Of the many post-apocalyptic video games released over the last decade or so, titles in the Metro franchise have often came as close to the most typical – and, in a sense, brutalistic – visions of a broken future after economic, social and environmental catastrophe. Opening with a nuclear winter that rages across what was once the former Russian Federation, the classic grey, dreary and gritty look to the series continues in its latest release, Metro Exodus.
However, as the third in a trilogy of games, based on the novel Metro 2035 written and published online by Dmitry Glukhovsky in 2002, Metro Exodus differs heavily from its predecessors, Metro 2033 (2010) and Metro: Last Light (2013). While before players entered a world of faction warfare and mutated beasts focussed in Moscow’s metro system, where the surface proved a risk due to intense radiation, 4A Games’ newest addition to the franchise forces us overground with geiger counters, oxygen masks and hand-made weapons to explore the wastelands for survivors and find a new life in the far east. Its best comparison, visually, is the environment of Bethesda’s Fallout 4 – but a little less wacky – and a little more lifeless, though in a much higher definition. Unfortunately, Metro Exodus’ content feels just as bland as the way it looks, if a bit too cliché as well.
This isn’t to say the game shouldn’t be given a go; for the most part, it makes a gripping first-person shooter, in which its stealth and survival horror elements become intrinsic to building its tense, violent sci-fi plot. Taking the role of Artyom, an ex-ranger in the Spartan Order and protagonist of the previous two titles in the series, players follow his story after the dramatic ‘Redemption’ ending to Metro: Last Light, where the D6 base is attacked but saved, in the end, by the chilling Dark Ones. After becoming convinced that life exists outside the metro, Artyom – along with Anna, his now-wife, and Miller, leader of the Spartan Order and his now-father-in-law – ends up on a year-long journey to discover survivors and a safe place to live. On their path, the group encounter cannibals, areas of dangerously high radiation, and beasts such as watchmen, demons, and a mutant bear called the Master of the Forest.
Ultimately, though, the narrative follows a basic roaming-to-find-home storyline, and while explosive for sure, doesn’t push for much or surprise the player. If you can manage the roughly translated and outdated dialogue, as well as crashing issues due to the expansive nature of the game, then it makes a leisurely title for those looking for a classic post-apocalypse shooter – but don’t expect the cinematic energy of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, or the frenzish gameplay of Square Enix’s Far Cry New Dawn. With controversy surrounding its exclusive release on the Epic Game Store, and therefore its discontinuation on Steam, it may really prove a tad of a flop for 4A Games – this means players can hope, however, for something much better from the franchise in the future.