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Metro Exodus review: A superb shooter that showcases Xbox One X's true power

The third installment of 4A Games' post-apocalyptic shooter series is upon us, and it's better and bigger than ever.

Windows Central Recommended Award

I find myself in awe of Metro Exodus for reasons I did not expect.

Each entry in the series is known for pushing the visual boundaries of what is possible with current-gen hardware, but Metro Exodus takes it to another level. Exodus has some staggering environmental effects and detail, taking the best of Metro Last Light's semi-open world environments and fully exploring the potential therein. This includes dense forests choked with fog, dynamic reflections on frozen lakes, and scattered light through thick storm clouds, washing everything in vivid shadows.

Metro Exodus is a visual masterpiece that showcases the full potential of the 4K Xbox One X, with tight, survival-shooter gameplay layered on top. This is the quintessential Metro experience, but for every area where 4A Games has improved, it shines a headlamp on some of the series's lasting problems.

Stunning apocalyptic adventure

Metro Exodus

$60

Bottom line: A few glitches can't stop this staggering artistic achievement from becoming one of the Xbox One's most important shooters.

Pros:

  • Excellent level design.
  • Satisfying survival-shooter gameplay.
  • Intriguing story and good characters.

Cons:

  • Voice work is a bit patchy.
  • It's glitchy and suffers occasional crashes.

Visual design, performance, and sound

Metro Exodus continues 4A's tradition of breath-taking environmental design direction, weaving wholly believable post-apocalyptic environments across a range of unique biomes. As Exodus's name suggests, this is the first game in the series that takes you completely out of the dank subway tunnels of the Moscow metro system, taking place in a string of large connected areas and far larger in scope than Metro Last Light's flirtations with a more open format.

Metro Exodus is a genuine work of art.

Despite taking on a more open approach, Metro Exodus is completely devoid of copy and paste. Every area feels hand-crafted, brimming with detail and reasons to explore. Using safe houses, you can sleep to switch the game between night and day; otherwise, the day cycles dynamically, bringing with it vivid lighting, gorgeous skyboxes, and even weather systems. Heavy rain-washed environments in light-reflecting dampness and radioactive mist can roll in, blanketing your vision in darkness. These aspects of the game's visual design play heavily into gameplay.

Beyond the open environments, Metro Exodus's open plains are dotted with points of interest, which often serve a similar function to dungeons. These areas come across as more traditional "Metro," with large, winding structures with multiple pathways and secrets, across a variety of location types. Metro Exodus really explores the Mad Maxian-style reality of its nuclear wasteland, with macabre attention to every rust-bitten detail.

Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus also sports native Dolby Atmos support, making it a true joy to play with headphones. The game is light on UI in general (even more so if you play on Ranger Hardcore difficulty), and those Dolby Atmos audio cues add an almost disturbing sense of directional awareness. Dolby Atmos really puts you in the game, emphasizing Exodus's stealth and horror elements, for better or worse depending on your temperament. As good as Atmos is, sometimes, it makes dialogue far too quiet, forcing you to turn it off. And since the subtitles were bugged out as of writing ... I found that I had to keep it turned off most of the time.

All the good stuff that resides within Exodus shines a bit of a spotlight on areas where 4A still has work to do. I'd quite happily put the environmental design up there with the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2, but the character animations haven't improved a great deal. Additionally, Exodus could use a few performance boosts on Xbox One X. Areas with thick smoke or particles can slam the frame rate to a crawl, and there are plenty of glitches with animations, models clipping through walls or doors, seemingly unable to handle some of the game's more dynamic area layouts. I also experienced crashes here and there. Finally, the game has some sort of input lag on Xbox One X, which makes it feel a tad unresponsive and sticky to play. There's also a bug where if your controller disconnects due to battery loss or inactivity, Metro Exodus won't detect that you've reconnected it, forcing you to restart the game.

Overall, Metro Exodus is a rare type of game that I'd recommend to shooter fans on the basis of visuals alone. Bugs aside, the artistic and technical achievement on display here cannot be understated, and Metro Exodus is a work of art.

