4A Games – Deep Silver – Koch Media – 1 Player – Out now on PC, PS4 & Xbox One (version tested)
Following on from last generation’s Metro series, the games themselves an adaptation of a book series, the action horror FPS returns in style, finally leaving the claustrophobic tunnels of Moscow’s underground transit system, and sets out on a journey by rail across post nuclear apocalypse Russia. The story is set up very well, with a concise overview of why humanity is in the dire situation they’ve found themselves in, with the briefest of recaps of the previous games as well. This is all told rather stylishly from the point of view of a passenger riding the metro system, seeing the bleak underground network transforming into humanity’s last bastion. Up to this point, it is believed that all of those residing in the metro tunnels were all that remains of human kind. Again, the game sees you taking control of Artyom, either Russia’s most brave, or most stupid soldier, once again trying to establish radio contact with anyone on the outside world. Whilst traversing the irradiated, ruined, mutant infested streets of Moscow, Artyom and his wife Anna, are mistakenly captured by a military group. This isn’t a problem for Artyom, who seems invulnerable at this point, and manages to escape his captors and rescue his wife. It’s here that they discover they aren’t actually alone and that all radio transmissions to and from the city are being jammed by the military. There are in fact, survivors all over the world. Stunned by this revelation, the jammer is destroyed and our heroes make their escape by train, as the base they have been held captive in, just so happens to be a locomotive terminal, with fully operational steam trains. Once you’ve made your escape from the city, you come across several road (or should that be rail) blocks, meaning you have to scope out the local area, usually to find whatever you coincidentally require to continue on your journey. This ends up with you being free to roam the map of each level, all of which are of a fairly big size, and you will likely encounter unsettling locals or bandits that won’t hesitate to kill you. This is on top of the various mutants you will encounter along the way. Regardless of how you get around, there’s always something to make your journey from A to B that little bit more difficult.
The gameplay opens with you descending into the tunnels of the metro system, getting to grips the controls as expected, but it pretty much sets the tone for the game as you’re accosted by some mutated beasts known as watchmen. These are freaky, hairless wolf type creatures that make their introduction by jumping out of a dark room at you. These aren’t the only mutants that have a habit of scaring the bejesus out of you. There are also some humanoid mutants which are fast, strong and very good at blending in with their surroundings. Particularly the desert level, which takes place on a dried up sea bed and wouldn’t be out of place in a Mad Max movie. The mutants here easily blend in with the sand, and if you don’t watch your step you’ll end up tripping over them, and more often than not, they come in packs. A less threatening but all the more creepy mutant are the massive spiders that crawl all over you if you don’t burn away cobwebs when you’re navigating tight tunnels and corridors. For the most part they’re harmless, but they can’t be too great for any arachnophobes playing. Navigating your location will depend on how you approach the game. Indoors and enclosed spaces will normally require a certain degree of stealth, requiring you to stay in the shadows, silently taking down enemies. It’s not always possible to do this however, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to run through guns a blazing. Restraint is required for the most part as it’s easy to get surrounded by a group of enemies who will tear you apart in no time. When you’re not busy being a wannabe Batman, you’ll likely be spending your time getting from one place to another in the large map of each level. These are varied locales ranging from snow dusted villages and flooded towns, to deserts and lush forests. There’s usually a vehicle to get you around, be it boat, car or train, though these all come with their own hazards. The worst being the amphibious mutants that like nothing more than spitting radioactive goop at you, or mounting your boat and clawing away at you.
Metro Exodus is a thrilling first person adventure, incorporating classic survival horror elements, particularly inventory management and making you use ammo sparingly. You will need to make sure have plenty of health kits and gas mask filters equipped as thing can become quite dicey at the drop of a hat. You can craft these using your trusty backpack, but you need to make sure you have the supplies to do so. You’ll be in the habit of scavenging everything in no time. As with all survival games, it’s sometimes better to leg it rather than stand your ground, especially as you don’t know what monstrosities are waiting for you a little further up the road. As far as apocalyptic experiences go, it’s not particularly breaking new ground, but it does feel like a change from the usual manky, dust covered hellscapes that tend to be the norm for these types of games. The involving story, camaraderie and characters also add a weight and depth to the game that will keep you invested and actually make you care about what you’re doing. Which makes a change for a game like this as more often than not they tend to be bland and generic. Undoubtedly the best entry to the series, and already a contender for game of the year.