My article covered how we got here, but if you missed it (jerk!), Metro Exodus opens with a breathtaking train ride that covers everything: The buildup, the missiles coming in, the frantic rush to the metro stations, the strange mutants, the re-risen Nazis, the Soviet revanchists, and the hardscrabble life of souls stuck in the Moscow underground convinced they’re the only human beings left. It’s an amazing work and will likely join the Half-Life opening in the pantheon of train-based introductions.
Developer: 4A Games
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
MonsterVine was supplied with a PC code for review
But there comes a time in every post-apocalyptic narrative when we have to venture out into the world and see what happened while we were waiting for the fallout (see what I did there) to die down. (Or make a bad attempt at being an MMO). As the name implies, that’s where Metro Exodus takes us. Artyem, the player character, has never given up hope and, finally, that hope is rewarded. Of course, this being a Russian game, it’s not much of a reward.
When we first see the devastation of post-apocalyptic Moscow in the grips of nuclear winter, it’s breathtaking. The devastated city stretches out at your feet and into the distance. Skeletons still sit or cower or lay where they fell, bones picked clean and bleached white. The cold of the wind seems to eat into your bones and the loneliness is real.
Exodus is a very strange game: In the current era of open-world shooters where nothing much matters, it’s almost defiantly retro. Sometimes there’s a room with two doors. Open one door, get shot in the face. Reload your save and maybe try the other door next time. Some parts of the environment are destructible, but there’s none of the world-destroying mayhem so common today. Some light crafting and upgrading, yes, but not the attempt to ape building-and-survival games where you wander around with a backpack of fans to make a grenade launcher.
In fact, for a “survival horror roleplaying shooter”, there’s a surprising amount of time spent not-shooting. You’re listening to exposition. You’re slowly walking and hoping the monsters don’t find you. You’re moving towards something on the horizon, not quite sure what you’ll find, checking the trees for ambush. You’re outside with another character mashing the “have a smoke” button while they explain their actions. In the end, you’ll do a lot of stabbing and shooting, but you’ll also do a lot of careful exploration and hiding while you try to figure things out.
And that’s not a bad thing. It’s kind of an amazing thing to take a moment and enjoy repartee with your in-game wife. Surprisingly, she isn’t just an excuse for Sad Manfeels. Get you a girl that is both ferociously devoted to you and lays down withering covering fire. Your band of comrades will also give you a hard time as needed. You wind up rooting for this crazy bunch to make it.
Which is good, because it’s the middle of nuclear winter and everything is fucked up, and you need that release when the script flips. Because after some cheeky bants, you’re hiding from enemies and stalking them while they stalk you. You’re watching their flashlights as they slip closer. Watching their movement patterns. Slipping up to knock them out or put the knife in them. Or the ambush goes awry and as you frantically fire for your life, you’re also cursing yourself for losing all that hard-scrounged ammunition. The temptation with automatic weapons, as years of games have taught us, is to fire away, but you only get a few magazines and god knows when you’ll find more.
Once we’re out in the nuke-blasted, snow-covered wilderness of the post-apocalyptic Russian interior, the world feels somewhat familiar, but again, quite alien. The houses don’t fit the Midwestern-US pattern we’re used to. The churches are Orthodox with rituals and art we likely don’t recognize. The cults and madmen are a little different. And then there’s the mutants, nasty as ever.
I’m not going to spoil the story more than I have, but suffice it to say, in a Western narrative, finding a hint that other people had survived would be rapturous. In a Russian narrative, it gets extremely complicated very quickly. We do lose the dark tunnel fights, but we replace them with an Apocalypse Now (VERY now!) journey into the heart of frozen, post-apocalyptic Russia chasing the only hope we’ve seen in three games.
The Final Word
Ultimately, I feel like you have to buy in. If you want to start picking plot threads or quibble about level design, you can, but I don’t think there’s a lot of value to it. Get in, loser, we’re going to find humanity.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4.5 out of 5 – Great