In the first half of the game, developers clumsily chase trends, but return to the roots of the series in the second
Where competitors took budgets and powerful productions, Metro gained popularity with its atmosphere, interesting ideas and local stories about ordinary people.
But as time went on, Metro is now a major league player. Graphics with support for Nvidia technology, lighting on DirectX 12, changing metro corridor tunnels to open locations that need to be investigated, a powerful advertising campaign that generates high expectations. Dear blockbuster is akin to Far Cry or Wolfenstein.
But here’s the problem: Exodus cannot cope with this role at all.
On clothes meet
Metro: Exodus is diligently trying to be like an AAA game. The most successful way for her is in terms of the visual part: the graphics are impressive, especially the lighting on DirectX 12 – the rays of light passing through the trees, glare and reflections on the arms look very good.
The artists did their best: the Russia destroyed by the war looks atmospheric and impressive. Abandoned garages, collapsed factories, broken trains – the remnants of the former power of a great state seem creepy and in their own way native. Locations are interesting to explore from the point of view of aesthetics – you constantly come across an interesting installation, then some funny poster.
But how much the Exodus graphic part is, so bad is the animation. Character models are well detailed, but their movements and grimaces are caricature – and yet the developers focus on them in the cutscenes. It is difficult to take seriously the fiery speeches of a Miller, while he barely moves his jaw and defiantly frowns.
Characters gesticulate somehow (and sometimes with inappropriate acceleration of movements), and facial expressions sometimes remind of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Against the backdrop of stunning graphics such blunders are evident almost in the first minutes of the game. As a result, at first Metro looks expensive and cool, but you should take a closer look – you begin to notice the budget, which in a game of this level should not seem to be.
The vast expanses of Russia
The gameplay is still more ambiguous. For reasons justified by the plot, Artyom and a group of his comrades leave the Moscow metro and set off across Russia on the Aurora steam train.
It can be said that Metro: Exodus is “almost open world”: each of the three open zones accessible during the passage is slightly larger than the Dump from STALKER and filled with points of interest marked with a question mark on the map. Mutant lairs, outposts of bandits, abandoned basements and shelters for rest – in each of the locations there will be a dozen or two places that the player can scout.
The zones are very different from each other. The swamps, in which Artyom finds himself at the beginning of the game, make it difficult to move around the widespread quagmires, which are driven by boat. And under water, annoying mutant shrimps and huge fish, which local fanatics take to be god, are hiding.
In the Caspian desert there are wide open spaces, designed to move by car, and periodic sand storms that reduce visibility. In the forests there are many partisan holes, traps, sheer cliffs and hungry animals. All these three locations are the open-source maps for research and grind that have already become classic for the industry. But the fact is that they do not need Metro.
It is not interesting to study the world from a gameplay point of view: there are no pumping and “numbers” in the game, the economy with bullets-money for plot reasons is a thing of the past, therefore you cannot earn any conventional experience and money in a dungeon. Scoring question marks on a map is worth only for the resources that will always be enough (especially if you are already familiar with the series and know that only scopidoms survive in this world) and rare costume enhancements – in most cases, weapon body kits can be removed from privates of enemies.
Of course, sometimes at the point of interest there are amusing characters, some funny scenes, or just an unusual location to learn. But in four out of five cases, your desire to “poke” will pay off with a dozen parts and chemical reagents that will go to the production of first-aid kits. And they can be raised from ordinary enemies – it is not necessary to arrange a raid on the other end of the map.
The open world in Metro is simply frustrating: the reward for research is minimal, moving around locations because of rough terrain is difficult and long, and the world itself is simply dead – all living characters are clearly tied to their points of interest, and you can meet unless a random hare, a flying demon or stray mutants. You should not even dream about the camps of travelers and patrols of bandits – except that a bandit machine will sometimes pass in the Caspian desert. And it is not a fact that this happened not according to the scripts.
Put down your weapon, stalker
Since there are no RPG elements or anything other than shooting in Metro, battles are the only thing the player does besides researching abandoned huts. And the problem is that shooting in Metro does not hold water. For five years since the release of Last Light Redux, it has not changed at all, and if in the past it was still tolerable, now the fights look very bad.
