Wednesday, January 16, 2019
If there's one thing that Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light did exceedingly well, it was engendering a palpable feeling of being trapped, stuck underground surrounded by mutants and hostile human survivors, all out for your blood. So when Metro Exodus pops its proverbial head above ground to explore an ambitious open world, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the game might end up losing something in the process. Let's get this out of the way quickly then: it hasn't lost any of its efficacy, still deftly making you feel closed-in and embattled (at least, based on what we've played so far, that is).
Going open-world doesn't appear to have diluted the Metro formula in any way, as you journey across post-apocalyptic Russia aboard the Aurora steam train, on a seemingly unending search for a safe haven. This voyage is a year-long one that encapsulates four seasons, from the verdant floral autumnal months to the arid deserts that await during the summer. It's this latter part that served as our fresh look at Metro Exodus, having previously visited the swamps of the Volga during the springtime and the Taiga forests in autumn. This segment of Exodus takes Artyom and the crew of the Aurora to sun-baked desert plains, pursuing a vehicle that's been mysteriously shadowing your train's route.
Naturally, this leads you to the expected mutant ghouls laying dormant in the sand, looking like harmless corpses at first glance, before they leap up to tear your face clean off. Mutants are pretty much the least of your worries in Metro's messed up world, however, as human survivors will also shoot you on sight in a bid to strip you clean of your valuable weapons and resources. That is unless you take them down first and then rinse them for precious ammo and other helpful items that will keep you alive in a world where everyone and everything is trying to kill you.
Resources are incredibly scarce in Metro Exodus too, so often you'll be scrabbling around to find materials and chemicals with which to craft first aid shots and bullets. Maintaining and cleaning your weapons and gas mask also proves critical, and during our latest hands-on session with Exodus, this was no less apparent. From exploring the overground of the summer season's barren environment, you'll soon find a mode of transport in which you can run over ghouls, before venturing below ground into a subterranean vault inhabited by screeching, light-sensitive arachnids.
Scuttling out from every crevice and cavity, these are no ordinary spider-like creatures, with pincer-tipped tails and razor-sharp mandibles that inflict serious damage. Keep your flashlight trained on them, however, and you can ensure the blighters are kept at arm's length, the luminescence of your torch searing through their chitinous carapace to slowly roast them alive. Clearly, Artyom will have a lot to deal with in Metro Exodus, and scant tools with which to fight back. Therein lies the challenge, and indeed 4A Games' latest entry in the series promises not to pull its punches.
On the strength of this final demo before the game launches in full next month, Metro Exodus is looking in fine fettle, and even someone like me who isn't particularly enamoured by the survival genre managed to get a kick out of the crafting, scavenging and resource management aspects on show. Exodus seems to have struck a balance between open-world exploration, robust first-person shooter mechanics, and challenging survival, ensuring that this ought to be not only the most ambitious entry in the Metro series, but also the best.
Metro Exodus is out for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on 15th February 2019.