I was shivering. Who knows how long I had been outside? The sun was just beginning to fade behind the mountains. The soft and subtle crunch of the leaves and twigs beneath my feet giving away my location to any nearby souls, but there weren’t people nearby. There was nothing, I was all alone.
Then the howls and cries of the wolves came. I was suddenly running, sprinting as fast as I could. Snapping and lunging for my heels the demented and monstrous hounds edged ever closer with each step and leap. My eyes darted all across the ruined landscape. Searching, searching for anything, for any way out. My eyes locked onto a pier and I snapped my body around on a dime, taking the time to pop away a few sprey shots at my pursuers. The faint click of the guns letting me know I was completely out of ammo, how could I have been so careless?
Bursting forth from the treeline the last dying rays of the sun splashed across my body, lighting the world in a crimson red glow. I charged forward down the steps and to the very edge of the pier, shit. No boat or vehicle of any kind awaited me. I could hear the low rumble of their growls right behind me. Taking a deep breath I turned around and savored one last final view of the beauty of this dying and broken husk of a world and then the hounds came.
Metro: Exodus is a stunning visual triumph. Gorgeous colors splash all across your screen, the drap gray and browns of the last two games replaced by the full color palate of the world. Staggering glints of light shimmer through the trees and dance across the ground leaving a visual delight for you to observe in this land of broken lives and ruined hope. Metro is many things but perhaps first amongst them it is beautiful.
It is in the quiet moments that suddenly explode into frantic chaos where Metro truly takes on a life of its own. From the scenes with the wolves above to accidentally stumbling into a large enemy compound with alarm bells ringing and swarms of foes emerging from seemingly every nook and cranny, to finally descending into the haze of gas, mist, and shadows that define the caves, basements, and the more hidden away areas of post apocalyptic Russia you find in Metro, all are full of dark and violent secrets always just on the edge of unspooling away from your control.
At least in the demo I played this also seems to tie very nicely into what appears to be a ammo scarcity system, forcing me to constantly switch between the various guns or crossbows and never rely on any one weapon for too long. Indeed, for long stretches of my demo I was wandering the forested and rocky wasteland without a single round to my name. The soft click of an empty magazine my only friend in the savage world. This heightened the intensity and feelings of loneliness of the game, never allowing me to truly feel safe or comfortable at any moment. One surprise encounter, or random enemy or creature and suddenly I would be faced with a fight for my life with little to no tools.
The actual firefights are for me defined by an almost barely constrained chaos to them. Bullets fly from every direction; wood chips, dirt, and glass shattering and splintering all around you like you’ve taken on the star role of the newest big budget action franchise. None of it seems to be the least organized and things frequently and wonderfully spiral away and fall apart to the worst possible option constantly. One wrong turn or misplaced shoot can escalate things suddenly to a messy free for all.
Metro: Exodus also features a crafting and in game tools system with a simple but well designed UI popping onto screen showing you the various options and upgrades available to you.
Something to keep in mind with Exodus is the fact that the demo given to me was a bit all over the place, with seemingly no clear direction or thing to do. So I can’t speak virtually at all about the story and how well it ties into what you are doing moment to moment in the game, I do have questions about how successfully it can really nail what it is going for there, but the world and environments of Metro: Exodus are fantastic and full of teeming life, wild lands, and a chaotic, totally unhinged world totally unlike anything either of the prior titles offered and at moments wholly unique and stand out from anything else in its genre. Indeed, in a strange way the best comparison to make in terms of gameplay is Rage. Angry, visceral, unabashedly in your face, and with a frantic, fight for your life feel to every clash and encounter Metro is special in how it makes you feel during a firefight as chaos swarms all around you and the air is sucked out of you. The gameplay isn’t perfect and the gunplay isn’t groundbreaking but damn is it viscerally pitch perfect and so damn enjoyable.
Metro was described to me as a survival sandbox, ultimately meaning that there are lots of different forks in the road, alternative routes, and multiple paths you can go while still being confined to a more linear, not totally open world environment. While not an open world title Metro still offers more than enough in variety in terms of places, hidden secrets, and things to do. Talking to a friend at a different outlet who played the same demo he mentioned entire areas and encounters I had never even seen or come close to. The map is still very much large and the things to explore and rocks to flip over in Exodus are still plentiful and fascinating. Thrilling, intense, constantly demanding your focus and for your energy levels to never drop for long, Metro: Exodus delivers a standout and visually stunning experience, one rife with action, deranged animals, and a haunting, truly scared world.