A story in which just 50,000 survived out of 7 billion, who now are confined underground, for above, lies the ruined city of Moscow within which the Watchman among other large and mutated creatures await to chomp your limbs off.
But our man on the jam Artyom is a wanderer full of Spartan blood and wander he does only to one day find a train named Aurora that is the sort of backbone of it all and this is where Metro really starts to feel more of a story than a Triple-A game. Oops? Did I say Triple-A? Well, it is one better, it is a 4A game (I apologise for that one).
UPDATED: It’s been two years since we reviewed the Metro Exodus game. Saying a lot has changed in the past two years would be an understatement but in the world of tech, and especially video games, life moves at a lightning pace. Back in 2019, Nvidia had taken baby steps to introduce the world to Ray-Tracing, fast forward to 2021, new consoles and GPUs have already established Ray-Tracing tech to be its focal point for realistic lighting. Updating Metro Exodus with better Ray-Tracing smarts wasn’t necessary but 4A Games did it and we ain’t complaining. It did receive our highest ratings and now it has been polished and re-worked with better lighting and graphics.
UPDATED: Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition
If any game deserved Ray-Tracing smarts, it’s this one right here. Back in 2019, we said that Battlefield V was a proper place to test Nvidia’s Ray-Tracing bits but you can toss that back on the shelf. Metro Exodus begs a replay with the Enhanced Edition. It was extremely pretty before but now the devs have booted any and every traditional light source and replaced it with Ray-Tracing Global Illumination. Now the tattered sheets swaying in the wind and the dilapidated structures play an important role in feeding the Ray-Traced lights from the environment to the internal spaces. Sunny skies pour into dark places from creaks and crevices. Meanwhile, additional sources of light from torches, flashlights and candles play a major role in painting the indoors with realistic lights and shadows. Surfaces also interact with light as they would in real life. The light bounces off shiny metallic objects and illuminates other surfaces too. Wooden surfaces and cloth-based material diffuse light differently and some also add tint to the bounced light. For example, if you shine a torchlight on a blue cloth, the light bounced off the cloth will have a blue tint to it and it will add that blue tint to the environment and objects around it. Pretty neat, right? It will also create real-time shadows. So the objects in the environment have realistic depth and interact with the Ray-Traced light as it keeps bouncing off surfaces.
Reading all this will probably make your PC shiver in silence because it is going to be very GPU intensive. However, DLSS 2.0 actually makes a difference to the Ray-Tracing performance. We went through a sizeable generation of videogames that proudly used DLSS to increase frame rates using Nvidia’s AI mumbo-jumbo. DLSS 2.0 is exactly that but better. You will need an Nvidia RTX enabled GPU and naturally the higher up the GPU chain you go, the better the performance will be. We used RTX 2080Ti and RTX 3070Ti for our test and both GPUs delivered a great experience. The RTX 2080Ti was working around the clock to deliver 40-50fps on 4K with settings set to Ultra. The 3070Ti managed a whopping stable 60fps with DLSS 2.0 set to Quality! Without DLSS 2.0 the GPU scraps through with just 20 to 30fps. That’s a proper 100% increase in frame rate! Albeit, it all depends on what you’re looking at in Metro Exodus. Enter a place with too many light sources and the frame rate can dip faster than Bitcoin. The RTX 3070Ti also has better cooling and doesn’t ramp up the fans very quickly. We didn’t expect a whopping stable 60fps on 4K but here the DLSS 2.0 is integrated very well. If you’re a fan of the series, Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition on PC feels like a different game now. We’ll probably dim the lights, hook it up to a proper audio system and crank up the settings to Ultra but you should first write a letter to Jensen and request a restock for the RTX 30-Series. And if you’re already rocking a 20-series or a 30-series GPU, the Enhanced Edition is a free upgrade to all existing Metro Exodus owners.
4A's updated engine sure makes the lighting look quite Cinematic and eerily real, which our Corsair tower with the Nvidia RTX 2080Ti absolutely nailed. In 4K with Hair Works and RTX doing its thing, this game looks drop-dead gorgeous and with recent updates it doesn't dip below 45FPS even in the more action packed sequences of the game. 4A might have a smaller team and work with smaller budgets, but that hardly filters through here.
The sense of scale is nowhere close to small. The way the game opens up to post apocalyptic Russia is a sight to behold and the most logical way for Metro to portray the distraught life above ground. Transitions between the inner murky tunnels and the beautiful sort of open world with a destroyed Moscow is integrated seamlessly, giving you some of the best visuals and lighting that you may have seen till date.
The ambient and environmental lighting thanks to ray tracing is more subtle than its reflection based cousin from Battlefield V. What this means is, the overall lightning in the world create more believable shadows and volumetric colours in the world. It envelops the environment in an eerie sense to darkness around the creepy corners of the world but also lifts up the mood in bright outdoor settings. There's a clear difference in areas where the light is penetrating through gaps (like torn checkpoint flags) and hitting on objects without highlighting the surrounding dingy areas. It's more natural, more believable than your falsely but evenly lit environments that use traditional lighting methods.
Additional words: Khumail Thakur
A whole new world
But no magic carpet ride. As Artyom explores the harsh outdoors because he simply refuses to succumb to a life of doom underground, the game puts you bang in the middle of the frosty radiation infused Moscow where Artiom finally finds a radio signal one day only to discover he was right all along about life existing above ground and the vast efforts, mistruth and preventions taken by the Spartan leader (Artyom's Father in law) to cover it all soon become glaringly clear.
