TRecently I was lucky enough to be invited to a hands on event in London to play the latest instalment in the Metro franchise. Metro is a series I remember playing when it first came out, but I never followed the franchise. In all honesty, I don’t know why I didn’t. Having seen the trailers coming out of E3 though I was actually pumped for Exodus.
The event started with a message from Huw Beynon, Global Brand Manager for the game’s publisher Deep Silver. Huw talked us through what we could expect of the day, and gave us some back story to Metro: Exodus. Exodus is set 20 years after the ending of Metro: Last Light. The game follows silent protagonist Artyom as he flees Moscow in the company of Spartan Rangers. The game takes places over the course of a year, and has the player travel through all four seasons. Of these four seasons, we would be able to play three; Autumn, Spring and Summer (which was being shown off for the first time that day). The game also features a day-night cycle, as well as dynamic weather.
The main thing that stands out about Metro: Exodus is the game’s lack of a HUD. Everything is done with the use of Artyom’s forearm, and a notepad that he carries. Considering that the game takes place in a world after a nuclear apocalypse, there is of course radiation in some parts of the world. As such, Artyom and his companions may occasionally have to wear their gas masks. The watch on Artyom’s wrist shows you the number of minutes left in each filter for your gas mask, so you know exactly when to change it. There is also a Geiger counter, which shows the levels of radiation in the area.
Selecting weapons and items is easy enough, and is done with very simple and easy to use menus. RB allows you to scroll through weapons with the right stick, or select your throwable weapon with the d-pad. LB is used to select items, such as the lighter for burning spider webs which may be in your way. The d-pad is also used as a shortcut to certain items such as a med-kit, the flashlight or the charger to recharge the flashlight. At first the button layout is very hard to remember, and you will find yourself fumbling to remember how to get your throwing knifes to silently take down the enemy. However eventually with time the controls do become second nature, and stop being an issue.
Normally this type of thing would annoy me, however it is hard to be annoyed with this when you find yourself in the world of Metro: Exodus. The whole process of no HUD is designed to allow the player to immerse theirselves in the world created by the team, and what a world it is! Firstly, it’s beautiful. The level of detail put into this world is hard to explain if you haven’t seen it before. You truly forget you are playing a video game, and find yourself taking in the world around you. Okay it may be populated with mutated creatures, giant catfish and hostile humans, but it’s gorgeous to look at.
Secondly, it’s a strange mix of linear levels meet sandbox meets survival resource management. Each season features a particular level. In that particular level your goal is essentially to travel through it and continue your journey eastward. Yet each level is like it’s own little world. You have a set goal, but you are also free to explore the land you find yourself in. There aren’t side quests per se, but there are areas you can explore and find extra stuff to do. It is very easy to get lost in the environments you’ll find yourself in, and there were many occasions where I found myself just wondering around taking in the world.
You will find yourself in a number of encounters while exploring the different environments, each of which have a number of ways which you can go about confronting these situations. One thing I will say before anything, do not ever attempt a full on firefight. This is something that we were warned of before gameplay started, but I thought maybe I would survive one. Nope. Never once did I survive a direct firefight with hostile enemies. In the words of Huw; “This game will chew you up and spit you out”.
There are other ways to take on enemies in Metro: Exodus. You can go full stealth, with silent kills and throwing knifes. The Spring level even features a rather splendid crossbow. What I found myself doing most times was doing part stealth, getting discovered and then using cover and constantly moving to take out the remaining enemies. Sometimes if you kill a lot of enemy soldiers, then the remaining soldiers will simply surrender. I found myself going around and knocking out the remaining soldiers, mainly as I was worried if I left them they would decide to start shooting me. You can choose not to engage enemy soldiers, if that is something you wish to do however there is no guarantee it will always be successful.
The game also features a crafting system which is pretty critical to surviving the world. It is possible to find parts around the world which you can use to craft, but you can also loot downed enemies for parts and guns. When the enemy is down, you will get the option of either taking their gun or stripping it for parts. Stripping the gun may gift you with a new scope, stock, magazine etc. Then simply hold LB and hit A to open Artyom’s backpack and begin crafting. Here you can craft a range of items including; throwing knifes, gas mask filters, med-kits and bullets. You can also customise your gun, while out in the world, using the backpack. Workbench’s at key points in each level allow for a deeper level of customisation, as well the ability to change the guns that you carry.
Overall my time with Metro: Exodus was that of pure joy; I loved every second of it. A vast, yet linear world, which is beautiful to look at and fun to explore, is amplified by the absence of a typical HUD. It allows the player to soak up the world they find themselves in, and fully enjoy it. Fun mechanics, mixed with a well thought out (yet sometimes brutal) survival element add to this experience. Releasing February 15th for PC, Xbox One and PS4 Metro: Exodus is one that cannot be missed.