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Metro Exodus: Why it’s shaping up to be this year’s first must-have shooter

Call of the Duty could learn a thing or two here

Metro Exodus isn’t your standard first-person shooter.

Run in all guns blazing and the third entry in the acclaimed Metro series will chew you up and spit you out.

No, Exodus is a ‘thinking person’s’ FPS, which blends RPG elements and sandbox style level design (think Crysis) with the tight shooting mechanics of the previous, more linear games.

The result? A unique and hugely rewarding playground of destruction – with just enough freedom to draw you into the world.

The summer season has a Mad Max feel to it – and we loved it

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The summer season has a Mad Max feel to it – and we loved it

So, what’s it about?

Set in 2036, the story takes place in Moscow – two years after the events of Metro: Last Light (well worth a play if you’re new to the series).

The world was ravaged by nuclear war 23 years ago, causing whatever life that remained to morph into terrifying creatures.

Families escaped the radiation by fleeing to the metro system – where they built communities.

But it wasn’t long before rival factions formed – looking to capitalise on the chaos and bring about a new world order.

In Exodus, you once again play Artyom, who’s part of a team called the Spartan Rangers.

At the start of the game, you – along with a small squad of brave wariors, are forced to flee Moscow on a train called the Aurora in search of a new life.

Along your journey you’ll meet small groups of survivors – but can you trust them?

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Along your journey you’ll meet small groups of survivors – but can you trust them?

Now here’s where it gets interesting

The story takes place over the course of one year – as you continue your travels across Russia.

For the first time in the series, there are different seasons – starting with a harsh nuclear winter.

At a recent hands-on event, we got to play through winter, summer and autumn – which all felt incredibly different.

During one of the winter levels, the Aurora became stuck near a bridge on a huge lake.

Metro Exodus seemed to be running at 30FPS on Xbox One X but was rendered in native 4K

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Metro Exodus seemed to be running at 30FPS on Xbox One X but was rendered in native 4K

We were then sent to explore the nearby area, which quickly turned into a hunt for an engineer who could fix our train.

Sounds easy enough, but add hordes of deranged mutants and the scariest lobsters you’ve ever seen, and you’ve got an incredibly tense affair.

Then it was on to summer, which was more than a bit reminiscent of Mad Max.

Scorching heat and sandstorms help add a new dimension to the gameplay – with the latter providing cover should you want to evade mutants or violent scavengers.

The autumn level we played was the most linear of the lot – but still offered plenty of freedom

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The autumn level we played was the most linear of the lot – but still offered plenty of freedom

Riding shotgun

This was also the first time we got to experience a vehicle – a rusty old van. It proved a welcome addition, given the size of the sandbox.

It’s not dauntingly big, but large enough to encourage exploration. Venturing off the beaten track will reward you with powerful weapons – not to mention the odd Easter Egg.

Autumn felt slightly more linear than the other two seasons (we didn’t get to play spring), which is no bad thing.

Here, you’ll dart in and out of dilapidated houses, searching for supplies in an experience that’s perhaps the most ‘Metro’ of the lot.

The game’s AAA Engine provides some breathtaking visuals on all platforms

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The game’s AAA Engine provides some breathtaking visuals on all platforms

It also introduced us to the trusty crossbow, which was perfect to take down enemies silently – especially important given that you lose all of your gear at the start of the level.

No matter what season you play through, one thing you cannot do is run in.

You’re encouraged to think and search for alternative routes – after all, developers AAA Games admitted they were heavily influenced by Half Life 2, and it really shows.

Ammo is in short supply making each firefight especially tense. Expend too much and you’ll be in deep trouble should you run into another group of guards or monsters.

You’ll constantly need to manage your inventory (don’t worry, it’s easy to use), creating bullets and upgrading gear.

Playing through the summer season level reminded us of Half Life 2 – which can only be a good thing

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Playing through the summer season level reminded us of Half Life 2 – which can only be a good thing

If looks could kill

Obviously, none of this would matter if the game didn’t look the part – and thankfully, as per the two titles, developers AAA have pushed the visuals to the next level.

If you’re lucky enough to own a Nvidia GTX2080 graphics card, then you’re in for a treat.

Exodus supports Real Time Ray Tracing (which will think will soon become standard across most big titles) – making for truly breathtaking presentation.

Even with RTX ‘off’, Exodus was still one of the best-looking games we’ve seen. Ever.

The sheer level of detail is astounding – from pin-sharp textures to sprawling vistas stretching as far as the eye can see.

If you can spare the graphics memory, be sure to switch on Advance PhysX – which allows for more realistic gunshot reactions on objects, not to mention jazzed-up muzzle flashes.

Stay away from the windows! You don’t know what’s outside

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Stay away from the windows! You don’t know what’s outside

Console owners don’t fret – Exodus looks amazing on here too.

We had a quick look at the game running on an Xbox One X and even though it seemed to be running at 30FPS (PCs were hitting 60), it still looked wonderful in native 4K.

We can’t wait.

Metro Exodus arrives on February 15 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

*Sorry Nintendo Switch owners but this would probably melt your console.

**The first two Metro games are available on Xbox Games Pass – so be sure to check them out.