If there’s one trend that has been a constant in the games industry over the past few years (and this E3 in particular), it’s games in a post apocalyptic setting. There is no shortage of titles which place you in a grim vision of the future, so a game really needs to do something special to make it stand out from the rest of the pack. Thankfully Metro: Exodus seems to be on the right track to creating a unique and memorable experience.
The third video game based off of the novels by Dmitry Glukhovsky, Metro: Exodus continues the story of the last survivors of a nuclear apocalypse. Unlike the previous two games which followed a group of characters who had made their homes in the tunnels of Moscow, this game sees Artyom and his comrades emerging from the underground to seek out a new home on board a travelling fortress called the Aurora. Players will travel the railroads to Russia and explore an enormous environment unlike anything the series has attempted before.
As we began our nearly hour long hands on demo with the game, we were travelling along the Volga river when a blockade brought our steamrolling caravan to an abrupt halt. With our transport crippled, we had no choice but to explore the treacherous countryside in search of a way to repair the Aurora and continue our journey.
The first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the area, our demo room featured all four walls plastered with a 360 degree view of the terrain we were playing in and it became clear that this was bigger than anything that developer 4A Games had attempted before. The games was running on the Xbox One X in 4k and even with nearly 8 months until release, it was visually stunning. From the impressively detailed Aurora to the draw distances that let you see far into the world, it’s clear that by the time the final game is released it will be a graphical powerhouse.
As I took my first steps along the river towards my first objective I was initially overwhelmed by the amount of controls to memorize. The left and right bumpers each pulled up a quick select menu that was chock full of items and equipment that you’ll need on your journey, from a lighter to burn away spiderwebs to your mask which you’ll need to wear if the radiation spikes in the area you’re exploring. It’s a lot to remember but hopefully after spending more time with the game I’ll be able to more quickly recall which button does what, as I probably won’t have the handy little button mapping cheat sheet at home that I did during the demo.
The snowy riverside was full of mutated abominations to content with, from the crustacean giant Shrimp that roam the river banks, to the Humanimals, humanoid like monsters who may not be terribly dangerous on their own, but are downright frightening when you find yourself stumbling on a pack of a dozen or so. I learned the hard way to always be prepared as being attacked when you’re low on ammo or health packs can lead to being overwhelmed pretty quickly.
Unfortunately the ghoulish monsters aren’t the only threat that you’ll have to contend with. I made my way by boat to a tiny church that I had spotted in the distance that was occupied by a group called the Fanatics. These survivors had built a community who believed that technology was the source of all mankind’s troubles and are under the leadership of a man called Silantius who may or may not be a threat to your group. While exploring the church, a group of bandits arrive and I was ushered out of a window by a woman and her child who are intent on leaving the cult and joining our group on board the Aurora.
As I made my escape from the church I got a better taste of the variety the combat offers. You can choose to take a stealthy approach, stabbing and the snapping the necks of your enemies before they know you’re there. Or you can use a variety of firearms, each of which is highly customizable to suit your needs. My favorite might have been a pneumatic rifle which required you to pump a lever to build air pressure before attacking. You can also craft ammunition, health packs and more by scavenging for scrap in the environments. Thankfully it’s a relatively simple process and you won’t have to worry much about memorizing recipes.
After dispatching all of the enemies and making my way back to my boat, I rowed my way to what I thought was safety until I was attacked by an enormous fish-like creature that was lurking in the depths of the water unseen. It chewed my boat to pieces and as I plunged into darkness I thought I was fish food until a scout from the Aurora dragged me from the water. It was a stark reminder that you never know what kind of new monstrosities might be waiting for you.
From there we were free to explore the environment as we saw fit. I appreciated that the map wasn’t loaded with icons for side quests, as it appears that you’ll need to rely on your own exploration skills to seek out what extras there are hidden in the world. Adam and I wandered in two different directions at this point in our demos, both discovering different and unique altercations along the way. It’s a cool approach to side quests that I think will feel more rewarding to players as they discover something new.
Going into my demo with Metro: Exodus I knew almost nothing about this series besides the basic setting and plot, but after my time with the game it has jumped towards the top of my list of most anticipated games of 2019.