Metro Exodus – Cross country through Russia

So here we are. Metro Exodus and me. How often I saw the E3 trailer from 2017, how many news I devoured and what absolutely unrealistic expectations I put into this game. After the fantastic Metro: Last Light, I expected nothing less than an absolute masterpiece, a meaningful evolution from a game that is still one of the best shooters of all time. So yes, no pressure 4A Games – there was never a chance that I could be disappointed in any way. Didn’t it?

He has to get out, the Artjom!

What is Metro Exodus all about? This is already the first big change: while the two predecessors explored the huge Metro of Moscow after the great nuclear war, our hero Artjom leaves the underground in the first hour of the game and takes to the fresh air. And this (almost) without gas mask, because meanwhile the atmosphere has become semitödlich for the lungs. Quite early we also learn that a) the actual war never ended and b) far more people survived! To be honest, half of Russia seems to be still more or less on its feet. This first takes away the obscurity and loneliness of the upper world (if you haven’t already read the book Metro 2035), but it feels like the next sensible step after a short period of getting used to it.

As soon as we’re out of the beloved Metro, a train – the Aurora . – is stolen and we’re off with an entertaining and likeable troop across Russia. The Aurora works as a means of transport, main base and sleeping place. In addition, we pick up the orders from Miller – our father-in-law – who was known from his predecessors. His daughter Anna, who has become much prettier between the games, accompanies us on the journey and helps us, as well as other crew members, with some missions. But also all other companions have unmistakable character traits, a funny saying on their lips and are all excellently synchronized. Only Anna herself stands out with her dubbing voice slightly negative. Our hero Artjom remains silent again, which is typical for the series, which at times seems irritating, as there is a lot more interaction between the protagonists. Strangely enough, he also has a very good German speaker – but he is only allowed to talk at the diary entries (loading screens). After three games you can’t deny Artjom a certain social phobia.

Beautiful Apocalypse

But what does the world outside Moscow look like? In a word: beautiful. Metro Exodus just looks great and unfolds an extremely dense atmosphere of the finality of our civilization just by its colors in the different areas (Volga, Caspian Sea, Taiga). The play of light is unique, the attention to detail in the animations cannot be praised enough, and especially at night there is a depressing and threatening atmosphere – suddenly one seems to hear a soft gargle, a distant cry or slowly approaching footsteps everywhere. Because on the surface a colorful mixture of human/human-like opponents and partly really disgustingly mutated animals awaits us. And yes, I mean you hideous crabs who wanted to tip my rowing boat! And let’s not start with the demons.

The day-night cycle also has an effect on the behaviour and nature of the opponents. For example, if we want to attack a bandit camp, we can do it day and night. This has the advantage that the majority of the opponents are asleep and only a few guards are set up. However, once the sun has set, other creatures also run, crawl and fly around. A nice feature and indispensable for a stealth run is the silent killing of enemies – we can even choose whether we want to kill the enemy or just knock it out and thus save valuable resources. Skilled players can also do this with human mutants. And believe me, you don’t want to scare them up in a dozen.

Survival light

But we must also put ourselves in danger, because we are dependent on the various raw materials, sooner or later. Because like any decent Open World game, Metro Exodus has crafting elements, even if they are extremely talkative. There is no longer any “good” ammunition that was used as currency – now ammunition can either be collected directly or produced. The same materials are used as for medicine, grenades or filters for the gas mask. Even if the change makes sense in a playful way, it takes away some of the immersion and survival character. You can also collect extensions for your weapons from killed enemies and attach them directly. Apropos weapons: they have to be cleaned regularly at the workbench now, otherwise you can get unfavourable loading jams while a mutated wolf jumps at you.

In general, Artjom seems most vulnerable in the third part – even at the medium level of difficulty, I’ve more often sunk in the Volga than in both predecessors together. Some may welcome this as a welcome change, but there were moments that caused a lot of frustration, especially during the first hours of play. An example: I’m in a huge and winding warehouse, have consumed all my medicine and only have to get to the exit. But I’m badly wounded, so only a single blow from a mutant can kill me. I have three bullets in my shotgun and my AK is so dirty that it jams after the first volley. I played this sequence so often that I was about to give up and decorate the wall with my controller.

Artjom isn’t the youngest anymore either

And while we’re on the controller, we come to my biggest criticism: I’ve never had to set all the sensitivity sliders to maximum in order to play a shooter relatively smooth. But Metro Exodus seems to have bathed its protagonist in tar beforehand, rarely has a character been steered too slow. The Metro games were never in the hectic league of Call of Duty and Co., but here 4A Games definitely exaggerated. In the worst moments I felt reminded of the classic S.T.A.L.K.E.R. – Clear Sky, which was an extremely atmospheric adventure, but besides its many bugs also played extremely sticky. Artjom also seems to have his most athletic days behind him, because his sprints don’t last very long before he has to gasp for air like an asthmatic.

On the technical side, both praise and criticism accumulate: as already mentioned, the game world looks beautiful and literally sucks the player in. When Artjom stands on a rusty crane and looks far away, the game shows its best side and can easily compete with other top titles. Only the textures look a bit more blurred than on comparable shooters. But there is also the problem of collision detection at close range – sometimes Artjom just doesn’t want to climb over the knee-high wall or gets stuck at supposedly small obstacles while sneaking up on an unsuspecting guard. When he bites the grass again, the player is allowed to stare at the loading screen. On the loading screen. And not too short: On the PS4 Pro it can take up to three (!) minutes from the title screen to the game itself. Here 4A Games can still improve with pleasure.

But the guys didn’t let themselves get lumpen with the sound. Here it all sounds like one piece: from the discreet background music to the different animal noises to the motivated dubbing actors – here it really fits. Even the sometimes misplaced and involuntarily funny announcements of the opponents (“He is behind the wall!”) fit into the overall picture. Unfortunately, the enemy K.I. also gets a raw deal, the enemies sometimes react anything but strategically and let themselves be tricked with simple tactics. This makes the firefights absurdly easy, while the non-human opponents sometimes appear quite unfairly from the most impossible corners and provide for another Game Over.

The (R-)evolution succeeds… almost Metro Exodus is beautiful. Metro Exodus is extremely frustrating. Metro Exodus is immersive. Metro Exodus is extremely frustrating. This game is a real roller coaster of emotions and has been the hardest test for me personally so far.

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