STALKING the Metro

I have been a fan of Metro since 2033, and I've read the books from Dimitri Glukhovsky several times. When Metro Last Light came out I was blown away yet again. I loved STALKER, and I loved Metro 2033, Last Night was the best Metro game by far.

Metro 2033 Redux and Last Light Redux improved significantly on the formula and created one of the most grounded, realistic, and compelling dark-creepy video games since Condemned and the original F.E.A.R.

Caveat: if you haven't played 2033 and Last Light, go play them now, then come back and read the review even if it takes you a few days. There are no spoilers here, but 2033 and Last Light are so formative to the Metro experience that you need to play them to get the idea of how GOOD these games are.

Metro Exodus (the short version)

Right off the bat, my word isn't gospel, so don't take this review as anything but the opinion it is. Also, Games Xtreme got this code from PR so we're actually reviewing the game based on the Xbox code that we were given.

We'd also tell you if it was rubbish, trust us on that.

So with that all out of the way, what you really want to know is if the game's good or not?

Ok, the capsule review of Metro Exodus.

Yes. The game continues the fine lineage of Metro games, blending dark and forbidding horror with the post-apocalyptic world of Metro's Russia setting. There are plenty of great set pieces, some of the best jump scares in a video game since Alien: Isolation, even though that was all A.I. driven and it has the best blend of narrative driven and open-hub exploration with very little busy-work in terms of boring side quests.

Metro Exodos (the long version)

OK, so, Metro Exodus is the third in the Metro series and follows on from the good ending of Last Light. You're playing Artyom again, one Colonel Miller's Spartan Rangers and a protector of the Metro. Think of them like the Metro's version of Spec Ops and you're on the right track - they have some of the best (relatively speaking) gear and they safeguard the people of the Metro from all sorts of threats.

4A have taken the signature gameplay from the previous Metro games and refined it, we're talking better in every way as far as I'm concerned and I've played the last two games to death many times over.

They have taken the linear nature of Metro's narrative and applied it to a mix of linear levels, and open hub areas which are packed with secrets, gear, and more for you to explore and find - none of the side objectives are compulsory or needless busy-work, they are however compelling and lead to some great upgrades to Artyom's gear and arsenal.

For me, this mix of styles works and Exodus really shines when it falls back on what makes Metro great. Don't get me wrong, I love the new open hubs and the sense of exploration/freedom this gives you ... but my heart is drawn to the tunnels and dark places of the Metro where my gas mask filters run down and my rad counter ticks toward the red.

Every bit of this new game is excellent in terms of the atmosphere. There's so much to talk about, it's hard to know where to begin, and since a lot of it works when you encounter it for the first time I'm really going to reign in this review and let anyone who buys this experience the whole slew of features as the game unfolds.

Warning: it's a slow burner to begin with, one which takes some time to get going, when it does though - it's a ride from start to finish and I got the good ending which makes me incredibly happy.

Softly Softly Now

Metro has always had a good solid mechanic when it came to sneaking around, in fact, 2033 has one whole level where you really need to be as quiet and sneaky as possible or those pesky Librarian's catch you. Anyone who has played it will know exactly what I'm talking about.

Last Light introduced a wrinkle, in that you could steal filters from enemies as they were hunting you and watch them choke.

Exodus improves the stealth mechanic a lot, and makes great use of light/shadow/tension using stealth with visual and audio cues to let you know just how visible you are or when you're in danger of being spotted.

You can play most of the game as a sneaky infiltrator, and it rewards you for doing so.

Or you can sneak stab everyone.

Up to you.

Going Loud

If you tire of sneaking or you just want a good old fashioned FPS fire-fight, Exodus has you covered and brings the shooting mechanics right up to date with a great feel which easily trumps the Call of Duty games and others like it. Here you have to be mindful of your ammo, careful of how you engage in a fight and you can still use tactics to get the better of the enemy A.I.

Now the A.I. aren't as good as they could be, but they're still decent and provide a challenge when it comes to the human enemies. The mutants on the other hand, they have varying A.I. routines and some of them will use pack-rush tactics to get the better of you forcing you to reposition and adjust on the fly.

It's great stuff, and on the higher difficulties you'll end up in trouble if you wade in without thinking.

