Experience the beauty and horror of the wasteland in an all-new shade of apocalypse Adam Bryant
From the creaking of the trees and the sound of the wind rustling through their branches, to the birds chirping and singing songs on the air, or the soft crunch of autumn leaves under your feet as you make your way through a beautifully orange and amber-hued forest, you know that this is an altogether different Metro. In Metro Exodus you play as Artyom. Following on from the events of the previous games, you, along with your wife Anna and a team of Spartan Rangers, head west in search of a new home and a new future for your people outside the cold and harsh confines of the Moscow Metro system. The game takes place over the span of a full year and in a world seemingly recovering from the devastation of war you’ll get to experience it all during the four seasons. We’ve already had a glimpse of the all-too-familiar nuclear winter in Moscow, spent time trudging through the Volga river during spring and now we get a good look at the wasteland in autumn.
Apart from having a completely different visual palette than what we’ve seen so far, the forest environment itself offers up a whole bunch of new experiences, from the way you play, to the people or enemies you meet and the things you discover.
The game is predominantly about survival so you’ll be expected to explore and scour the environment to look for supplies and resources. But as the forest is located far from any urban settlements these resources are in short supply which means you’ll need to be more mindful of your actions and decisions. You’ll not just be rewarded with items and ammunition for being an inquisitive player, however, you’ll also be rewarded with information that will flesh out the story and maybe even influence the way you play and the decisions you make. A prime example is found at a nearby camp where we meet the Children of the Forest, a territorial group that will do anything to protect their land from those who trespass upon it. Originally they were a group of children who were based at a summer scout camp and thanks to the war were left alone to fend for themselves, save for the guidance of their camp leader who they now revere. Having not grown up in the usual manner they have honed their skills as scouts and learnt how to live and survive in the wilderness.
You’ll catch moments of their naivety while overhearing conversations between members of the group. At one point there’s a quarrel between two of the members about how they interpret the teachings of their leader. The way they talk to one another and the trivial opinions that they have highlight just how childish they are in their nature. During another moment one of them is seen writing on a blackboard in what looks like a classroom, whether through punishment or doing a little late-night studying, and can be heard slowly repeating what he’s writing. Regardless of why he’s doing this, to attack them would feel like attacking an adolescent. This brings forth a whole bunch of moral implications. These aren’t necessarily bad people, they’ve had to survive the only way they know and they certainly have a
“The forest environment offers up a whole bunch of new experiences”
sense of morals. This is evident when we see the corpse of a man hung up with his body mutilated and a sign attached to him that reads ‘Rapist’. Their methods might be questionable, but do these people deserve to die by your hand as you invade their home? They’ll even call you a bandit if you’re caught or start tearing through the camp. In their eyes you’re the bad guy and they will do anything they can to rid themselves of a threat.
However you decided to approach the situations you come across, it’s ultimately your choice and you can do whatever you deem fit. But by exploring and finding out more about your surroundings you’ll be able to make informed choices. Do you let them be? Or do you push through regardless? Apart from completing the main objective to progress through the game you’re not forced to do anything. There is player choice at every turn, even down to how you approach the level. It’s entirely possible to go through the camp without killing a single person if you really wanted.
Things change even more during the night. Metro features dynamic weather and a full day and night cycle. Not only does this change the mood and tone of any given area, you’ll also experience different events and hazards depending on the time of day. We see Artyom stalking through the forest under a moonlit sky and as you can imagine visibility during this time is pretty terrible so night vision goggles are a must. The air is more still now and crows can be heard squawking in the darkness. Your senses are heightened and it puts a different horror spin on the series than what we’re used to. It isn’t long before the howling of wolves signals the arrival of a rabid pack that attacks Artyom. Fending them off doesn’t seem to be too much trouble, just be sure not to get caught off guard by the irradiated grizzly bear. As this is a new area and 4A Games is big on realism you’ll start to see mutated versions of all the creatures you would expect to see in those areas. So as well as the wolves and bears, you’ll find deer, birds and others.
We also got a chance to see more of the types of weapons you’ll have access to. The crossbow, called the Helsing, makes a return and is now possibly our favourite. It’s stealthy, compact and it just feels great to shoot. But the level of customisation at your disposal can dramatically change the way it functions. Each weapon will have five ‘hard-points’ of customisation which relate to the barrel, scope, magazine, stock and gadgets to attach things like laser sights. These can be combined in different ways to make the weapon function exactly the way you want. You can do this anywhere in the world thanks to your trusty backpack which stores everything you’ve gathered. You’ll also be able to craft medipacks and filters for your gas mask. However, if you wish to customise your armour or craft more ammo for your weapons you’ll need to make use of the many workbenches that you’ll find within safehouses scattered throughout the world. Additionally these workbenches will allow you to clean your weapon. As you progress through the game your weapons will accumulate dirt and grime which will impede their efficiency. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of a chaotic gunfight and for your weapon to jam up, so keeping everything wellmaintained will be a priority.
Each setting we’ve seen so far has been unique and given us a completely different mood and atmosphere and we’re certain that the next location and season we see will be no different. All of this feels like a natural evolution of the franchise and a huge step forward. Everything from its narrative design, environments, enemies, gunplay and audio comes together cohesively to immerse you in its world and brings out what we think will be the best Metro game yet. Despite bringing in a wave of changes fans of the previous games have little to worry about, and while retaining all of the elements from the past that we love it adds so much more. We just can’t wait to see what the summer has in store for us.
“Just be sure not to get caught off guard by the irradiated grizzly bear”
Main A new preview, a new season. Artyom explores an autumn apocalypse.
Below The Children of the Forest have learned to survive on their own.
The United States and Russia possess 90% of the world’s 15,000 live nuclear warheads
Below At night you’ll have more places to hide but more dangers to be aware of, too.