It’s over. Journey’s end, as a player at least, has been reached. Yep. I’ve finished Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition. And phew, what a ride. Without a doubt, a large contributor to my enjoyment was the sheer wonder at the new tech on display. I expect it’ll be sometime before we see ray tracing done to this extent and this well again.

I played Metro: Exodus as a multiplayer-single player experience. By which I mean, a couple of friends and I were playing through it simultaneously, discussing on Discord as we went. Something I’ve written about before as one of my favourite ways to play certain single-player games, adding a social element to games that may not natively support actual multiplayer.

Today I want to talk more about the game and put the wonders of performant real-time ray tracing aside, but I will just say that the fascination with light’s behaviour in-game never ceased from start to finish. I found myself last night shining my phone’s torch at one ‘wall’ of a paper bag, to see how it would bounce and compare that to what I saw in-game and couldn’t help but to shake my head at how closely it matched.

I wonder whether 4A Games will end up licensing their engine out to other developers now.

Most of what you see in this shot is lit by the NPC’s flare. He also has a dim torch though, and behind where I’m standing a dim shaft of light is coming through a hole in the roof to the outdoors. Seeing the light move with the NPC’s movement – his walk, his head movement – and having everything in the scene react to the new light bounces, is really quite something else.

Real-time Ray Tracing Aside; How’s Metro Exodus as a Game?

First I should add that I’ve not played the first two Metro games. Not really. I have perhaps an hour in the original Metro 2033’s Redux version1 and I’ve heard a lot about it through a friend who played and loved them. But that’s about it.

Still- I knew that the more open-world nature of this one was a departure from the more typically linear, level-based designs of the first two games.

Although I think to describe Metro Exodus as ‘open world’ without qualifier might set the wrong expectations.

Yes, there are large open spaces to explore. And sure- nominally, you can go where you want within that space. But they’re still ‘levels’. They are split into chapters and there isn’t any free-roaming from one to another as you might expect from the ‘open world’ nomenclature.

Further, even within a single zone, you will find things you can’t do or fully engage with out of the intended sequence. Story triggers will send you from one spot on the map to another, with a limited number of side objectives as you go.

I quickly learned that for the most part, I should just do as I’m told, treating the game as if it was a linear experience. Each zone chapter has its own good ending and bad ending but if you just do as you’re told (with one notable exception) you’ll achieve the good ending for the chapter.

I don’t see this as a bad thing though, as long as you know this going in. And, despite what I said, I did still find myself going off the beaten path here and there and exploring on my own regardless. To little reward or gain, sure, but it was still fun.

Metro Exodus has a very definite and linear story to tell you. Largely this is why so much is closed off from full interaction outside of the intended order, I think.

The interior spaces you come across from time to time — sometimes by way of buildings, sometimes vast complexes — were some of my favourite play-spaces, particularly when held in contrast to the above-ground spaces.

And for the most part, this story works. Without wanting to spoil anything for anyone else who, like me, might be picking up the game for the first time with the Enhanced Edition, I will say that the motivation for the final act fell a little flat with me. I hadn’t built the necessary connection with the character involved to make it really resonate. If I’d played the previous games though, this might be different.

In any case — through the course of Metro Exodus’ story, if you want to get the ‘good’ endings then you’ll be doing a lot of stealthing about the place. It’s a game staple to have a faction hostile to you that for one reason or another you still shouldn’t kill.

It’s up to you how much you care about that, but suffice to say, I found the sections with bandits to be quite refreshing. With bandits you can be let off the leash. They, apparently, have earnt everything they have coming. No creeping about to knock them out if you don’t want to. Feel free to go in loud.

They’re a good source of weapon modifications, too!

As you go through the game, you’ll not only pick up new weapon types (three of which you can carry at any given time, two ‘proper’ weapons and then a makeshift weapon) but attachments for them as well.

The system is quite extensive, with different barrels, stocks, magazines, scopes and gadgets to mix and match. The weapon base sets the ammo type consumed and may lend itself better to one style or another but doesn’t otherwise restrict you. For a large part of the first map, I was using the revolver in a silenced mid-range sniper setup. And it was great.

This whole map was stunning. It was also the one I got to play a portion of at Melbourne PAX 2018.

Oh, and in case you started to worry at the mention of stealth — it is reasonably forgiving. As an example, provided you haven’t already put everyone into a state of high alert you can sneak behind someone, knock them out, then leap up and get their buddy while they’re in the process of turning around to see what all the fuss was about before they can raise an alarm.

Hell, if you want to, even when the enemy is in a state of high alert, you can sprint around knocking people out. It’s definitely riskier. Your body is not well equipped at handling the receipt of too many bullets after all. So you wouldn’t want to do it out in the open. But where you have plenty of corners to pop around to recover and then come out somewhere else at a different angle? Muahaha.

If I were to make one request though, it would be for a non-lethal ranged option. Surely we could whip up some sort of tranquiliser? Please?

I suppose ultimately the questions are — if I put both the ray tracing and the multiplayer single-player aside — would I still have enjoyed the game? Would I still have finished it? The first is easy — yes, I still would’ve enjoyed it and would be able to recommend it. Would I still have finished it though? That’s more difficult. I know me. I get distracted from games very easily. I think the whole playing alone together thing made my finishing much more of a sure thing than it would have otherwise been.

I can say though — that while the main story is done, I still have the two DLC to get through. And I do plan on doing them. So clearly I’ve enjoyed my time enough to still want more, now that I’m done. :)

Footnotes

  1. An enhancement in the engine/visuals released after the game came out.