Backpack Journey

Whilst you can really customise the heck out of firearms and gear at a workbench, you're in possession of a new tool to Artyom's kit. The backpack, which allows you to craft certain ammo and modify weapon attachments on the fly based around the frames you carry.

There's an extensive modification system which lets you collect and apply mods to guns to change their function. Add a different barrel and a few other mods to a pistol frame, you'll get a really good quality SMG that can take down human and mutant foes in a pinch.

Need a NVG sight for that, as long as you own one, just find a safe spot, pop open the pack and swap a sight in.

Want to go loud, throw on a bigger barrel, or want to change to sneaky shooting - drop a suppressor onto that pistol and take down people with head shots quietly.

Do you need more power to that shotgun, more ammo, well, if you have the right mag and barrel you can make a one-shot kill shotgun that blows mutants away before they can get to you.

The versatility of the backpack really adds so much to Exodus and it's my favourite feature next to the hub-train you use as a base between missions where you can really tinker with your weapon loadouts.

Characters and World

Exodus is a vast game in terms of the other two Metro games, there's a lot to see and do, and whilst the central plot is a linked series of seasons and events - the hub worlds you go to on the train remind me of the way KotoR worked with the Ebon Hawk. Whilst you're always going forward in Exodus, you stop off in certain seasons and places to experience the next good chunk of the story and explore the open hub area until you're done with the events in that zone.

It works really well, and allows 4A to develop the characters. Hell, there are character development arcs here that play out based on what you do in the game previously, and many stories are fleshed out if you just stay and listen to the characters interact with Artyom or each other.

The train is a fantastic concept and it reminds me of Mass Effect's: Normandy.

I spent ages on the train doing minor interactions, and that's what really makes it for me, you can sit, check your diary, mess with the radio and even jam along with a buddy on the guitar. These people feel real, and fleshed out, and wonderful - they are your supporting cast, your buddies, your fellow Spartans and you care for them - at least I did.

The various seasonal hubs have their own challenges, secrets, places to explore and mutants/enemies to discover. They feel distinct from each other, and with a physics based, dynamic weather-driven day/night cycle to enjoy they also come alive in many ways during both day and night. Night is safer in terms of bandit encounters, but mutants are out in force.

Day sees more bandits and fewer dangerous mutants.

The Sound of the Metro

4A's sound design is top notch and their use of audio cues is really good here, they play a lot with sound, to create moments of tension when you're exploring and the way things change when you're behind the glass of a gas mask and listening to your breath as you watch your filter tick down in the more dangerous areas of the Metro.

Guns sound good too, nice a meaty, with just the right emphasis on the various types. A loud sniper rifle is just that, whilst the Bastard makes a whispering flicker as bullets fly.

The shotgun is on point, and makes a satisfying boom when used against mutants.

Metro Xbox (One X)

Metro Exodus is a good looking game, packed with great animations, and a sense of physicality which is lacking in other shooters. You can see Artyom react with the world, you can feel his reactions as a tangible thing in the game and combined with the slick graphics, lighting, and effects it all adds to the realism package and grounds you in the game world really well.

On the One X it looks even better and is a visual treat.

Quick Quick Save

Whilst the game saves at certain checkpoints, resting at safe houses and so on, you can also trigger a single quick save prior to getting in trouble. This is a welcome feature for folks who can only dive in for a certain amount of time and might not have time until they hit the next possible checkpoint or event.

Metro Excellence

If Exodus is the future of the series then sign me up for more. If it's the future of single player games, then sign me up doubly-so since there's not a single scrap of online, micro-transaction, or live service bs in here. 4A have really done me proud with this one.

Perhaps I'm easily pleased or I can ignore certain things - not many bugs came up and one graphical glitch happened on the Volga level which has since vanished after a patch. Apart from that, the game is fantastic, and I'm having a blast playing on the harder difficulty now to push myself and my skills even further.

I love Metro's world, the design, the aesthetic, and the whole package in general - Exodus takes everything I love about it and amps it up to the next level for me.

This is a really great game, an emotional journey, and stands as one of the best Metro games to date. Even if you don't play the others, read up on the story of Last Light and then dive into Exodus and experience some great gameplay married to excellent world design and character physicality.

The Metro needs you, Spartan.