It is time once again for Artyom to start a new adventure. Our mostly (and awkwardly) silent protagonist has discovered that we are not as alone as everyone would have us
On the surface
Metro Exodus changes up the formula for this third game in the series by letting you spend a lot more time above-ground in much larger areas. Instead of returning to the Metro station for resupply and rest, you have a large steam locomotive that acts as home. This lets you explore new places and environments, all of which are pretty different from the dark, cramped tunnels of the Metro. From being in a desert with raging sandstorms turning day into night, to a beautiful forest, Metro Exodus serves up some of the best sights and graphics that you can ask for. There is a reason this game has a photo mode.
The sunlight pierces through the treeline, a small stream playfully trickles through a ruined village. This village should have scraps of metal and chemicals to collect if you rummage properly, and possibly even a weapon upgrade or two. There are also tapes and diaries of those who were left behind, with stories ranging from before the war started, all the way up to radio calls responding to your movements through the world.
Metro Exodus serves up some of the best sights and graphics that you can ask for.
Crafting a killer weapon
Weapons now can be modified in the field thanks to your heavy backpack. You can craft ammunition for the ball-bearing firing Tikhar or bolts for the Helsing crossbow in the field, making these handy weapons to upgrade. Weapons can have stocks, sights, magazines and barrels changed, eventually turning a lowly pistol into a battle-ready death hosepipe. Using a weapon too much will cause it to get dirty or a bullet to get stuck, so care is needed. This also uses up a lot of chemicals, so you might want to share the workload across a few weapons and your throwable items, like the deadly throwing knife or a decoy can that lets you get in close for a melee kill or knock the enemy
A break from tradition
Sadly it is the final mission that is the best one, with all the mystery and horror that comes with the tight confines of the Metro tunnels, the mutants jumping out of vents and from under piles of corpses to attack you. Radiation makes you hallucinate and as you battle to work out what is real versus what is not, as you face dangers that can’t be stopped with bullets and damage that can’t be healed with medkits, this is where the game shines, making much of what came before feel like busywork with a few pockets of great moments, rather than a shorter experience jam-packed with tension and fights that matter. As beautiful as the open world parts are, it is the missions and sections in tight underground confines that play the best, with tight spaces and darkness pressing in on you, trapping you inside with horrific people or monsters.
Exploration of the open world is almost always rewarded, but sometimes the various systems in the game and costs of consumables weigh down everything. Your health bar feels pretty small, meaning being careless or unlucky will require a jab of medicine. Those tiny jabs cost 20 chemicals to make, meaning you will feel resentful when you are rewarded with
The sound of silence
Metro Exodus has decided, probably out of a sense of tradition or the like, to keep Artyom silent except for the long load screens as the train travels further and further away from Moscow. As a result, the dialogue has to work harder to fill the silence, with characters often breaking out into long-winded speeches as soon as you walk close to them. Only once does someone take note of your silence, everyone else trying to act as if you have spoken to them before, all while rushing through exposition or their backstory as a means of getting lore and other information to the player. Too often this feels rushed and your silence either seems completely weird or outright rude in many parts. At one point everyone is worried that you died because they lost your signal, but you don’t call to tell them you are okay. In another section, your wife bares her soul to you and not once can you nod, grunt or provide anything back to her. This happens a few times and it makes the whole romance feel rather odd and forced, with this person who worships the ground you walk on while you don’t even bother with a word or two. According to your journal and load
The silence isn’t completely without merit, as the game world has some of its best moments in the environmental narrative and chilling silence. Cannibals have heads in jars in broken fridges, with skins stretched out to cure. Sometimes the worry of being ambushed by mutants is replaced by a blow as you realise what humans did in the name of survival, putting a new feeling in your gut. Bodies lie in a mound, left there from when they tried to run to shelter when the bombs fell. Buildings find a new purpose, and the passage of time has created all manner of new miniature communities, from a fish worshipping cult who abhors electricity and technology, to children following the lessons of their teacher like a sort of gospel or doctrine. The world is interesting and exciting to explore, even if you won’t find any signs of elements that were central to the story of the first two games.
Metro Exodus will mostly please fans of the previous titles, but might frustrate with its crafting system and scavenging for loot. But as far as post-apocalyptic wastelands go, a few games could stand to pay attention to the cultures and variety on display here.