As a result Artiom, his wife Anna and her father along with his band of selected Spartans board the Aurora in order to escape the turmoil in Moscow and discover new land throughout Russia. The train takes them to some really interesting and open settings like the ruined desert which used to be the Caspian Sea not long before and other areas. The desert setting feels the most expansive and really tests your FPS skills with various monsters a plenty.
I love the way the developers have incorporated sound in the game and the use of silence is also stagarring. In the frozen tundras and at night time when creepy creatures come out to play, absolute dead silence with just the sound of your breath makes for some really intense anticipation and nervousness about the next monster jumping out at you, although the game isn’t littered with many.
It is a year long journey and a difficult one at that. While on the train, the developers have given Artyom quite a lot of stuff to do. There are scenes in which you can smoke on the outside while having a conversation about life and current affairs with your father in law, although blowing smoke on his face while he discusses the possibility of death in the near future isn’t the best thing to do.
There are a bunch of different characters that all speak in a typical ‘Hollywood’ Russian accent and you get to know more about their lives, by eavesdropping on their conversations and in most cases also directly talking to them. But eavesdropping is an essential part of you finding out some hidden gems across the map, the information for which you pick up while you creepily wait next to random people having conversations and listening to them.
You also get to tug at the Train’s horn which bellows loud and proud while the chuga chuga of the engine induces nostalgic memories, oh and it isn’t as crowded as your 6:45 Andheri local. The voice acting and the character stories are quite gripping, which was missing from the previous Metro games, although it won’t feel like a solid RPG game, you will be quite interested to know what happened to the person before the war or after it. Some characters give you side quests too, which lead to you discovering new areas and weapon upgrades in some cases.
All our bags are packed
And we’re ready to go. Gone is the old system of exchanging ammo for stuff. Now, you need to pick out metal scraps and scavenge your way through the harsh world of Metro. Although not all is lost since you get a backpack to carry along which lets you craft essentials like gas filters, medkits and ammo from anywhere you like. However, you need to return back to the main workbench inside the Aurora if you want to switch out your primary weapons.
The backpack approach sort of makes Metro a little bit easier to play and manage and it isn’t as gruelling as the earlier games. You get a host of weapons to choose from, although limited by type. There’s a gatling gun in the later stages too, which is an absolute beast and empties your reserve of bullets in no time, but is definitely worth the glorious sound effects and the destruction it brings when you fire that baby.
All good things, however, come at a cost and in this case, you need to ever so often clean and maintain your weapons, which also requires to be done at a workbench. If you don’t, you may notice Artyom missing a lot of shots and in severe cases his gun just gets jammed.
Artyom too requires his own maintenance. The survivor needs his rest and drink too, which cures him completely and also introduces the concept of night and day within the game.
There are a ton of customisations you can have on your rifles and guns, each come with their advantages and disadvantages. The process is fairly easy and there’s no complicated menu styles or anything. The mods you install directly affects the weapon’s accuracy, rate of fire and weight, which is crucial when you’re running away from mutated hounds and the more common Watchmen.
This doesn’t mean Metro is all about gun n run. In fact if you have played any Metro game before, you know how brutally the game slams you for taking that approach. Using your weapon means alerting not only the guards at a certain post, but also the assortment of wild mutant monsters and stealthily camouflaged humanoids.
Instead of forcing you down a path, Metro leaves the choice in your hands and the way to a ‘smooth’ execution of the Metro levels requires a mix of both. Stealth when dealing with human NPCs and guns while taking down monsters. But with the infamous limited ammo the game gives you, you often find yourself in a situation where you’ve absolutely run out of ammo and are being hunted by some of the nasties. That’s when you feel the sweat travel down your butt crack and armpits as you yell RUN B*TCH RUN! You seriously feel your heart race and a lot of anxiety building up.
Don’t shoot on site
While the environment is a tough place to survive, not all the humans you find are out there to kill you. Metro compels you to be the judge of your own situations and some of the cults are fighting out the post apocalyptic world just like you are and their objectives might be different, but it is these NPCs and the experiences you have with them is what shapes up the game.
Even outside of battle, these decisions you take matter, because there’s a hidden morality engine that keeps stock of your karma. The game lets you know by displaying different hues of blue and orange, blue means the moral gods are happy with your decision while orange means you’re not an honourable man. If you’re not a trigger happy person in general you will be delighted to find out that most NPCs are quite easy to deal with and aren’t imbeciles (in the easier level of games).
Processor: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2920X; Liquid cooled by Corsair H115i RGB Platinum
GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti
Motherboard: Asus PRIME X399-A
RAM: 32GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB
CPU Case: Corsair Obsidian 500D RGB
Keyboard: Kingston HyperX Alloy Elite RGB
Power Supply: Corsair AX850
Metro Exodus verdict
There are quite a few games that are set in war-struck Russia, but few manage to capture the other subliminal emotions of surviving with brothers in arms, dealing with a wife that’s afraid of your well being and a desperate father in law, wanting the best for the both of you in his own way. In a time when crazy battle royal fans fight for dominance in the hundreds, Metro offers you, well, content and a gripping story.
Where Fallout failed, Metro Exodus shines and is the perfect sequence for a game that is on its way to becoming a legend. You get 30+ hours of campaign game time, plenty to discover and a vast ‘open’ world that just forces you to take things slow and soak in the view and delve into the beautiful world of Metro.