Mind the gap, warns
The key moment arrives halfway through the first announcement trailer for Metro Exodus. We’ve been watching through the eyes of what is presumably the main character as they make their way through a section of ruined subway tunnel. The air is murky with dust, decay and the occasional green radioactive cloud. For a moment the only sound is the clank of a scavenged clip being loaded into a makeshift rifle and the echo of heavy breathing inside a gas mask.
Suddenly they’re attacked by at first one and then a pack of what can only be described as mutant dogs. They fend off a few but they keep coming. The unnamed protagonist scrambles up a ladder and makes for a door, slamming it shut behind on the skull of a pursuing dog. They look down there are flowers on the ground. They turn and look up - it’s a brilliantly sunny day. They remove their gas mask and take a deep breath. Metro games aren’t meant to be this way.
The third in the series after Metro 2033 and Last Light, Exodus is based on the new book “Metro 2035” by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, who is also closely involved with the development of the games. Again, players take on the role of Artyom, one of the Rangers tasked with protecting those trying to survive beneath post-apocalyptic Moscow and keeping the peace between the various factions vying for control of the tunnels. But some things have changed.
In both previous games, the gas mask was essential to your survival. Above ground - and even some areas underground - the air was toxic and you had to keep your mask on at all times. You had to replace filters when they expired, too, which when you ran out would mean a frantic rush to the nearest breathable air, soundtracked by Artyom’s increasingly desperate gasps. In Exodus, developer 4A Games is promising large expanses above ground where you can take your mask off and not choke to death. They were sick of the tunnels, apparently, and wanted some fresh air for a change.
This desire to fill their lungs with clean oxygen comes hand in hand with a rethinking of how to present the world of Metro. Perhaps by virtue of the subway tunnels in which they were mostly set, both 2033 and Last Light guided players through a linear series of mostly cramped passageways interspersed by the odd foray into slightly wider outdoor environments. Exodus isn’t an open world game as such, but the idea is to give players much bigger areas to explore top-side that will provide a refreshing contrast to the more claustrophobic areas below. The STALKER games, with their large inter-connected maps rather than a seamless open world, is a useful comparison understandably so given many of the 4A Games team worked on the first game in that series.
Metro Exodus is scheduled to depart the station sometime - more late than early, we’re guessing - next year.
DEVELOPER PUBLISHER PLATFORM RELEASE DATE 4A Games Deep Silver
PC, PS4, Xbox One 2018
Metro Exodus isn't exactly an open world, but it's a relief to escape the underground.