Metro Exodus story (no spoilers)

As a ranger named Artyom, you're part of a politically-neutral brotherhood that tasks itself with protecting the people of the Metro. Metro Exodus takes place relatively soon after the events of Metro Last Light. Artyom and his wife, Anna, sneak out of the Metro searching for radio signals from beyond Moscow, convinced that there's life outside the city. Not long into the game, you discover they are correct. Artyom and Anna set out beyond Moscow in a re-engineered steam train, built to withstand the horrific mutants and radiation that has decimated the surface.

Exodus really nails the sense of adventure with its travel-centric plot. The Aurora train gives you time between levels to simply enjoy the ride, bonding with characters you meet on your travels, complete with optional side objectives. As you progress, you'll meet an array of eclectic characters who cling to existence in the bitter wastes, some eager to kill you, others eager to help you, and a few who are just plain crazy. Artyom and Anna set out to answer some of the series's most pressing mysteries, including what life outside of the Metro is like, the remnants of the Russian government, and what really happened in the "Last War."

The central criticism of Metro Exodus's story delivery is probably its voice acting, which is a bit patchy at best and a little hammy at worse. Since much of the game revolves around immersion, with Metro Exodus's industry-leading visuals and hyper-realistic gameplay, the B-movie dialogue is one area which holds the game back.

The story also doubles down on the moral choices introduced in Last Light, where players are able to make many "soft" decisions that affect the outcome of the plot. One mission near the start requires you to steal a boat from local merchants. Naturally, you can either kill them, subdue them, or complete the segment entirely in stealth.

The supporting characters remark upon your approach once the mission is through, with some criticizing your actions if they seem needlessly violent, while others relish the carnage.

If you can adjust your expectations for the voice acting, the game has some truly moving moments, harrowing set-pieces, and great environmental narrative. The game's story rewards your exploration and decisions with unique character moments, and like Last Light, it impacts the game's conclusion.

Metro Exodus gameplay

This is the best Metro game to date. Every aspect that makes Metro a great series has been refined and dialed up, piling on great new features to sit alongside its more open environments.

Easily the best Metro game ever.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Metro games, they border on first-person survival horror in some ways, with a side order of stealth. This is particularly true if you play on Ranger Hardcore difficulty, which strips away the UI and crosshairs and forces you to treat every bullet as a precious resource.

Ranger Hardcore is the way Metro is intended to be played, and in Exodus, it presents a true test far beyond the previous titles, as long forays into the open world can quite easily lead you on the path of misadventure. A couple of bullets will kill you, forcing you to play stealthily and tactically, but on the flip side, enemies die more rapidly too, which really changes the dynamic of tactical play. Normal mode is far less stressful, but still an intense and challenging experience.

Artyom has some new tools to accommodate the game's doubled emphasis on exploration. His backpack can be deployed anywhere in the field, allowing you to craft health kits, basic ammunition, and other tools using scavenged materials found throughout the game.

Artyom can also change the attachments on his weapons on the fly to better fit the situations you'll encounter, although you remain restricted to three weapons total, with one slot occupied by the air-pressure rifle (which gets upgraded throughout the game's story). Artyom also gets access to a variety of level-relevant vehicles throughout the game, including boats and even train cars. The game features a fairly large range of weaponry and tools, with plenty of options for all types of combat.

Beyond weapons, Artyom has to maintain his equipment in other ways. If you don't keep your weapons clean, they'll jam and break. If you don't keep your gas mask repaired, you won't be able to survive in toxic environments. The emphasis on maintenance and survival makes Metro Exodus a more immersive and thoughtful shooter than many of its competitors. It's not without its imperfections, though.

Exodus's A.I. is still painfully basic and doesn't feel far removed from its predecessors. While enemies now call out your general location to their teammates, which feels immersive, they don't really follow through a lot of the time. Enemies will walk into walls and get stuck in strange, glitched animations, as they struggle to decide whether they want to hide in cover or flee further back. Enemies also very easily forget that they've just stumbled upon the corpse of one of their friends, returning to passive patrol routes and dialogue.

There was also clear room for Exodus to advance its combat beyond Last Light, but the opportunity is largely missed. Stealth gameplay remains the same, basic affair.

