Historically, the Metro series has taken us to some dark places and even darker moods. That’s unavoidable given the premise, which puts forth that the survivors of a nuclear war have made their bid for life and society in the tunnels of Moscow’s subway system. This is the Metro which the games (and the best selling novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky they are based on) are named for.
But where the first two games, Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light centered on the hardscrabble existence with infrequent excursions to an irradiated surface, Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition takes the player to the outside world. As Artyom, hardened Ranger, the player heads out in search of other survivors and possibly a new place they and their friends can call home.
Having only the barest experience with the Metro games during their release, I went back and played the previous games, 2033 and Last Light for several hours to get a sense of the series traditions. It’s sobering to see how those games are so rigid and linear and almost suffocating. Exodus doesn’t really build much past series foundations and the open world can feel more like a surface addition.
Exodus’ open world is made of several self-contained pockets of exploration, holding the promise of exploration and discovery. But the fundamentals of the Metro experience haven’t changed in any significant way. This isn’t such a problem when not many first person adventures play like Metro, but it could be an issue for series veterans looking for additions to its familiar gameplay. Which isn’t to say that the open world is void of its pleasures. Every zone from the wintry Volga river, to the forested Taiga to the deserts of the Caspian feel like handcrafted areas rather than generic sandboxes. The decision to give each one their own visual identity is enhanced by atmospheric lighting effects and the meticulous detail found in every object or ruin.
Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition lets the power of new generation consoles comes into play. The game was already a visual feast on the PlayStation 4, where I last saw the game in 2019. And while I’m no graphics processing expert, the difference is noticeable. You don’t need to have hawk eyes to notice the difference in shadows and lighting, reflections and of course, a fully ray-traced picture. Barring a fully tricked out PC, the Enhanced Edition of Metro Exodus is the way to play the game. And while that seems like an empty statement in an age of remasters, next-gen upgrades and backwards compatibility, it’s worthwhile to note that the Enhanced Edition does not attempt to “correct” the game’s art direction with a completely redesigned look.
The Enhanced Edition brings load times down to under a minute. If you want to keep reloading for every botched stealth or misused resource, it’s no longer like putting your progress on stasis.
What no one liked about Metro Exodus during its original release was waiting north of 3 minutes to load a save. It was one of many offenders of the past few years in console gaming of code that was clearly meant for a generation of hardware that had yet to exist. Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition brings load times down to under a minute. Not as dramatic as firing up Control: Ultimate Edition in 11 seconds, but a dramatic improvement.
The overall result is that Metro Exodus is infinitely more playable than it ever has been. If you want to keep reloading for every botched stealth or misused resource, it’s no longer like putting your progress on stasis. The series’ signature firefights feel scrappier than they were on the previous gen and set pieces come alive not just through improved fidelity but richer atmosphere. Unfortunately, none of the enhancements can cover up how little of Metro Exodus’ gameplay is new. The lightweight survival elements don’t feel any deeper, keeping your weapons clean, your mask filters stocked and your ammo reserves stocked are simply meters to maintain. And a majority of firefights remain simplistic, with men in gas masks being not much smarter than humanimals and wolves.
Which isn’t to say that combat isn’t satisfying. Once you start modding your guns, you’ll eventually discover how improbably powerful they can be with the right attachments. Mere pistols become murder cannons and rifles acquire a kind of lethality that’s unheard of. But you can also coast by taking advantage of an AI that, although adaptive, is not particularly sharp or responsive to your tactics.
Metro Exodus gives you a series of spectacular lands to explore but doesn’t ask you to do anything you haven’t done before in Last Light or 2033. Ultimately, the experience comes down to stealthy exploration of every landmark, avoiding as many encounters as possible to maximize your gains from scavenging. While some brainstorming could have helped give these lands a unique gameplay texture, the series’ signature take on survival remain fresh in the absence of copycat games. While games like Fallout games ask you to track your radiation, hunger and thirst, Metro Exodus asks you to weather sandstorms, poison gas, radiation zones while rationing your mask filters. They give exploration some welcome texture and make the world’s fiction feel real.
The series’ signature take on survival remains fresh in the absence of copycat games. They give exploration some welcome texture and make the world’s fiction feel real.
A few new features come into play in Metro Exodus. Artyom now has binoculars to scope out distant areas and mark points of interest when in high places. Some of the larger maps feature vehicles and pf course, what else says “open world games are our passion” than ziplines like the ones usually used by those who raid tombs or cry far?
What makes Metro Exodus interesting despite the plain bread combat and mechanically underdeveloped open world is the journey Artyom undertakes with his comrades. I’m disappointed it isn’t weirder out there in post-nuclear mutant-infested Russia, as 4A Games doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to feature something more than just monstrous creatures and men in masks with murderous intent. But the destroyed beauty of the wasteland is an excellent backdrop for characters, who despite questionable English voice acting, create a feeling of community aboard the Aurora as it takes them from Moscow to Novosibirsk.
Atmosphere and characters more than make up for Metro Exodus’ technical shortcomings, and it is marred only by a lack of experimentation. With all of its technical improvements, Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition is the no-brainer choice for anyone who wants to experience the trilogy’s finale the way it was meant to be.
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition
ABOUT THE SCORE
A good game is a game worth playing. While weaknesses such as technical issues or lack of originality might mar the experience, we enjoyed our time.
Massive improvements to lighting and shadow make a gorgeous game look even better.
The journey of the Aurora is compelling and keeps you connected with characters.
Lack of improved AI and gunplay makes for some repetitive combat.
Open world is a missed opportunity to add new things to the Metro experience.