Metro Exodus is the difficult third album for the Metro franchise, based in the popular books by Dmitry Glukhovsky.
For the first time, players can openly explore, as Metro Exodus takes a more open-world approach to what has, until now, always been a very linear franchise. I suppose the question is this, does the implementation of open-world elements take from the atmosphere that we all fell in love with previously? Well, yes and no, unfortunately.
Metro Exodus no doubt took risks by moving itself outside of the confines of the metro system. While the previous entries have included elements of the world above, there’s always been that same unnerving isolation that you felt in the Metro. The sense that anything out there could rip you limb from limb was executed brilliantly. That sense is, sadly, somewhat tainted in Metro Exodus, as more often than not you’re simply better off walking on by, and you now have the room to do so relatively scot-free.
that being said, when Metro Exodus puts you in situations where you’re confined, crawling through dark spaces and being blasted by the inhuman growl of some sinister beast that’s stalking your every step, it’s glorious. The thing is, Metro Exodus isn’t truly an open world. It’s still linear in its design, and it’s these linear moments that offer the real Metro experience. There are some side quests and the option to explore but in a title with notoriously stingy resource rates, exploration more often than not feels like a quick way to run out of what’s important, more than it does an opportunity to find more.
What’s more, the concept of “time to explore” doesn’t really feel like it has a place within the franchise. Every mission you’re given has a very distinctly outlined objective of ‘Go here, do this, come back’ and you can’t help but feel that “Sorry, chose to go explore that incredibly dangerous cesspit over there for a bit” won’t fly with command when you turn up 4 hours late.
Truth is, Metro Exodus appears to do little to reward exploration. Yes, you can find resources, but chances are you’re going to use as much as you find, such is the nature of Metro. With no leveling system for you to stack with a bit of exploration before heading to the next problem area, the whole idea seems like a waste of time. Worrying, considering the openness of the title being one of its supposed selling points.
It’s a shame because the world that’s been created here is everything that I wanted the more desolate areas of the world to be in Metro. Desolate, lonely, and dangerous. The danger really comes from the environment itself with nights that feel like walking headfirst into a chalkboard they’re so dark, and the weather, when it rolls in, being harsh and penetrating. Dare I say it’s a world that in any other title, you’d want to explore to the fullest.
It’s also disappointing that the enemies are, more often than not, avoidable out here. When they’re not, they’re both Plentiful and powerful. Which leads me on to another gripe I had with my time. The difficulty scaling. Enemies being plentiful and powerful is never an issue on its own, however, coupled with Metro’s insistence on giving you just under the bare minimum for every situation it more often than not leads to frustration more than it does riveting gameplay. The enemies are very much of the cookie cutter variety, in both appearance and the way in which they should be dispatched. Aim for the head. Doesn’t really matter if it’s some deranged ghoul or what can only be described as the grim reaper’s ideal pet, just aim for the head. This, more often than not, leads to a gameplay loop that’s repetitive regardless of success.
While outside you can simply walk around groups as though you’re on your way to the shops, inside the fear is instilled once more, despite the often frustrating nature. It’s what made the first titles so atmospheric and enjoyable, but sadly there’s a whole host of walking between these moments. While the mechanic of having to actually navigate your way around with a map and compass does add a really nice element to the outside world, it’s another slow and laborious mechanic in a title plagued with slow, laborious mechanics.
Everything you do seems to take just that little bit longer than it should, be it slowly turning your map over to read your objective notes or wiping your visor. There’s so much here that breaks up the already slow gameplay that you’re genuinely thankful when you get attacked for something that might require more than one keypress a minute. Metro Exodus suffers from the same mechanical shortcomings as its predecessors, which I was really hoping would have been ironed out, or at least, streamlined a little.
So far, Metro Exodus feels like a title with an extremely interesting world that you’re encouraged not to explore. When it sticks to its roots, it’s the Metro experience we know and love, but now the title feels as though it’s tried to stray into a market it simply doesn’t understand.