Opponents react poorly to hits (except that shepherd dogs sometimes fly off a dozen meters from a single shot), the recoil and gravity of the weapon are not felt, and you yourself feel like fighting in a jelly.
A hit on the enemy can be understood either by the hitmarker, or when the model of a killed enemy falls to the ground with the ragdoll turned on at the click of a finger.
The series always had these problems, and the authors did not fix anything for the release of Exodus – neither unpleasant shooting, nor stingy management, nor oak stealth. It was not so frustrating in the first chamber games, but now everything is different, given the past tense, the overgrown scale and, probably, increased budgets.
As a result, the picture is as follows: in the Metro series game you have to clear outposts, run from one end of a big and dead world to another in order to once again clumsily shoot at not very smart opponents.
All those moments in which Metro: Exodus is trying to look like a classic western blockbuster, turn into a failure, because of which triquel would be desirable to call a commercial, soulless product. It would be desirable, but it does not work.
A light in the end of a tunnel
It is not known what a miracle happens in the second half of the game, but after the completion of the arch in the Caspian desert, Exodus begins to turn into the familiar “Metro”: the chips of Western projects that do not go series at all, recede into the background, opening the way to the strongest sides of the game.
The third location is more linear than the first two, interesting game design ideas and more competent direction appear in it. Transitions and fork, breathtaking script scenes and, most importantly, the atmosphere of loneliness – if in the Caspian desert and in the swamps the side characters never left you, in the forests you have to rely only on yourself almost until the very end of the episode.
And in the epilogue, the game returns to its roots altogether, and this causes indescribable and absurd in its nature joy.
The first half of the game is made in accordance with all the trends: here you will have an open world with optional activities, and crafting, and epic shootouts with dozens of people, during which something somewhere constantly explodes. Roughly speaking, Exodus is working on a standard open-world AAA shooter program.
But all this is not about Metro, and it is possible, therefore, that all the elements listed above were far from being at the level of competitors. But the things that set Metro apart from other games still work like a clock: tasks with the study of dungeons, mysticism and the post-Soviet entourage.
The characters stand apart: the crew of the Aurora deserves a separate material. The developers have tried to turn the train from the usual plot tool into a real home. It is comfortably furnished, it is possible to relax in it and fix the equipment, however the people who make it “native” are people who inhabit it. Each member of the team is an individual with his own history and difficult fate.
Anya dreams of the Pacific Ocean and worries about Artyom. Old Colonel Melnik is constantly preparing for a battle with the invaders, in whose presence he is one hundred percent sure. The young intelligence officer Idiot considers Artyom to be a hero and tries to prove himself in every way, often in vain risking. And the good-natured heavy shooter Stepan is trying to help everyone, in particular the mother and daughter, whom the Aurora crew takes with them on the road.
But there is a caveat: only those who really want it can learn about all this — if you don’t go looking for all these storylines, the game will never tell you about them.
In the first parts of Metro also had to stop to listen to random people or secondary characters, however, the main story did not leave them unattended. In Exodus, the little things and everyday situations that are important for the atmosphere can easily slip away from the player, who is used to fly around the game as a locomotive, without exchanging additional content and secrets.
If you want to feel like heroes, you will have to pause and roam the Aurora: visit the old machinist and talk with him about his hard life, have a drink with the guys in honor of the successful task, discuss the new upgrade with Tokarev, or listen to another wisdom from a trader Cross.
And this is not just a waste of time – attention to the carriage neighbors is rewarded by touching stories, interesting details and well-developed, deep-going characters of ordinary people. You get used to them and get attached to no worse than the heroes of some good series.
The result is as ambiguous as the game itself. Metro: Exodus is an excellent piece with its undeniably strong points. But impressions and enthusiasm dull the clumsy attempts to keep up with AAA blockbusters, which the team at 4A Games cannot imitate. But they don’t need it – Metro is strong in its trifles and approach, which it was necessary to emphasize.
It is a pity that this was remembered only by the second half – a prolonged start with an inappropriate open world can disappoint people who sincerely love the series. And let this game design, exactly like the old sores of the series, is difficult to justify, remember – at the end of the tunnel of the complexities and strange decisions you are waiting for the same, unique and atmospheric game. Though it lasts only seven or eight hours out of a total of fifteen.