So this is the title that started me thinking about bringing you this end-of-the-world collection.
Much later than advertised here it is and a whole bunch of other post apocalyptic stuff to chew on. The collective noun being a: ‘Run-for-the-Hill-Billies-an’-Bobba’s-gotta-taste-for-city-folks-now’ – or something 😉
All aboard. Off to a good start…
Well I’m gonna be honest – this survival 1st-person shooter really resonated with me from start-to-finish and that’s no mean feat these days, given my goldfish-level attention span – just ask my employers – on second let’s not do anything rash…..anyhoo..where was I?
Oh yeah – right, Metro Exodus Aurora. Let’s start by confessing – I have always loved the Metro series, so MEAurora had that going for it from the off – speaking of which, the narrative has largely centred on keeping the action purely subterranean.
In a surprising departure, that’s all changed as this, the series’ third outing has gone open-world.
But what does that mean for the us? Well, for starters – it’s not really open-world, its more semi-open. Like the door to open-world was left carelessly ajar by someone born in a cave. Before you start saying OMG they fucked the franchise – it’s not a criticism – far from it.
Normally, I can never defend a pro anti-open world approach (wait, WTF?) in good conscience. Stay with me here. OK, here’s the ‘zero sugar’ drink that killed the diabetic, truth-bomb… Open world games are not the benchmark for a good game, and before you interject with – arguably the only 3 really plausible examples of where the genre has excelled (GTA, Skyrim and Just Cause) – The reason there’s only a handful of open-world successes out there? Let me boil it down for you…
Red Alert, Review Divert Ahead…
*Disclaimer* When the text blocks go green – I’m showing you the method in my madness – generally this section goes off a bit at a tangent to what I’m talking about – but bear with me, I usually have a few good points and it’s always semi-relevant. The green doesn’t signify weed or anything as symbolic but the writing in this section may make you think I was on something when I wrote the following.
An Open World Rant, Keep Reading for Extra WeUsedToBeDroids Kudos Points (non redeemable anywhere)
The open-world has to be
Which allows for player creativity. GTA does this in spades, but if you look at the mission structure of even Rockstar’s prize-fighter they can become fairly boring – go here – talk to the guy, go there make a pickup, go there kill this guy – chase ensues, get back safely etc. What makes it work is the predictable, unpredictability.
While you’re driving to start a mission, you ‘accidentally’ kill a couple of pedestrians. I know – right. Going over to the corpses to pay your respects and return the money they dropped ‘back into their skinny jeans’ pockets, but getting stopped by two cops as you do – who come over to see if you can help them resolve a debate over racial profiling. This comes to an abrupt end when, out of nowwhere, your gun “accidentally” goes off…”several times”, shooting & killing both lawmen just next to their patrol car. As you decide you should try to atone by driving their squad car (to return it to the precinct along with the sad news of officer ‘O’Really’ and traffic cop ‘Dident.CU’ recent departure from the world), more cops arrive with their sirens on, presumably the racial profiling debate urgently needs your input to resolve before the shit really hits the… but your clumbsy duck-feet are at it again – getting the brake confused with the accelerator again (it’s a different car to be fair and the sirens aren’t helping) and the mass of cops are forced to follow you all over the city hoping to get the opportunity to ‘get your views’ at a point in time when it’s ‘safe’ to.
OK – so that’s a version of my conscious-cleaning when I play GTA – but the game pulls off the surreal perfectly – humour is a major ingredient that smooths what might otherwise be tiresome. – just a shame Rockstar didn’t realise how important these factors were when they insisted on making ‘that’ cowboy game…
Ah back to Russia with Love…
My point is that open world is a bit of urban legend – one which many developers are managing to keep alive by making their games subservient to. But Metro Exodus is just really giving you a bigger vista to play with here – and it’s dramatic. The train – the train called the Aurora of the title, is your last ditch effort to find a world beyond the cramped, depressing Moscow winter and see if there is anywhere that you as hero ‘Arytom’ and your wife ‘Anna’ & pals could find to live and what or who they might bump into along the way.
This means that thanks to the (warning,pun ahead) ‘on-the-rails’ nature of this train-based trip across the diverse Russian landscape – whose narrative is divided by the seasons in order of Winter-Spring-Summer-Autumn, the player is transported to wildly different locations, dusty deserts, lush forests, decaying cities and so on. The mutated indigenous wildlife (mutants, bandits and animals on steroids) that inhabit these locales – all feel like they fit perfectly – which is a real credit to the art designers and animators. Not only is the game’s graphics the best we have ever seen on current gen consoles – (and Metro has looked great in earlier iterations), the sound is rock solid. Every sound effect, every small detail is shown sonic love (no, not some steamy or x-rated hedgehog ‘stories’ – the other kind of sonic…weirdo) which makes it feel extremely satisfying. Even when you’re doing something fairly redundant to the action it’s a blast – for instance, crafting… which reminds me…
I really liked MEAurora’s on-the-fly weapon and equipment crafting thanks to your new, user-friendly bug-out-bag. This feature – like the weapons, is beautifully animated & allows you to swap attachments and parts for your weapons in-game, with no loading screens etc.. So drastically changing the look, feel and function of your favourite boom-stick is as simple as dipping into your bag and modding gun parts – voila, nice.
Weapons and combat all feel tight. And the weapons are truly the most spectacular visions of what we have come to know, along with some new variants and entries to keep things feeling fresh.
Combat is satisfying whether you go stealth or guns blazing and its definitely worth cranking up the difficulty if you find yourself speeding through the levels.
If I had a criticism – I didn’t really like the vehicle sections – my problem with open-world games in general, and though not as exhaustive as the over-indulgence seen in other titles in forcing you to pilot, steer, drive vehicles for the only purpose of getting from A-B – I still would have preferred more enemy interaction.
Also, and I can’t believe I’m agreeing with a lot of the critics, but yes, it is weird that Arytom – the protagonist only talks during loading screens in his accustomed soliloquy style of narration – and not with the other characters who interact with him & who do a good job of fleshing out the story.
But to be fair, the story is as most games I’m encountering at the moment – the weakest element. Developers really need to take note that the best way to tell a narrative is without speech, or subtitles etc. It’s best to do it through a game’s architecture, its actual level-design. Let’s try and leave ‘The Last of Us’ epic story-telling for, well the ‘Last of Us 2’ – OK?
Yes, there are some nice artistic clues in Metro Exodus that are left behind, such as paintings, novels etc. to try and suggest what kind of people once lived in a given abandoned, dilapidated house. Also nice are the new post-apocalypse communities that are juxtapositioned with a building’s former use or inhabitants. But honestly, I would have been happy without the characters talking so much – maybe just a few diary entries describing their actions, even if these were simply narrated by Mr. Chatty himself, – Oh and some haunting, eerie music would have been a great inclusion while we’re reflecting from the summit of wish mountain…
When I think of a better story for a 1st-person action game – Wolfenstein & Wolfenstein II deliver a much more humorous brand of zaniness – but equally impressive and heart-felt at all the right times.
Also, like others have commented, the story comes to quite an abrupt end – which I feel could have been softened by the developers not trying to capitalise on telling such an emotional narrative – semi-spoiler they really milk the degrading health of one character for all it’s worth.
I haven’t, at time of writing, checked out the latest free content – will update this review accordingly. But as things stand, Metro Exodus is a fine example of a franchise broadening its horizon by dipping its toe in a more mass-appealing debut – that stays true to all of it’s corridor fighting hallmarks while fusing these in a wide-screen epic presentation.
****Definitely recommended. 8/10****