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February 2019

Metro Exodus

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 4A Games
Release Date: Feb. 15, 2019


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Metro Exodus'

by Redmond Carolipio on June 22, 2018 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

The next installment in the FPS series, in Metro Exodus, Artyom and a band of survivors must flee the shattered ruins of the Moscow Metro and embark on an epic, continent-spanning journey across the postapocalyptic Russian wilderness.

Pre-order Metro Exodus

I've always been intrigued by how the Metro series of games refused to easily stick to type. The games have always looked the part of the first-person shooter, but then they remind you that they've always been a first-person survival adventures. Rarely did my experiences in the game branch into outward, chaotic shootfests. Players would have muted but significant worries about things like radiation and foggy gas masks — the kind of things one might be concerned with while walking around in a post-nuclear wasteland. That might sound like Fallout to many, but Metro's balance of immersion, combat and survival make it a completely different beast.

That experience looks to continue with Metro Exodus, a title that Ukrainian developer 4A called its "most ambitious" project yet. The story is set in 2036, directly after the events of the first two games, which focused on a group of soldiers called Spartans trying to ward off threats to the last pieces of humanity confined to life in the Metro tunnels under Moscow. They're there because a nuclear war wiped out everyone else.

This time, after fighting off everything from ravenous mutants and supernatural beings to simply bad fellow humans, it's time for humanity to head out of the Metro. You resume the role of Artyom, a Spartan Ranger, charged to lead a group of fellow rangers on a trip across the open valleys of snow-covered, post-nuclear Russia to possibly search for humanity's new home.

Our demo at E3 2018 started with a ride on the Aurora, a customized and massive steam train packed with Spartan Rangers and some of humanity's last survivors. This immediately brought sentiments of the movie "Snowpiercer," though I get the sense the threats in Metro Exodus are well outside of the train itself. The love interest from the past games, Anna — herself one of the best snipers the Rangers has to offer — chats with you outside on the train, snow and wind strafing the both of you as you have a chance to take in some of the desolate, snow-covered beauty of the landscape. 4A says there's more dialogue in Exodus than the previous two games combined, which is quite a feat since talking and interacting with people extensively is one of the series' cornerstones.

The train abruptly stops once people, intentions unknown, are spotted, forcing Artyom, Anna and others to investigate the surroundings and sort out any situation that arises. You're in the drainage basin area of the Volga River, and it's springtime, so I got a taste of some outstanding lighting effects and other visuals. Even though the valley is frozen, there's a vibrancy in every step or every broken, abandoned structure. Of course, the signature gas mask is back, along with the persistent, eerie crackle of your Geiger counter.

You spot a church, or what's left of one, across some water and have to take a look at what, or who, is inside. Anna, ever the sniper, sets up shop in a tower for overwatch while you, as Artyom, get in a nearby boat and start to row around to the church. Before I did that, I checked out Artyom's backpack, which functions as a portable workshop where I could customize weapons and craft tools with materials I picked up during my journey.

As Artyom rows closer to the church, he encounters some people who say they mean him no harm, and encourage him to meet their leader, Silantius. Artyom ends up rowing right into the middle of Silantius' chanting sermon, which includes phrases like "tech is a sin." That's when you realize that you've just run into one of the game's many hazards: a cult. Naturally, I get ruled a heretic of some kind and get trapped inside. I make my way up to the top of a tower while armed culties look for me, and I run into a woman named Katya and her child. I sent them off to find Anna, while I headed back to take care of my cult problem.

I'd call the combat in Metro Exodus "choice" combat, as you can either go in guns blazing or use stealth. It was easy and cleaner to do the latter, as I eluded searching guards around the corridors and staircases of the church and snuck up behind them, prompted to either knock them out or kill them outright with my knife. I didn't take them all out. I was able to find my way back to my boat and row away to what I thought would be relative safely, until I was attacked and nearly killed by a creature under the water. Thankfully, Artyom's buddy Duke pulled me out of the water. I rendezvous with everyone back at the big train to see what my next task will be, and that's where my demo time ran out.

The world of Metro Exodus looks to be a disarmingly beautiful and challenging, as 4A is taking players away from the confined, subterranean spaces of the past and bringing them out into the open. It'll make for some good gaming to find out how 4A will maintain the Metro tradition of immersive action terror when the game is released in early 2019.

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