Metro Exodus review – trainspotting

Metro Exodus takes the series on a post-apocalyptic rail tour. Our review…


I’m hunkered down on a rickety boat, and I know there are mutants around me – I can hear their mandibles clicking. But I’m transfixed by something else: an oil slick, catching the light and swirling on the surface of the water.

It may be an odd thing to be struck by, but it was in this moment that I truly appreciated Metro Exodus’ level of craft. Regardless, my moment of awe was interrupted by a giant shrimp leaping onto my boat and trying to eat me.

Metro Exodus, the third game in the series, has been getting such a push that many new players may be curious. This is my first proper foray into the series, but I found I quickly picked up the story – a sweeping knowledge of earlier Metro games isn’t required here.

Exodus sees Artyom and the rest of his elite group of soldiers leave the home they’ve known for the past 20 years, the Moscow metro, and journey across post-apocalyptic Russia on a train. You sneak, shoot, scavenge, and explore your way through a number of areas; some linear, others pleasingly manageable open worlds.

These areas are the star of the show. Impressively crafted and saturated with atmosphere, they range from snow-covered marshes to a desert complete with sandstorms. Small details give a great sense of time and place: characters tan in the sun, rivets are missing from armour, humble Russian Orthodox shrines decay in abandoned homes.

Electrical anomalies that set ablaze anything in their path, winged demons that pluck you off the ground unexpectedly, and the ticking of your Geiger counter all make you feel genuinely vulnerable.

I came to cherish my time spent alone exploring these areas, however, because the characters in Exodus love talking. What’s impressive is that they manage to talk so much while saying so little: what’s largely blurted at you is exposition that could be summarised in a quarter of the time. They also have a terrible habit of talking over one another, making it impossible to understand what’s being said.

None of this is helped by the incredibly poor English voice acting; changing the language to Russian makes things more bearable, but I soon had to switch back to English, as subtitles don’t appear when tinkering at a workbench. This is why the train is the best character: its rust and haphazard improvements suggest more depth and character than its crew.

The characters may get the odd minor development, but there are too many of them and they’re all fairly dull – the game’s writing of and around the limited number of female characters had me shouting at the TV at one point.

The game comes close to having an interesting female character on occasion, but despite their competence, the vast majority wind up being romantic interests. All enemy NPCs are male. Your wife, Anna, the best sniper on the squad, needs rescuing more times than is comfortable. It’s distractingly outdated.

Another issue is Artyom’s silence: the only time he speaks is during long monologues in opening screens. While silent protagonists can work, the conceit doesn’t in Metro Exodus. I was sent to negotiate with a character on multiple occasions, and you can practically hear the writers figuring out how to work around Artyom’s silence with unintentionally humorous results.

After ‘persuading’ someone, which involved sitting silently while other characters popped in doing my job for me, I was celebrated by my crew for my influencing skills. Perhaps Artyom has the universe’s most convincing face, we just don’t know.

There are flashes of potential elsewhere. It’s not a game about saving the world, but about moving forward. Travel on the train and watch the crew unwind, and they feel like people rather than cardboard cut-outs; some watch the scenery go by, one strums on a guitar, others prepare equipment or sneak off for a cigarette.

The broad strokes of the story paint some compelling possibilities. It genuinely feels like a long journey; knowing you’re leaving an area permanently feels liberating in an age of huge open-world games. Some of the groups populating the landscape also offer intrigue – my favourite being an odd tree-dwelling community. But all this potential is frustratingly let down by the dialogue and pacing: it consistently feels as though the writing’s getting in the way of the fun.

The combat, meanwhile, is slow-paced at times, but it works well in the post-apocalyptic context: crafting and limited ammo create an effective sense of dread; at one point I found myself running out of gas mask filters, crafting more that only lasted twenty seconds at a time, as I desperately scavenged materials while avoiding enemies. It can be a thrill.
The packs of mutants in the open areas can be more of an annoyance than a challenge, particularly as Artyom seems to occasionally get stuck on the tiniest bit of scenery, and you have to throw yourself at a wall a few times before triggering the climb animation.

The enemy AI isn’t particularly sharp, either, with enemies occasionally running back and forth in a loop, or freezing altogether; that said, the mechanic of having enemies surrender once you’ve terrorised them enough is a great touch.

The more choreographed parts of the game are often effective, too: there are giant spiders scared of light, while you only have a small flashlight to fend them off. Turning around to see one scuttle away is shiver-inducing.

While playing Metro Exodus, I fluctuated between enjoying myself and sighing in frustration. Its looks may have advanced, but the writing hasn’t grown to match the sheen. Despite its beauty, Metro Exodus is still, at its heart, stuck in its 2010 roots.


It’s a mainstay of the series, but the ‘wipe your mask’ button was a revelation to me. So many games throw grime at the screen; Metro Exodus’ ability to clean it away is a small yet noteworthy testament to the series’ attention to detail.


Metro Exodus has a wonderful atmosphere and solid combat, but poor writing and some annoying issues derail it occasionally. It’s an enjoyable, but frustrating, experience.


Genre: FPS
Format: PS4 (tested) / XBO / PC
Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Price: £49.99
Release: Out now

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