Metro: Exodus Treads Water in Russia

A Bleak Expedition Featuring Zombies

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This year’s E3 brought me to a meeting with Deep Silver, who were showcasing a new title from 4A Games, Metro: Exodus. I left the demo with some mixed thoughts about it, most of which came from the fact that it’s a sandbox game, and we were given about an hour to play through the game. Playing through this game and getting an accurate feel for how things will go is relatively difficult for open-world games, as there are so many paths that the player can take.

4A’s Metro: Exodus is their largest project yet, and is loosely based on a novelization series, whose two entries are Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. Set in Russia, the first-person shooter follows the journey of Artyom and his team struggling to scrounge up resources in a world overrun by zombies. It’s bleak, and one look at the color palette for the game displays a rather sordid affair ahead of us.

Visually speaking, Metro: Exodus looks great. The environments are beautiful, with plenty of details. Cold, unwelcoming, but still ripe for exploration. Character models are sharp, but missing some of the finer optimizations that could make them more fluid. For reference, this demo was played on an Xbox One X in full 4K. Due to the constraints of this demo, they seemed rather choppy in their movements. As great as they looked, I couldn’t get attached to their conversations and stories. They seemed generic to me, and I lost some interest from those early chats. I wasn’t hooked on the story from what I had seen.

My demo story is set on a train. The train crashes into a barricade, and in the distance you can hear the bells from a nearby church ringing, as the inhabitants are fully aware of your presence. After picking up some supplies and my mission notes, it’s time to disembark and get to work, approaching that church. Or, that was the general plan, anyway.

Trying to control the game, on the other hand, felt confusing. This was my biggest issue on Metro: Exodus. I’ll make a note here and mention that I’m not entirely fond of the Xbox controller, but that itself wasn’t my real issue. My real issue is that the controls felt like they were doing too much. A lot of features that are jam-packed into the controls could very well have been better organized onto a menu. Tapping a button does one thing, holding it does something else, and I remembered just looking at the controls felt like it took a lot of time to pick things up, which is all the more saddening for an exploration game. I don’t have the time to be gaping at controls while zombies are rushing at me by the horde.

The game is very grounded in its realism. Who would have thought I’d be saying this about a zombie game? The factors like radiation, oxygen supply, drowning in the nearby lakes, even mundane tasks like rowing the boat, felt very realistic. If there’s one thing 4A Games nailed, it’s their work in keeping the game’s physics as closely tied to reality as possible. Even some of the more minor actions, like accidentally discharging my gun on the train, caught the attention of the village inhabitants. That was actually pretty cool to see how my actions could change the play of the game.

When I last covered an open-world game in a demo, an hour was nowhere near enough to grab a great feel for the game. For me to get the most of this, I would have needed a few more hours to get a lay of the land. I could have spent my hour foraging for supplies, which are critical in this game. As I spent my hour proceeding towards my quest objectives, a lot of what could potentially make Metro: Exodus a lot more fun for me was lost.

My last note here involved the rather odd use of the autosave. The autosave for me went off too often, and when I died, I re-spawned fully in enemy territory with no weapons to use, and many zombies to kill. I could barely get anything to forage, and I was left essentially exploring an island with no way means to capably defend myself. As the autosave had already triggered, dying repeatedly kept me reviving on the same island, with nowhere else to go.

Metro: Exodus has a lot of potential. It is not my cup of tea, to be frank, but I’m glad I tried it anyway because I can see the appeal that this could have for others. While my demo run may have been fraught with difficulties, there is a ton of depth in its gameplay, with plenty of elements to add complexity. Post-apocalyptic zombie shooters aren’t my top choice for gaming, but I can imagine the excitement in playing something like this, where a lot of choices have to be made that can visibly affect the player’s story.