'Metro Exodus' Hands-On Impressions: Inconsistent Potential Ahead

Metro Exodus has a major shift towards an open-world style environment, free from the underground subway tunnels of the first two Metro games. This allows the world to be filled with color and a variety of landscapes instead of dull and repetitive concrete. The levels and story are split into four main chapters, with each one representing a different season. Russia is also a big country, which means there are opportunities to visit a variety of biomes such as desert areas, forests and swamplands. While our hands-on revealed many cool changes to the Metro formula, and some gorgeous graphics and landscapes, the overall experience was a little inconsistent.

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A look at the newly revealed Summer location in Metro Exodus Deep Silver

Metro Exodus is a beautiful game, with each area offering a distinct look at what the apocalypse would be in that region of Russia. It was especially cool to see how different cultures had sprung up around the country, with some groups acting as pirates or others tapping into nature and living more primitively.

Not everything is as beautiful as the graphics, however. One of the biggest issues with Metro Exodus is it always felt like players had more opportunities to interact with the world than they actually did. For instance, there was one point where I had cleared cult members out of an abandoned church. While exploring all the nooks and crannies, I ran into a man begging for his life while promising he wants to help me. Is this an opportunity to add a new member to my party? A moral fork in the road, with storyline implications based on my decision? No. There's nothing I could do with the man except spare his life or kill him like the others. I couldn't interact with him in any other way. If he has some impact at some distant point in the story I got no indication whatsoever.

There are also times when you start to eliminate a group of enemies when the remaining foes will give up, put their hands in the air in surrender. You can't really do anything here except kill the now-defenseless enemies. It seems like there are opportunities to do something new or unique, but there aren't.

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Combat also felt a little off. The Metro series has famously forced players to evaluate every pull of a gun's trigger, as ammo is scarce. However, all the alternate ways to take enemies out seem woefully underpowered, especially against wildlife. It's one thing to sneak up on a group of enemies and take them out with throwing knives and stealth tactics, but when you're minding your own business and get swarmed by a group of wolves or other beasts, your weak melee hits aren't going to save you. I found myself blasting away with guns frequently, as it was the only way I could reliably live through most encounters.

Thankfully, the crafting system in Metro Exodus doesn't get too complicated. Players only need to worry about two kinds of resources, a mechanical and a chemical crafting component, and they are plentiful wherever you are exploring. With these resources, players can craft things like ammo and health packs while swapping around gun upgrades and enhancements. I'm getting a little tired of seemingly every game including crafting mechanics over the past few years, but at least Metro Exodus isn't requiring players to juggle multiple resources with complicated recipes.

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A look at the beautiful landscape of Metro Exodus Deep Silver

Metro Exodus deliberately features a bare-bones UI. There aren't mission markers or a health gauge on screen. Instead, players need to pull out a map to find out where to go next, and check meters and gauges to make sure they are in a save area or have enough clean air to breath. This helps with immersion but makes finding out what to do a little obtuse. There were a few times during my hands-on where I found myself asking what I actually needed to do at a given moment.

While it may sound like I really didn't enjoy my experience with Metro Exodus, I'm still incredibly intrigued. The game's setting and story are so unique that I want to continue exploring and finding new corners of the post-apocalypse. I have a feeling this game is best experienced when you start at the beginning and work your way through it instead of dropping into select parts of different levels.

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

So what do you think? Are you interested in knowing more about Metro Exodus? Did you play the two previous games in the Metro franchise? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.