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.
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.
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. Each of these seasons serves up a distinct gameplay experience.
During the winter season, which plays like a miniature sandbox, the Aurora breaks down near a bridge on a huge lake.
You’re sent to explore the nearby area in search of an engineer who could fix the train.
Sounds easy enough, but add hordes of deranged mutants and the scariest lobsters you’ve ever seen, and it gets incredibly tense.
There are human foes, too – which pose a very different challenge. The game has an active day / night cycle – so you can choose to take the stealthy option or run in all guns blazing.
Summer, meanwhile, feels very different – 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.
There’s also a vehicle you can drive – a rusty old van. It proved a welcome addition, given the size of the sandbox.
It’s not dauntingly big but it’s large enough to encourage exploration. Venturing off the beaten track isn’t as rewarding as it should be, but search hard enough and you’ll uncover powerful weapons – not to mention the odd Easter Egg.
Spring is slightly more scripted and plays much more like the previous games, while autumn seems to find a middle ground between linearity and open world.
Combat wise and Exodus plays very much how you’d expect.
There are tons of weapons at your disposal, all of which can be customised and tweaked with items you salvage from the environment or fallen enemies.
Weapons range from the trusty crossbow, which is perfect to take down enemies silently – to an air-pressure powered rifle that needs to be pumped up before firing.
One thing you cannot do is run in – ammo is scarce and weapons need to be maintained in order to retain their stopping power.
You’ll constantly need to manage your inventory (don’t worry, it’s easy to use), creating bullets and upgrading gear.
Thankfully, you’re encouraged from the off to think and search for alternative routes – after all, developer 4A Games admitted they were heavily influenced by Half Life 2, and it really shows.
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, 4A Games has 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.
Nvidia’s HairWorks technology is also an optional feature that, if your hardware allows it, adds for more realistic fur and hair (obviously) on creatures and humans.
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.
Detail has obviously been scaled down slightly, and there’s an absence of real-time ray tracing, but Exodus is still one of the best looking games on console.
Metro Exodus is out now on 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.