The nuclear fallout has mostly dissipated now. No more visor distorting my view of this land. How pure it seems with my new fond vision, how clear, how organic. Can you smell that? Unfiltered air, no asbestos particles eroding my lungs, just clean air… Unfiltered… air. Never has the surface looked so beautiful, the foliage bursting through the architecture; we may have bombed mother nature, but we never destroyed her.
Metro has been a game series that has grown with each sequel. The first game was relatively ok, it was an introduction to a franchise but just lacked immersion. However, when the ‘Last Light’ released, the immersion was there, but not just that, everything else seemed to be more polished; how the guns felt, the story and gameplay, just felt more refined. So, when it came for the opportunity to play 25 minutes of the game, I took this opportunity to see how the franchise had further evolved like the mutated creatures caused from the nuclear fallout?
If you’ve been living in an underground tunnel -see what I did there- Metro is based on literature work with the same name by author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Set in a post-apocalyptic Russia after a nuclear bomb demolished the surface, mankind has taken refuge in the metro tunnels, protecting themselves from mutated creatures and wildlife, but most importantly, from themselves. With the main currency being bullets, you must choose whether to save bullets to trade or use in combat.
The game is a first-person shooter that has adapted from other genres such as survival, stealth and horror, giving a slight immersion/simulator quality to Metro. Scavenging is still a big part of the game but now featuring a robust crafting mechanic, adding more weight and purpose in searching dead bodies or rummaging in lockers. You can expect both linear and sandbox level designs, the introduction of a day and night cycle and a dynamic weather system that alters the environments depending on the season.
The preview starts with Artyom (the player) waking up on a shore line after being rescued by a female who is draped in this barbaric clothing that is clearly made of a dead animal. You walk through various houses scavenging; finding weapons, loot that will help your survival as well as diaries that help establish the lore. From here you battle a group of enemies in an old school complex. Already the maps sandbox design shows multiple paths routes to approach the school, as I approached enemies from the side on higher ground instead direct path I saw most people go. Unfortunately, the demo was short and more so to the fact I dispatched the enemies quickly leaving me walking around for 5 minutes with not much else to do. Although, in that time I found many hidden areas in pipes or secret pathways; triple checking the environments is worth it as you may miss something special.
Combat, like Last Light is heavily based on the players expression; it’s up to you if you want to go in guns blazing or silent but deadly. Here in Exodus, that player expression has more depth. The expansive level design and multiple routes, you really can plan out attacks, sneak in undetected, pick people off from a distant or run around like John Rambo or mixing up the playstyles on the fly; it’s clearly evident the developers had all these ways of playing in mind. I found myself starting off sneaking, but everything went wrong, getting trigger happy, hiding behind cover, using a loud gun one place and running else where for another enemy to run where I last used my loud gun for me to pick them off with a silent crossbow from a distance; it felt very satisfying and cohesive. From accidentally walking into traps or using them to lore enemies, to the stealth gameplay, to playing like a first-person shooter; it never felt like I was playing the game wrong. And the feel of the weapons, uushh, lovely; the guns rustic feel or the smoothness of the crossbow contributed alongside the fantastic sound design builds a sense of character to the fire arms.
As the nuclear fallout has subsided you can now roam the surface without a gas mask on -obviously some areas still require the use of a gas mask due to the high levels of radiation- allowing you to finally view the environments clearly. As a teenager I would venture in many an abandon building, so I can appreciate when game designers nail those types of environments and here they have smashed it. The spongey look of wood from years of water damage, the decaying walls, rusty metal fixed in placed only by pure stubbornness and nature reclaiming its rightful place. It’s the execution on the ‘lived in’ environments; walking in some of the houses or the school complex, you feel the haunting remnants of a family preparing for dinner or children sat down in class. The preview I played was during autumn too -fittingly- and it really captured that season; the saturated sun beaming on the already yellows and browns of the surrounding vegetation encapsulates the ambience and mood of that time in the year.
There is one element of the game that goes without saying that puts you right in that moment, the lack of non-diegetic music. Most of what I played was heavily diegetic sound; the creaks of the floor boards, the crunching sounds of the guns and leafage wrestling against clothing completely absorbs you in that space. Even during the combat sections, it was just all diegetic sounds that enhanced the experience more than hinder it; for that brief time, I was locked in a transcendental gun fight.
Exodus doesn’t have the jump in quality from 2033 to Last Light, however it does build on Last Lights already brilliant gameplay. As the previous games felt like they shy away and hold back, Exodus bursts into the room with its tackle out and doesn’t care if you’re looking at it or not; it’s finally comfortable and confident to hang -pun intended- with the big boys -and again-. As the industry endorsing the ‘Live Services’ Model, it’s great to see a third-party developer and publisher just creating a good solid game. Exodus is shaping up to be one of gaming’s highlight of next year and a highlight of this generation. And from the hype surrounding Exodus it finally looks like this series is going to hit the success it rightfully deserves.