There's no gore whatsoever, which limits the sense of impact of weapons compared to similar titles. In fact, even explosives fail to depart any sense of force too, causing enemies to simply flop down into ragdolls upon detonation. The physics feel off, with monster models floating in slow motion when you pick them off in a way that the physics engine doesn't like.

The open-ended level design is really what puts Metro Exodus a step above its predecessors, giving players a sense of freedom far removed from the previous games' claustrophobic metro tunnels.

The lowdown on Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus is a visual achievement with some of the most impressive world design to date. Meticulously detailed locations make this the best Metro game yet, putting Exodus firmly in the must-play category for shooter fans.

While the voice acting is patchy, the overall story is an engrossing tale of post-apocalyptic survival, wrapped in a sense of discovery and adventure aboard the Aurora train convoy. Bonding with your characters as you travel across the wastes makes Exodus feel far less lonely than the previous games, without hurting the sense of survival and isolation.

Exodus's combat has room for improvement, particularly when it comes to enemy A.I. behavior. The gunplay is tight and well-built, with an emphasis on customization, allowing you to play how you want to play. While I'm hoping polish patches come in thick and fast after launch, even when you acknowledge the game's rough edges Metro Exodus is among the best first-person shooters you can get right now.

Jez reviewed Metro Exodus on an Xbox One X console using a copy provided by Deep Silver.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

9 Comments
  • Great!!! i'll grab it after I am done with Crackdown 3 . The Russian voice actors were way better than the American ones in the previous two games . I assume that will be the case with Metro Exodus too . Generally it's a better experience if you don't mind the Russian language .
  • The annoying thing is you can't set the Russian language as default though :( at least not from what I can find. Also the subtitles are broken in my current build. Hopefully that'll change nearer launch with an update. EDIT: You can play in Russian, but you have to set the language from the main menu, not in-game menu!
  • That's asinine, and isn't that not the old games way of doing it?
  • Yeah, the other Metro games did this too. Seems old habits die hard...or in this case, haven't died yet.
  • I can't wait to play this, of course I will have to. Have 2 major games to play first. RDR2 is just getting started.
  • Seems like there are a number of graphical, performance and game related bugs/issues. Could be a deal breaker for me...are they THAT bad?
  • I just got word there's a 4GB patch dropping before launch. That should tidy up some of the issues (and I'll update the review if they do). But no, they aren't that bad. I think some are related to Xbox One's resume feature. If you launch the game cold, it runs far better than if you "resume" it from the dashboard.
  • Just watched the Digital Foundry of this game. This could take top spot off Red Dead 2 as best visuals on consoles this generation. Red Dead 2 on One X was the best according to Digital Foundry tests. But DF put this right up with Red Dead 2. If anything there is some stuff Exodus is doing with volumetric fog and lighting even Red Dead 2 isnt doing. Great to see One X pulling native 4k as well on both these powerhouse Graphics games. Maybe Gears 5 might take best console visuals this Gen?
  • Metro Exodus really is shooter of the year!! ("the witcher" of the shooters!) .. just a pity Apex came out just before Metro..., it kind of stole the show as best f2p shooter cotender (and Anthem, even if lacking, its sold well.. thanx to its suberb grafix and Bioware name,
    ... and Devision 2 with its good endgameplay; all came out just before / around Metros launch) hope Metro Exodus still gets the sales it deserves, with so many new shooter out atm.. Metro Exodus had some special quest solutions, that frustrated some reviers,.. not letting Metro Exodus build up the hype it decerved, like on the metacritic
    (Angry Joe
    should have reviewed it, maybe he could have build some hype). Metro Exodus is one of the best, most atmospheric, most gripping (story/characters), best over-world (exploring / looting) of any real shooter! Half-Life and Fallout cross-over with a big amount of freshness from the wohle "east" setting to the super immersive atmosphere... Metro Exodus might have some (very) small issues (like "item pick up" needs gettig used to), but its positive aspects overweight 9.5-10/10
    (as a fan of stealth-is, over-world exploring and of atmospheric games) playing on Xbox One X, it's one of those games worth having an Xbox One X.., it's so gorgeous and smooth