach makes all the narrative sense, but I would have preferred it to be maintained by the most classic line of the series. Do not misunderstand me, mutants and beasts of various sizes and shapes are present and are still very impressive, but I think that this time they took some prominence. It also seems to me that a better job could have been done with the part of artificial intelligence, which is usually a bit clumsy and quite predictable.
Since he was born as a saga, Metro tried to combine elements of a traditional FPS, with things that we see more in a horror game in which we must survive rather than impose conditions on our enemies. Maybe something like the “shortage of ammunition” in a game in which the main mechanic is just shooting does not make much sense in theory, but in practice, believe me it works, because the fact of having to watch your shots and think twice before entering a direct confrontation, they give a very special flavor to the experience that is very present in Metro Exodus, with all that I could say that of the three deliveries, this is where we see more action.
Open Scenarios That do not Lose Essence
Like all means of entertainment, video game creators are often forced to follow trends, sometimes for purely commercial reasons and in others, with the aim of broadening horizons in a certain form of design. Open worlds are a reality and we will hardly see them leave soon, so it is increasingly common to see developers of all kinds adopting these structures. To say that Metro Exodus is an open world game as such is completely wrong, because although it adds some elements of this “genre”, the reality is that it is maintained mostly by the linear architecture we saw in its two predecessors.
Metro Exodus is separated by chapters that serve as links to tell a story. Certain sections of the game are completely linear in which we must arrive from a point A to a point B, normally fulfilling a series of objectives on a theater well armed and orchestrated, however, as a novelty for the series, this new release also It presents some “open” areas that we can explore with some freedom.
These areas have a good size that we can even travel with the help of a vehicle. In them, in addition to having a day and night system, we have a dynamic climate that changes every certain time. It is truly impressive to see an electrical storm in the distance and that a few minutes later, it is on us causing a shower that blocks our visibility. On the other hand, the time of the day also has an effect on those who inhabit these worlds. For example, at night, the bandits are usually stationed in their camps making it easier to approach them, but the beasts will be more active and aggressive when there is no sun.
Normally, these open areas are populated by different points of interest such as bandit camps or mutant nests. The truth is that beyond being able to collect some resources, these places do not present anything interesting that is worth our attention. However, we also have some secondary objectives or side quests that you can complete in the order you want. Here things get a little more interesting, but we cannot talk about something that really changes our perspective of the game or that can be compared with what we see in RPGs or true open world games.
What I have loved is that these areas of supposed freedom can move from extremely large spaces such as a beach, to an extremely compact underground bunker without the need for a loading screen. The above generates that at least these spaces feel well integrated, besides that its design in general, usually makes a lot of sense, making moving around them, is quite comfortable. Speaking of design, the parts that do have to do directly with progressing in the story, are perfectly well achieved, showing labyrinths with an ingenious design that at all times remind you that things within these spaces have a real reason for being.
It is difficult to say how much the way we play Metro has changed this idea of including large explorable spaces. I would say that beyond directly impacting the formula of something like Metro Exodus in comparison with its predecessors, we are facing an addition that is appreciated but is by no means decisive in the way in which the experience unfolds. From there on out and as I told you, the new game of 4A Games sports a sensational design of levels that make each confrontation is exciting, and that to travel a shipyard or a former military base, is interesting at all times.
Dark and Deep Atmosphere
If I had to choose an element that makes the Metro series something completely different to what is out there in the FPS, without a doubt I would say that its atmosphere is what characterizes it most. From Metro 2033, we saw a 4A Games wanting to immerse ourselves in the devastating world of this universe with fantastic details that are not seen every day and that of course, give a very special flavor to these games. Fortunately and despite the enormous freedoms that were taken with Metro Exodus, we are again placed in the middle of an experience that is completely credible and that always surrounds you.
Although this time, we finally left the subway to see new places, this feeling of claustrophobia combined with humidity, rot and a cold that reaches your bones, is very present throughout the entire Metro adventure Exodus Thanks to the new version of 4A Games’ own engine, we see this world at its best in both visual and auditory aspects. The effects of breathing and dirt that can be seen when we are using the gas mask, are probably only overcome by the enormous amount of particles that can be appreciated in the environment when a beam of light passes through some of the structures in which we meet.
The modeling and animation of the characters is extremely good, while in the scenarios and moving parts of things like our weapons, we see a very important attention to detail that many times can only be perceived in super AAA productions. Same case of environmental sound, which, fully fulfills its role of involving us in this gloomy context of which we are part. Yes, the tension is to order every time you take a step.
Due to its complexity, Metro Exodus is not exempt from presenting some bugs and glitches that do get you out of the experience you are having. It’s not like they’re happening all the time, but when they happen, especially with physical ones, it’s impossible not to ignore them and see how the beautiful theater is coming down at times. On the technical side, we have the game can run at a resolution of up to 4K native and 60 frames per second on PC and Xbox One X. In PS4 Pro we have a fairly good 4K scaling, while in standard consoles, the title runs to a very stable framerate in 1080p. Another technical flaw is that when you load any of the open areas, the waiting time can be truly extensive.
Something that will surely attract a lot of attention from those who played the last two titles of the series is the way in which the art direction moved. Being in different regions and different times of the year, the color palette of Metro Exodus greatly expands what had been seen in the series so far. While we could say that blacks and grays are still dominant, we can also see much warmer tones that at the beginning do jump a bit but end up working. The work in this section is also extremely good.
The presentation of Metro Exodus complies in every way. I find it very striking that even in these times, a study like 4A Games continues betting on the use of its own graphic engine, which, no doubt, is up to the current standards. Similarly, the freedoms that were taken in terms of artistic direction, allowed the series to show us a face that we had not had to see, to the point of showing a twisted version of the beauty of a decadent world. By the way, the game comes with a simple, but well-made photo mode that you will surely love to explore.
It is always painful to see the roads that the industry is taking in terms of true mass markets. Of course, the above does not mean that the niches are going to be neglected or anything like that, however, it is still striking that some series or titles in specific, put on the table ideas so fresh that only a few turn to see. I fully understand that the concept of a post-apocalyptic FPS developed in Ukraine is not entirely attractive, but I also firmly believe that as enthusiasts of a medium that is moving in so many directions, we have the responsibility to explore proposals that we may feel alien to, because less in cases such as Metro, you usually carry surprises very pleasant in every way.
Metro Exodus is the culmination of a vision that deserved much more attention than it has received. His passionate narrative, well achieved gameplay, sober level design and to the point, and above all, deep atmosphere that surrounds you like few things, make it one of the must-see of this season. Of course I reiterate my recommendation that you play first Metro 2033 and Metro last Light (you can find them together and remastered for current generation consoles in the Metro Redux package) before entering this third part, which, should be within your priorities if you have followed the track to the series in recent years. Fabulous work of 4A Games and I think, one of the best titles that we will see at least in this first half of the year.