The Metro series is a niche experience in terms of what it has to offer. It doesn’t push the boundaries of innovation and new ideas, but it does provide a level of immersion and realism that is almost unrivalled and undeniably unique. Metro has always been linear because it allows for level design that embodies the idea of an atmospheric experience. Metro Exodus does away with a more straightforward level design in favour of a semi-open world, which changes the game more drastically than you’d think.
The game still funnels you to a particular path to get to your next objective, but there’s more to do and see on the way. Exploration is rewarded with resources that are in short supply, and keeping track of ammunition and materials vital to survival. The time-based survival stuff seen in past games was absent in the demo I played, but I’m sure it will make a return given that I found a gas filter during my playthrough, a staple item needed in the original titles. Venturing off the beaten track also led me to discover various memos and worldbuilding lore, which was a neat touch considering it was only a demo. The issue I found with this particular design, is that the lack of an objective marker makes it easy to get lost within the open parts of the level. I understand it’d break the immersion, but I found myself more frustrated by it than anything else.
The actual gameplay hasn’t seen much improvement or innovation. From what I experienced with the demo, it’s the same as Metro: Last Light with some minor enhancements to stealth through the addition of a crossbow. Playing stealthily is heavily encouraged to maintain a healthy supply of resources for when a firefight inevitably breaks out. I had multiple run-ins with mutated creatures that hunted me down in packs, and quickly discovered it was much more economical to run from said mutants, despite how terrifying a situation like that can be.
The gunplay is still solid, but much like the core gameplay loop, lacks innovation and new features. Pulling the trigger feels and sounds good, it’s as responsive as you’d want it to be, and enemies react to damage in a visceral and believable manner. The same can’t be said for the AI; I had one instance where a guy shot me once and just stood there as if nothing had happened. An issue like this is most likely because it’s a pre-release version of the game, but that doesn’t make it less noticeable.
As for the immersion factor, it’s hard to gauge how much of a role it will play in the title. When you’re cramped in a packed convention hall with speakers blasting your ears, it’s kind of hard to be fully immersed in the experience. I did notice a few moments where I’d lost myself in the world because of the excellent voice acting, music, and sound design, which bodes well for the full game when it’s playable within the comfort of your own home.
Metro has always been praised for its graphical prowess, and Exodus looks to continue the tradition. The game looked phenomenal on the PC I was playing and ran quite smoothly despite the occasional stutters here and there. Most HUD elements are integrated into the game instead of looking like a menu on a screen, but the RTX logo that lurked on the right side of the screen was far more distracting than usual UI elements would’ve been. It’s hard to properly showcase your most significant feature at an event like PAX due to the nature of the convention, but including overlays in-game that aren’t supposed to be there don’t help the situation.
I came away from my time with Metro: Exodus conflicted. While I’m sure the immersive and atmospheric nature of the first two titles will be present in large capacity, the gameplay loop hasn’t seen many revisions at all. A larger number of systems that cater to stealthy playstyles is nice, but that was already something that Last Light did particularly well. The open-world aspects work as a double-edged sword, encouraging and rewarding player exploration while also causing potential frustration to those who don’t appreciate the immersion factor as much. The extent of these issues is yet to be seen, but Exodus has left me with middling impressions.