Metro: Exodus — Hands-on impressions from E3 2018

After several years of silence, Metro: Exodus reemerged from its nuclear bunker and is ready to continue the story originally conceived in the novels of Dmitry Glukhovsky. Its trailers have thus far promised a challenging scavenging and crafting system needed to fuel the game's combat, but there's far more to it than that.

I went hands-on with Metro: Exodus at E3 2018 and learned more about the game's promises of freedom for the player to choose their own path. Rather than offering dialogue trees for good or evil, Metro wants your actions to matter. Are you a peacemaker? An explorer? Or a heartless killer? Sometimes you may want to be one, but the choices before you aren't always immediately obvious.

New beginnings

Metro: Exodus is set two years after Metro: Last Light and 23 years after a massive nuclear war that reduced Russia to a devastated wreck. You play as Artyom, who has joined the Spartan Rangers in their exodus from Moscow aboard a train called the Aurora, hoping to find a place to rebuild somewhere to the east. The story spans a full year of their travels, beginning in a harsh nuclear winter and continuing through each of the four seasons.

I was free to explore a huge area, with the understanding that some things like may be unfinished.

My demo took place at an encounter called The Bridge, where the titular landmark had collapsed and groups of people (hostile? no?) were out camping on the track. In order to bypass the obstructions, our engineer needed to do some work on the train, so I was sent out into the wilderness to determine if the nearby settlers were friends or foes. But had I not wanted to take that route, I didn't have to.

The demo I was given was qualified by the presenters as something a bit different. Rather than a narrowly-focused and polished demo of a small segment, I was free to explore a huge area as I liked, with the understanding that some things like textures or collisions may be unfinished. Even with the qualifier, the world looked lovely, snowy, and diverse despite the bleak terrain, though I did run into long loading screens and some collision issues as promised. I'm not worried on those fronts, though. Metro is allegedly content-0complete, leaving the team a whopping eight months to launch to polish, polish, and polish.

Into the winter

I like to do what I'm told, so after my partner Anna yelled at me for ignoring the objective, I turned around and followed her into an area of deserted houses, picking up some crafting materials along the way. Having never played a Metro game, I was pleased to find that combat wasn't around literally every last corner, though I had to keep my guard up. Metro is just as much about how you choose to interact with those you encounter as it is about fighting off wasteland horrors or those who want to stop you from finishing your objectives, as I'd soon find out.

You can fight your way through a lot in Metro: Exodus, but you can also approach situations from different angles.

After climbing into a small boat (don't swim in Metro, trust me) and rowing across a small body of water I came to a strange, ramshackle church, where I was told all would be well if I came in peace. I sheathed my weapon in compliance. You can fight your way through a lot in Metro: Exodus, but you can also approach situations from different angles. With my weapon put away, I slowly guided my boat into a bizarre church service where the congregation followed the pastor in decrying technology with loud chants.

As I neared a spot to dock, though, things changed. A little girl came in and yelled at the congregation that they were wrong and that she refused to believe them, then scampered up the stairs. My boat was suddenly locked down between two doors that dropped and I was forced to disembark and chase the girl up the stairs. I wasn't fully sure if the congregation had intended to trap me, was mad at the girl, or if I had made a bad choice by following her. But I headed up and encountered the child and her mother, who desperately needed help to escape the weird cult they were in. I was told to make my escape first, but with the compound now hostile, that would prove a challenging task.

Choice or no choice?

At this point, I felt I had no choice but to fight. Gun combat is solid in Metro, and I was given a few different weapon choices along the way, but if you're not actively picking up crafting supplies to augment your equipment and create more ammo, you'll have a bad time ... just like I did. I ran out of ammo just as I killed enough enemies to force everyone else to surrender, so I didn't need to bother with whether or not to kill the remaining enemies, now on their knees and begging for mercy. I eventually found a new boat to escape in and headed out, Anna reassuring me over the radio that she would take care of the girl and her mother.

As I approached the Aurora again, I was waylayed by a huge mutant sea monster bursting up from the depths and trying to capsize my boat. With no ammo left, I thought for sure I was done for, but I was pulled from the water by another comrade and pointed in the direction of the Aurora on land. There, I met the mother and daughter, who were able to give me directions into the city to an engineer who could repair the train, which is about where my demo finally timed out.

Overall thoughts on Metro: Exodus

I feel like I barely got a taste of Metro: Exodus, and that my lack of experience with other games in the series may have hurt me a bit. I spent a lot of time just sort of aimlessly trying to understand my objective. Looking around the snowy world I was dropped in, I could see multiple major landmarks and several minor ones within a few minutes distance, and had I traveled to any of those others instead of the weird church, I may have encountered a different story entirely. I'm curious to learn more about how decision-making and exploration affect things, as they'll be what make Metro: Exodus stand out.

Metro: Exodus is expected to launch on February 22, 2019, for Windows 10 and Xbox One starting at $59.99 (opens in new tab) But you can preorder the game now on Amazon.

Need direction?

Have more questions about Metro: Exodus? Bust out the compass and map and leave a comment; I'll try to help you out!

Reb Valentine